The P-1A visa is designed specifically for athletes who are planning on being in the United States for a sporting event. It is available only to those who are at the internationally-recognized level of skill.
In other words, you have to be exceptional at your sport to qualify for this visa. Anyone other than a top-notch performer won’t qualify. This visa is primarily used for athletes with some measure of international fame, whether they’re solo performers or team members. It allows them the ability to take place in international sporting events without restrictions due to nationality.
However, there are a few quirks about this visa that make it interesting. For example, if the visa is being requested on behalf of a group of athletes, it grants them however long it takes them to finish the event or competition — up to a year. Groups are eligible for extensions of their stay an additional year at a time.
If the visa is being used by an individual, it grants the athlete similar leeway — only the athlete has five years to complete his or her performance or competition. An additional extension is available for up to five years — but the total stay cannot exceed ten.
An additional provision is made for support personnel who are deemed “essential” to the team or individual athlete. Those people also have an initial year to finish but can renew the visa a year at a time until the competition is finished.
This may not provide a lot of people a doorway into the United States, but for gifted athletes and their support system, it’s a way to get here to engage in training while other avenues can be pursued.
Employment immigration is always a complex issue — even when things seem clear enough on paper. If you have questions, make sure that you get answers before you start the application process.
Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, “P-1A Internationally Recognized Athlete,” accessed April 06, 2018