P Visas

By: Geoffrey J. Lamoureux

A P visa is available to athletes, entertainment groups, exchange performers, and culturally unique entertainers, teachers, and coaches.

Within the P visa category, the P-1 visa is for internationally known athletes, either individually or as part of a group or team, and entertainment groups; the P-2 visa is for performing artists under a bilateral exchange program; and the P-3 visa is for culturally unique entertainers, teachers, and coaches, either individually or as part of a group. These three P classifications provide for accompanying personnel. Finally, a P-4 visa is for spouses and dependents of those who hold a P-1, P-2, or P-3 visa.

P-1 Visas

To qualify for a P-1 visa, an athlete, athletic team, or entertainment group must meet the standard of “international recognition”. This means a high level of achievement in the field, as 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.

For athletes, the athlete may be issued a P-1 visa based on his or her individual reputation and achievements. This is an easier standard to satisfy than an O-1 visa for athletics, where the athlete must have sustained national or international acclaim. However, unlike the O-1 visa, a P-1 visa is only for competing athletes, and therefore does not include coaches or trainers. The O visa is the subject of another article. An athletic team must be internationally recognized as outstanding in the field, and it must be coming to the United States to perform services that require such recognition.

For entertainers, members of an entertainment group may be issued a P-1 visa if the group has been internationally recognized as outstanding in the field for a sustained and substantial period of time. Each group member must have had a sustained and substantial relationship with the group for at least a year. A P-1 visa is issued based on a group’s international reputation, rather than based on individual achievement.

P-2 Visa

To qualify for a P-2 visa, an artist or entertainer must be coming to the United States to perform individually or as part of a group pursuant to a bilateral exchange program. A bilateral exchange program means an arrangement between a U.S. organization and a foreign organization that facilitates the temporary exchange of artists and entertainers. The exchange must be between a similar caliber of artists or entertainers, contain similar employment terms and conditions, and involve a similar number of beneficiaries – although an individual-group exchange may be possible.

P-3 Visa

To qualify for a P-3 visa, a culturally unique artist or entertainers, either individually or as part of a group, must be coming to the United States to develop, interpret, represent, coach, or teach their particular art or discipline. Culturally unique means a style of artistic expression, methodology, or medium which is unique to a particular country, nation, society, class, ethnicity, religion, tribe, or other group of people.

Accompanying Personnel

All P categories provide for accompanying essential support personnel. An essential support person is a highly skilled, essential person who is considered an integral part of the performance of the P principal, because he or she performs support services that cannot readily be performed by a U.S. worker and that are essential to the success of the performance. Essential support personnel must have appropriate qualifications to perform the services, critical knowledge of the specific services required, and experience in providing such support to the principal P visa holder.

Purpose of Admission

P visa admissions are limited to a specific competition, event, or performance, which is defined as an activity such as an athletic competition or season, tour, tournament, project, exhibit, engagement, or entertainment event. An entertainment or athletic event could include a whole season of performances. Notwithstanding the foregoing, P visa holders may take short vacations and engage in promotional appearances, while earning outside income from endorsement activity.

P visas are complex and involve specifics and exceptions not addressed in this article. Therefore, it is important to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced immigration attorney to ensure that the P visa applicant is adequately qualified for the visa, and that the application is documented for success.