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P Visa Overview

The P visa is a temporary work visa available to established entertainment groups, individual athletes, athletic teams, artists (groups or individual), teachers and coaches. As opposed to the O-1 visa, a P visa candidate need not meet the “extraordinary ability” requirement to qualify for the P visa.

The P visa is divided into the following categories:

  • P-1A: For internationally recognized foreign national athletes (as an individual or part of a team) coming to the U.S. temporarily to perform at athletic events;
  • P-1B: For foreign entertainers belonging to an entertainment group recognized internationally as outstanding in the discipline for a significant period of time. In most cases, a P-1B candidate must have been part of the group for at least one year;
  • P-2: For foreign artists or entertainers, individually or as part of a group, coming under a reciprocal exchange program between an organization in the U.S. and the reciprocating foreign country where the individuals involved in the exchange have comparable skills; and,
  • P-3: For culturally unique artists and entertainers, individually or as a group, coming to the U.S. temporarily to perform, teach, or coach in their particular art or discipline.

For each category, visas are available for essential support personnel who are highly skilled and serve as an “integral part” of the performance of the principal P candidate.

In order for a foreign national to obtain P status, the individual must be sponsored by a U.S. employer, agent, or sponsoring organization, which is required to file a petition with USCIS. The petition must include an advisory opinion from the appropriate labor union or peer group. With the exception of P-1A athletes, P status will be granted for the amount of time sufficient for the candidate to complete the scheduled event, competition or performance, not to exceed one year. Extensions may be authorized in increments of up to one year. P-1A athletes are eligible for an initial period of stay of up to five years and a total period of stay of up to ten years (in order to complete the scheduled event, competition or performance).

Requirements for the P-1A Classification for Athletes

To qualify for P-1A classification as an athlete, the candidate must have a contract with a major U.S. sports league or team, or a contract with an individual sport commensurate with international recognition in that sport (if such contracts are normally executed in the sport). Additionally, the candidate must have at least two of the following:

  1. Substantial participation in a prior season with a U.S. major league team;
  2. Involved in an international competition with a national team;
  3. Significant participation in intercollegiate competition for a prior season at a U.S. college/university;
  4. A detailed written statement describing candidate’s or his or her team’s international recognition from a major U.S. sports league or official of the sport’s governing body;
  5. A written statement respecting the candidate’s or team’s international recognition from the sports media or a recognized expert;
  6. Evidence of international ranking;
  7. Have won or attained significant honors or awards in the sport.

Requirements for the P-1B Classification for Entertainment Groups

In order to qualify for P-1B classification as an entertainment group, the group must have been performing regularly for at least one year. As long as 75% of the members have been established in the group for a year or more, the “one year” requirement is satisfied. Further, the “one year” requirement does not apply to circus groups coming to work with nationally recognized circuses.

The entertainment group must also be internationally recognized in its discipline for a sustained and significant period of time. International recognition may be proven by evidence of significant international awards or prizes for outstanding achievement in the field. In the alternative, an entertainment group may provide evidence that the group has achieved three of the following:

  1. Has performed and will perform as a starring or leading group in productions/events with distinguished reputations;
  2. Has attained international recognition and acclaim;
  3. Has performed and will perform services as a leading or starring group for distinguished organizations and establishments;
  4. Has a record of acclaimed successes, critical or commercial;
  5. Recognized by organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts for significant achievements;
  6. Has procured or will procure a high salary or other substantial compensation comparable to others similarly situated.

Requirements for P-2 Classification for Artists and Entertainers

In order to be eligible for P-2 classification, the candidate must be part of a government-recognized reciprocal exchange program between one or more U.S. organizations and one or more foreign organizations. The P-2 candidate must possess skills comparable to those of the U.S. artists and entertainers taking part in the program abroad and the terms of employment must be similar. In addition, the appropriate U.S. labor organization must have been involved in the negotiation or approval of the exchange.

Requirements for P-3 Classification for Culturally Unique Artists and Entertainers

The P-3 category is intended for culturally unique artists and entertainers, individually or as a group. The P-3 candidate must be coming to the U.S. for cultural events to further the understanding or development of his or her art form and be sponsored primarily by educational, cultural, or governmental organizations which promote such international cultural activities and exchanges.