Chapter 2 - Eligibility Requirements
The P-1A nonimmigrant classification includes individual athletes with an internationally recognized reputation and members of an athletic team that is internationally recognized. The athlete or team must be coming to the United States to participate in an athletic competition which has a distinguished reputation and which requires participation of an athlete or athletic team with an international reputation.
The regulatory requirements that the prospective competitions have a “distinguished reputation” and “require” the participation or services of an internationally recognized athlete or team derive from the statutory language stating that a qualifying athlete is one who performs “at an internationally recognized level of performance.” Accordingly, USCIS interprets this regulatory language consistent with the statutory reference to athletes performing at an “internationally recognized level of performance.” More specifically, the relevant statutory and regulatory provisions do not require that an athlete or team be coming to participate in a competition that is limited to internationally recognized participants. Rather, it is sufficient for the petitioner to show that the competition is at an internationally recognized level of performance such that it requires that caliber of athlete or team to be among its participants or that some level of participation by internationally recognized athletes is required to maintain its current distinguished reputation in the sport.
Relevant considerations for determining whether competitions are at an internationally recognized level of performance such that they require the participation of an internationally recognized athlete or team include, but are not limited to:
The level of viewership, attendance, revenue, and major media coverage of the events;
The extent of past participation by internationally recognized athletes or teams;
The international ranking of athletes competing; or
Documented merits requirements for participants.
If the record shows the participation of internationally recognized caliber competitors is currently unusual or uncommon, this may indicate that the event may not currently be at an internationally recognized level of performance. In addition, while not necessarily determinative, the fact that a competition is open to competitors at all skill levels may be a relevant negative factor in analyzing whether it is at an internationally recognized level of performance. If the event includes differentiated categories of competition based on skill level, the focus should be on the reputation and level of recognition of the specific category of competition in which the athlete or team seeks to participate.
Individual athletes who are internationally recognized may also be coming to the United States to join a U.S.-based team. When a petition is for a foreign athletic team, each member of an internationally recognized athletic team may be granted P-1A classification based on that relationship, but may not perform services separate and apart from the athletic team.
The P-1B nonimmigrant classification for entertainers applies to:
Members of an internationally recognized entertainment group coming to the United States; and
A person coming to the United States to join, as a member, an internationally recognized group, which can be based in the United States or abroad.
A member of an internationally-recognized entertainment group may be granted P-1B classification based on that relationship, but may not perform services separate and apart from the entertainment group. The P-1B nonimmigrant who is a member of an internationally recognized entertainment group must be coming to the United States to perform with the group as a unit. In addition, the entertainment group must be internationally recognized as outstanding for a sustained and substantial period of time, and 75 percent of the group must have had a sustained and substantial relationship with the group for at least 1 year. The P-1B nonimmigrant classification is not appropriate for a person performing as a solo entertainer.
Provisions for Certain Entertainment Groups
The regulations allow for three special provisions for certain entertainment groups:
A waiver of the international recognition and 1-year group membership requirement for circus personnel (both those who perform and those who constitute an integral and essential part of the performance), provided that they are coming to join a circus or circus group that has been recognized nationally as outstanding for a sustained and substantial period of time;
A waiver of the international recognition requirement, in consideration of special circumstances, for some entertainment groups recognized nationally as being outstanding in its discipline for a sustained and substantial period of time; and
A waiver of the 1-year sustained and substantial relationship requirement for 75 percent of the group due to exigent circumstances.
Group – Defined
The term "group" is defined as two or more persons established as one entity or unit to perform or to provide a service. “Member of a group” means a person who is actually performing the entertainment services. It does not include persons who assist in the presentation who are not on the stage (such as lighting or sound technicians). These support aliens would need to be petitioned for as essential support (P-1S) and a separate petition must be filed for them.
If a solo artist or entertainer traditionally performs on stage with the same group of aliens, such as back-up singers or musicians, the act may be classified as a group. This group would then need to meet the “75 percent rule.” The “75 percent rule” means that 75 percent of the members of the group must have been performing entertainment services for the group for a minimum of 1 year or more. If the group does not meet the 75 percent rule, the artist or entertainer would need to qualify for another classification, such as an O-1 nonimmigrant (rather than P-1B) and the back-up band as O-2 nonimmigrants.
1. Individual Performer or Part of a Group Performing Under a Reciprocal Exchange Program (P-2 Nonimmigrant)
A P-2 nonimmigrant is an alien coming to the United States to perform as an artist or entertainer, individually or as part of a group and who seeks to perform under a reciprocal exchange program which is between organization(s) in the United States and organization(s) in one or more foreign states.
A P-3 nonimmigrant is an alien coming to the United States solely to perform, teach, or coach under a commercial or noncommercial program that is culturally unique.
Essential support personnel are eligible for a P-1S, P-2S, or P-3S nonimmigrant classification if the petitioner can establish that they are an integral part of the performance of the P-1, P-2, or P-3 athlete, team, entertainer, or entertainment group because he or she performs support services that cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker and which are essential to the successful performance of services by the P-1, P-2, or P-3 alien.
The spouse and unmarried children may qualify for P-4 derivative classification. They are entitled to the same period of admission and limitations as the beneficiary of the P petition. They are not allowed to accept employment unless they have been independently granted employment authorization. If the spouse or unmarried child is in the United States in another nonimmigrant classification, he or she must separately file an Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-539) and, if applicable, Supplemental Information for Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-539A) to request a change of status to P-4. The spouse or unmarried child must also separately file Form I-539 if seeking an extension of stay based on the principal alien’s stay being extended.
[^ 1] See 8 CFR 214.2(p)(1)(ii)(A)(1). See INA 214(c)(4)(A)(i)(I). For information regarding additional categories of persons eligible for P-1A classification under the Creating Opportunities for Minor League Professionals, Entertainers, and Teams through Legal Entry (COMPETE) Act of 2006, see Pub. L. 109-463 (PDF), 120 Stat. 3477 (December 22, 2006). See INA 214(c)(4)(A).
[^ 4] For instance, some of the top marathons allow members of the public to participate in the general event, but also include a category of elite runners who compete against each other for prize money. In such a case, if an athlete is seeking to enter the United States to participate in the elite category, it is appropriate for an officer to consider whether the elite competition is at an internationally recognized level of performance such that it requires the participation of an internationally recognized athlete.
[^ 7] See 8 CFR 214.2(p)(1)(ii)(A)(2). The P-1B classification should not be limited to individual entertainers coming to the United States to join only foreign-based entertainment groups. Rather, as the regulation at 8 CFR 214.2(p)(3) focuses on whether the group is “internationally recognized,” which is defined as “having a high level of achievement in a field evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered, to the extent that such achievement is renowned, leading, or well-known in more than one country,” the P-1B classification should include individual entertainers coming to the United States to join U.S.-based internationally recognized entertainment groups.
8 CFR 214.2(p) - Artists, athletes, and entertainers
8 CFR 214.2(p)(1)(ii)(A)(1) - Description of classification
8 CFR 214.2(p)(4)(i) - Types of classification
8 CFR 214.2(p)(4)(ii)(A) - General criteria and documentary requirements for P-1 athletes
8 CFR 214.2(p)(4)(ii)(B) - Evidentiary requirements for an internationally recognized athlete or athletic team
INA 101(a)(15)(P) - Extraordinary ability in arts or athletics as part of a group
INA 204(i) - Definition of Professional Athlete
INA 214(a)(2)(B) - Admission (Stay)
INA 214(c) - Admission of nonimmigrants
INA 214(c)(1) - Importing Employer
INA 214(c)(4) - Petition of Importing Employer
INA 214(c)(4)(A)(i)(I) - Petition of importing employer for athlete at an internationally recognized level of performance
INA 214(c)(4)(A)(ii)(I) - Petition of importing employer
INA 214(c)(5)(B) - Return Transportation
INA 214(c)(6) - Consultation Requirement
Pub. L. 109-463 (PDF) - COMPETE Act of 2006
No appendices available at this time.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is issuing policy guidance in the USCIS Policy Manual to update and clarify guidance for internationally recognized athletes (P-1A nonimmigrants).
This technical update is part of an initiative to move existing policy guidance from the Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) into the Policy Manual. This update does not make major substantive changes but consolidates and incorporates existing AFM guidance into the Policy Manual, streamlining USCIS’ immigration policy while removing obsolete information. This guidance replaces Chapter 33 of the AFM, related appendices, and policy memoranda.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is revising its policy guidance in the USCIS Policy Manual to align with the Fee Schedule and Changes to Certain Other Immigration Benefit Request Requirements Final Rule, published in the Federal Register on August 3, 2020. This guidance becomes effective October 2, 2020. For information regarding implementation, see our litigation summary.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is updating and incorporating relevant Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) content into the USCIS Policy Manual. As that process is ongoing, USCIS has moved any remaining AFM content to its corresponding USCIS Policy Manual Part, in PDF format, until relevant AFM content has been properly incorporated into the USCIS Policy Manual. To the extent that a provision in the USCIS Policy Manual conflicts with remaining AFM content or Policy Memoranda, the updated information in the USCIS Policy Manual prevails. To find remaining AFM content, see the crosswalk (PDF, 327.05 KB) between the AFM and the Policy Manual.
This technical update replaces all instances of the term “foreign national” with “alien” throughout the Policy Manual as used to refer to a person who meets the definition provided in INA 101(a)(3) [“any person not a citizen or national of the United States”].