The United States government offers different types of visas to allow immigrants to apply for temporary or permanent residence in the country. Anyone interested in applying for permanent status has to apply for a U.S. immigrant visa, and those seeking a temporary stay may qualify to apply for a non-immigrant visa. The visas start with different letters of the alphabet and numbers, so wading through all the options can be challenging.
Why Would I Apply for a Non-Immigrant Visa?
People need to stay in the country for different reasons, such as extended business trips, tourism, and to visit family. There is a long list of non-immigrant visas, such as the A-visa for diplomats and foreign government officials or the D-visa for crew members on a ship. The H-2A visa is for agricultural workers, the I-visa is for journalists, and the Q-visa is for international cultural exchange programs. There is also a certain group of U.S. non-immigrant visas that are designed to allow sports coaches, musical performers, other entertainers, and athletes to visit temporarily, which is called the P-visa.
How are P-Visas Used?
There are certain guidelines for P-visas that must be followed. Applicants must have a P-visa sponsor, and they can only work for them; if they want to work for another employer, a new visa is needed. P-visa holders may be accompanied by their spouses and unmarried children younger than 21, but these family members need to obtain P-4 visas in order to do so. Support personnel may accompany P-visa holders, but they will also have to apply for their own non-immigrant visas.
P-visa holders can also travel in and out of the country or remain here as long as the visa’s stamp and status are still valid. The initial time period is usually what is needed to carry out the activities, with a maximum of one year. However, some categories do allow extensions.
What is a P-1 Visa?
Starting at the top, P-1 visas can be issued to team athletes and other athletes who are in the country to participate in athletic programs or promote themselves and their teams. Entertainers can also apply for P-1 visas if they plan to be in the U.S. to perform in entertainment programs or competitions. This is further broken down into P-1A visas, which are for athletes and athletic teams that are internationally recognized; and P-1B visas, which are for internationally recognized entertainers. P-1 athletes can be approved to stay in the U.S. for up to five years, with an extension for another five years.
In general, if it is an athletic or entertainment team/group, there must be at least two members. Newer teams and groups may have a harder time obtaining these visas. To qualify, P-1A visa applicants must have participated in a U.S. college or university sports league and a major U.S. sports league. They must have also taken part in a national/international level event or competition, been ranked in a high position, and received a national/international award for excellence.
For a P-1B visa, applicants must be receiving a high salary from their work, and major success in box office sales, video sales, recordings, and ratings. On top of this, they must also have achievements reported in major newspaper and trade journals, and recognition from critics and others who can attest to their achievements.
What is a P-2 Visa?
P-2 visas differ from P-1 visas because they are issued to artists and entertainers who wish to enter the U.S. to perform through a reciprocal exchange program with one or more countries. Applicants must possess skills and employment terms that are similar to the U.S. artists or entertainers who they are exchanging with. Applicants must also show that the program is legitimate by providing a formal exchange agreement in writing; there must also be a U.S. labor union involved in the exchange or negotiation.
What is a P-3 Visa?
The P-3 visa was created to promote cultural enrichment. They are available to artists and entertainers who want to come to the U.S. to provide programs that are considered culturally unique. These can be commercial or non-commercial, and should include teaching, coaching, interpreting, developing, or representing their cultures. P-3 visa applicants have to plan on participating in cultural events that further the understanding or development of an art form. They must be prepared with statements of authenticity to their skills from recognized experts and have evidence that their work is culturally unique. Proof of this could include newspaper reviews, journals, and other published statements.
How Do I Apply for a P-Visa?
The process starts when an applicant’s U.S. sponsor or employer files Form I-129, Petition for Non-Immigrant Worker with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This is required to get the athlete or entertainer permission to apply for a P-1 visa. The petition needs to be filed six months before the activities are to take place. Group petitions can be filed for athletic teams and entertainment groups.
The petitions must also include documentation and evidence. This can include contracts with a U.S. team or sporting league, a tour schedule, proof of a contract with a labor organization, proof of the group’s age, and evidence that the applicant achieved national/international recognition.
Once the petition is submitted to the USCIS, it can take two to eight weeks for a response. This is usually done with Form I-797, Notice of Action. If approved, the athletes or entertainments need to visit a U.S. Embassy in their home country to bring their visa applications. From there, applicants will need to complete Form DS-160, prepare additional documents, pay any applicable fees, and arrange formal interviews.
Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at the MC Law Group, LLC Help Immigrants with Visa Applications
It is important to follow the rules when applying for a visa, but it can be confusing at times. The knowledgeable Philadelphia immigration lawyers at the MC Law Group, LLC provide trusted legal guidance every step of the way. For a free consultation, complete our online form or call 215-496-0690. Located in Philadelphia, we help clients throughout the tri-state area, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and nationwide.