The P Visa

A P visa might be a viable option for athletes and performers to compete or perform in the United States. It has three categories:

Anybody who might qualify as an essential support personnel might also qualify for any of the above. Husbands, wives or dependent children might qualify under a P-4 visa, but they cannot work here. They can go to school though.


An athlete might also be eligible for a P-1 visa with a five-year extension. Any other visas might be approved for one year. There’s no limit on how many P-1 visas that might be granted. The P-1 visa requires the petitioner to be internationally renowned, but not of at the level of an exceptional ability as an O visa requires.

 Visa Requirements:

Although the requirements for a P-visa differ slightly, anybody seeking the same must demonstrate nonimmigrant intent. They must have a residence abroad and return to it when their visa lapses. Note however, the principal beneficiary can seek permanent status at the same time. It won’t affect their P-1 visa either. Only the principal beneficiary can take advantage of this exception though. The standards are higher for P-2 and P-3 visas.

Professional Athletes

A professional athlete must come to this country solely for purposes of an event with a final ending date. He or she must be able to perform at a level of performance as a professional athlete at an individual or team level. If it’s a team sport, he or she must be employed by that team or a minor league affiliate of it. Coaches may or may not qualify. Talk to us about that. To be a professional athlete, the individual must meet one or more of the following:

  • Perform as an athlete in either an individual or team competition.
  • Be in an association of 6 or more teams with total annual revenues of $10 million or more. The association must regulate the conduct and performance of the athlete.
  • Be a member of any minor legal team that is associated with the minor league association.

Entertainers must be a part of a fine art, performing art or a visual art, and an essential part of the performance. The group must be established for one year with 75% of its performers having been in the group for at least a year. The group has to be internationally recognized, performed at prestigious events or has received significant awards. Some exceptions to these rules apply. The P-2 visa is used for entertainers who are in a group. It’s used in reciprocal groups who are participating in exchange arrangements. The P-3 visa is also for entertainment groups. They’re providing performances though that are unique to the culture that they come from. Essential support personnel might even qualify for P-2 and P-3 visas.

It Must be a Group

As opposed to athletes, an entertainer must come as a group. It must be established for at least a year. At a minimum, 75% of its members must have been part of the group for one year, and it doesn’t need its members to perform equally. It must be received internationally, and it must have received international awards or be managed by experts. A few exceptions to this rule exist.

P-3 Visas

A person seeking a P-3 visa must belong to a specific “country, nation, society, class, ethnicity, religious tribe or other group of persons.” The program might be individual or it might be by a group. They need not have performed together in the past though. They must show a distinct cultural practice. It isn’t sufficient if it’s merely in a foreign language and that it’s popular in another country.

Petitioner’s Duties

The petitioner filed for the beneficiary. That petitioner might be an employer or related organization. Of course, the beneficiary is a foreign national. Multiple beneficiaries might be listed under the same group, so long as they’re working for the same individual. The general rule is that the petitioner is also responsible for returning the beneficiary home.

What’s Required for a P Visa?

Numerous documents will be required for the P visa process. The exact documents will depend on your individual case. At a minimum, here’s what’s needed:

  • Information about the employer or organization.
  • The type of competition or performing arts event.
  • A copy of the job contract.
  • Independent verification of the foreign national’s international accolades.
  • A list of the foreign national’s accomplishments.
  • Evidence of a reciprocal service or program.
  • The foreign national’s resume.
  • Copies of the biographical pages of the foreign national’s and dependent’s passports.
  • Letters of support of previous employers and experts in the sport or performing art.
  • A complete itinerary of the individual.
  • Verification of wages to be paid.
  • Copies of any federal tax returns.
  • Any evidence of a residence abroad.
  • Fees for the P visa that are subject to change.

Processing Time

The complete time for the processing of the P visa isn’t determinable. It’s probably safe to say that the time will be between three and six months. The P visa is an excellent option for athletes and entertainers who are entering the United States to compete or perform. Feel free to contact us with any questions.

Learn More About Other Visa Types.