Learn about the P1 visa and its types, P2, P3 and P4 visas, what are they issued for, who is available, requirements, processing time and more.

To promote the diversity of people in entertainment, sports, performances, and culture, the US government designed a specific US non-immigrant visa. The P visa encourages internationally recognized athletes, entertainment groups, performers, and cultural coaches to come to the US. They would have to be able to get a US sponsor to ensure their visit and dates of performances.

What is the P1 Visa?

The P1 visa is issued to athletes who are individuals or in a team to participate in various athletic programs in the US and to promote themselves or their team and sport. Additionally, it is also designed for entertainers, whether they are individuals or in a group to participate in various entertainment programs, competitions, or other activities. Entertainment groups could, for example, be the circus.

Since there are two groups of people targeted by the P1 visa, it is divided in two visas:

  • P1A visa – is the visa for internationally recognized athletes or athletic team
  • P1B visa – is the visa for individuals or members of an internationally recognized entertainment group

The common rules for these two types of visas are that if a team of athletes or group of entertainers is applying, the team must have two or more members. Musical bands for example, which have one solo artist and other supporting musicians qualify.

The group must have been formed at least one year ago, and ¾ of the team must have been part of it for at least one year. Teams which have been very recently formed are difficult to qualify, and difficult to prove their recognition.

All individual and group athletes and entertainers must have been nationally or internationally recognized to qualify for the P1A or the P1B visa. They can go to the US to compete for prize money or awards. Additionally, if there are staff members or essential personnel which is necessary for the performances of the athletes or entertainers, they can also obtain a P1 visa.

The P1 visa allows its holders to participate in athletic seasons, entertainment events, tours, sports tournaments and other projects. They can also engage in part time study while they are in the US. However, one restriction is for those who are in a team. Athletes or entertainers in a group cannot perform individually while in the US. If you get a P1 visa to perform with your team, then all performances must be with them and not alone.

P1 visa Eligibility Requirements

Since the P1 visa is an umbrella for the P1A and P1B visa, there are different requirements for them to be eligible. For the athletes applying for a P1A visa, two of the following conditions must be fulfilled:

  • Athletes must have participated in a major US sports league
  • Athletes must have participated in a US college, university, or intercollegiate sports league
  • Athletes must have participated in a national or international level competition or event
  • Athletes must have been nationally or internationally ranked in a high position
  • Athletes must have obtained a national or international award for their excellence

As for the P1B visa or internationally recognized entertainment group, the following conditions must be fulfilled:

  • The entertainer or group has had major success in ratings, records, videos sales, or box offices sales
  • The entertainer or group has achievements outlined in trade journals or major newspapers
  • The entertainer or group has recognition from critics, government agencies, or other field experts who can testify to the individual’s or group’s achievements
  • The entertainer or group has a high salary and good compensation from the activities that they do

How to Apply for the P1 Visa?

The application for the P1 visa, for either the athletes or the entertainers follows similar patterns. The athletes or entertainers cannot start the application themselves. They must be sponsored by a US employer or organization to go to the US to perform or compete. Therefore, the first step is for the US employer or sponsor to petition to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and get approval.

Filing the petition

The US employer or sponsor must file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker to USCIS to get permission for the athletes or the entertainers to apply for the P1 visa. The petition must be filed no more than 6 months before the scheduled performance and a fee of $695 (starting from October 2, 2020) per petition must be paid. If the US employer is petitioning for a team of athletes or entertainers, they can file a group petition, instead of individual petitions for each member.

Besides the main Form I-129 petition, the US employer must also submit documentation and evidence. For the P1A visa or the athletic visa, these documents must be filed:

  • Proof of consultation with a labor organization
  • An itinerary of events or performances with dates and durations for each event
  • Contracts with US sports leagues or teams
  • Evidence of eligibility that the individual athlete or the team is nationally or internationally recognized as outlined in the requirements section

For the P1B visa or the individual entertainer or entertainment group, the petition must be accompanied by these documents:

  • Consultation with an appropriate labor organization
  • Contracts of the group with the sponsors or oral agreement summaries
  • Itinerary with events and performances including dates and durations of each event
  • Proof of the group’s age (more than 1 year since it was established) and each person’s membership or employment in the group
  • Proof that the individual or group of entertainers is eligible for the visa and has achieved national or international recognition as outlined in the requirements section

After the US sponsors or employers hand in the petition to USCIS, it will take 2 to 8 weeks for it to process. If the petition is approved, USCIS will notify the US sponsors and the athletes or entertainers by sending in Form I-797, Notice of Action. Only after they have sent the approval, can the athletes or entertainers start their visa application at a US Embassy where they live.

Fill in Form DS-160

Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application is the usual form for nonimmigrant visa applicants. It will have questions on your personal information, background, as well as purpose of visit to the US. When you submit it, you will get a confirmation page and code which you need for your document file.

Pay the application fee

The visa application fee for all the P visas is $190. You must pay this fee to be able to continue with the rest of the application steps. Besides the application fee, other fees may apply depending on the relationship of your country and the US, called visa issuance fees. The amount is different from country to country. After you have paid the fees, you must save the receipts and attach them to the documents file.

Schedule your visa interview

All applicants for US nonimmigrant visas between 14 and 79 years old must have an interview with the US Embassy. Due to their high workload, it is advisable to schedule the interview as soon as possible. When you schedule your visa interview, you will receive an interview confirmation letter which you need to bring with you on the day of the interview.

Prepare you document file

You must have your complete document file with you when you apply for the P1 visa.

To apply for a P1 visa there is a file of documents that the applicant is required to submit. Besides the standard required documents for any US non immigrant visa, the file for a P1 visa application must also contain these documents:

  • Your approved petition with the Form I-797
  • Letter from your employer outlining the details of your performance and events
  • Contract with your employer or sponsor
  • Proof that you as an individual or member of a team of athletes or entertainers are nationally or internationally recognized
  • If you are bringing your dependents with you on a P-4 visa, you must have a valid marriage certificate for your spouse or birth certificates for your children

Attend the interview

The visa interview will be conducted by a US Embassy official. You must go on time and bring your documents. The interviewer will ask questions about your background and intent for going to the US. You must provide accurate information, since if the official suspects that you are not giving them any details, they will deny your visa.

How Long is the P1 Visa Processing Time?

The P1 visa has a processing time of between 3 to 6 months. It is a long wait, but the US institutions offer the opportunity to pay for premium processing. If you choose to have premium processing on your visa, you must pay an additional $1,225 and you will get the response for your visa within 15 days. If the US institutions do not notify you of your visa status within 15 days, your money is reimbursed.

How Long is the P1 Visa Valid?

Depending on who you are with a P1 visa, there are different validities and conditions for extension. If you are an individual athlete, your visa may be granted to you for a maximum of 5 years. After that, you and the employer can petition to extend that period of stay for an additional 5 years. When this period expires, you must return to your home country.

For a team of athletes, the maximum time that the visa is initially given is 1 year. The visa for the team can be extended for an additional 1-year increment. For essential personnel, the initial validity is 1 year, but they may extend for an additional 5 years for a maximum stay of 10 years.

As for entertainers of entertainment groups, they will be given a visa for a maximum period of 1 year, and extensions are available in 1 year increments until the performance is completed.

Those who have the P1 visa are eligible to work for more than one employer, however, each employer must file a separate petition. Additionally, if the individual or team want to change employers or sponsors, the new employer or sponsor must file a new petition.

Can I Get a Green Card With a P1 Visa?

Getting permanent residence with any of the P visas is difficult. During your application, you will have to declare your intention to return to your home country once your visa expires. However, if you marry in the US, have family, or change your status to a H-1B visa, you are allowed to apply for a Green Card, you might be able to get it. Additionally, if you are an athlete with extraordinary or exceptional abilities, you can apply for an EB-1 or EB-2 Green Card.

Can I bring my dependents with a P1 visa?

All those who have P1, P2, and P3 visas are eligible to bring their dependents with them to the US. The spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old qualify as dependents. They will have to apply at the same time or after the principal P1, P2, or P3 visa holder has gotten their visa. They must apply for a P4 visa. This visa will allow them to study and live in the US, but not to work.

Differences with the P2 visa

The P2 visa is a visa for entertainers and artists going to the US under a reciprocal exchange program. This program must be initiated by an organization in the US or any US or foreign governmental organization.

The conditions and application process is similar to the P1 visa, except that for the petition the US employer or sponsor must submit these documents:

  • A copy of the agreement establishing the reciprocal exchange program
  • Proof that a labor organization in the US was part of the negotiations for this program
  • Proof that the artists/entertainers being exchanged in the program have similar skills and similar employment conditions

Differences with the P3 visa

The P3 visa is for those developing, representing, interpreting, or coaching individuals or groups in a traditional or unique cultural performance. The application process and conditions are as those for the P1 visa, except that the documents that the US employer or sponsor must submit for the petition are these:

  • Proof that the performance being presented or taught is culturally unique
  • Evidence that the coach or performer has the skills for this culturally unique event
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