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P-1 Visas For Athletes And Entertainers And P-2 and P-3 Visas For Artists And Entertainers
by Greg Siskind and Amy Ballentine

The P categories, P-1, P-2 and P-3, are reserved for those aliens who will be coming to the US to perform in athletics or entertainment, and who do not meet the extraordinary ability standard required for classification in the O category.


For an athletic team to petition for a foreign athlete, the team must have achieved international recognition in the sport. An athlete who will come to the US to compete in individual events rather than as a team must show that he or she is internationally recognized. The INS has defined “international recognition” as a “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 event the athlete is coming to the US to participate in must have a distinguished reputation and must require the participation of athletes and teams of international recognition.


For an entertainer to obtain a P-1 visa, they must be part of an entertainment group. Individuals cannot usually obtain a P-1 visa – the only exception is for people who are coming to the US to join a foreign entertainment group. The group must be internationally recognized as outstanding in the area, and have a sustained period of achievement. Also, the individual members must have a substantial relationship to the group, generally satisfied by at least one year. This requirement may be waived in exigent circumstances, and is not imposed on circus personnel, so long as the circus is of national recognition. The group must have been together for at least one year, and at least three-fourths of the members must have been in the group for at least a year.

Filing the Petition

A P-1 petition may be filed by a US employer or organization, a foreign employer, or by a US agent. The petition must include the following information: any written contract between the alien and the petitioner, or, if there is no written contract, a thorough description of their oral agreement; an explanation of the event and an itinerary; and a consultation from a labor organization.

If a US employer or agent is filing the petition, it should be filed at the regional INS Service Center with jurisdiction over the petitioner. If a foreign employer files the petition, it should be filed at the regional Service Center with jurisdiction over the place where the alien will begin employment.

When the application is filed on behalf of an athlete or team, at least two of the following types of evidence need to be presented:

Participation to a significant extent in a prior season with a major US sports league,
Participation on a national team at international events,
Participation to a significant extent in a prior season with a US collegiate team,
A written statement from an official in the governing body of the sport outlining how the athlete or team is internationally recognized,
A written statement from a member of the sports media or other recognized expert outlining how the athlete or team is internationally recognized,
Evidence that the alien is highly ranked if the sport uses a ranking system, or
Evidence that the alien or team has received a significant award for performance.

When the application is being filed on behalf of an entertainment group, the petition must include details about each person’s length of membership in the group. The petition must also demonstrate the group’s sustained international recognition. This may be done in two ways, first by nomination or receipt of awards for outstanding achievement in the field, and second, by submitting three of the following types of evidence:

The group has and will continue to perform a starring role in productions or events with a distinguished reputation, evidenced by reviews, advertisements, press releases, contracts, or endorsements,
The group has international recognition, evidenced by reviews in papers, trade journals, etc.,
The group has and will continue to perform a starring role in productions or events with a distinguished reputation, evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, etc.,
The group has had commercial success
The group has gained significant recognition for achievements from leaders in the field, or
The group commands a high salary compared to others similarly situated.

Support Personnel

Aliens coming to the US to work as support personnel for P-1 athletes, teams, or entertainment groups are also given the P-1 classification. The application must contain a consultation from a labor organization, a statement describing the alien’s essential role, and a copy of the contract or summary of the oral agreement between the support alien and the employer.

P-2 Visas

The P-2 nonimmigrant category is reserved for those who are coming to the US through an exchange program in which US based and a foreign-based organizations exchange artists and entertainers. The visas are available to both individuals and groups. There are few requirements for these exchange programs, so long as the people involved are of equal caliber, will be employed in similar conditions and for similar periods of time, and there are similar numbers of people being exchanged.

Among the specific documents required in the P-2 application are the following:

A copy of the agreement between the US and foreign organizations about the exchange program,
A letter from the US organization describing the exchange program,
Evidence that a US labor union or similar organization was involved in negotiating the exchange, and
Evidence that the foreign artists and entertainers in the US will be employed in conditions similar to those under which US artists and entertainers will be employed abroad.

If you are considering applying for a P-2 visa, check with the organization that represents artists in your field. For example, the American Federation of Musicians has a P-2 program allowing for the exchange of American and Canadian musicians.

The P-2 category also includes support personnel.

P-3 Visas

P-3 visas are granted to artists and entertainers who come to the US to participate in a “program that is culturally unique.” The statute does not make clear whether the performance that will be given must be culturally unique, or whether the performance must also be given in a setting that is culturally unique. While the INS initially took the position that the program must be culturally unique, it has since relaxed the standards to allow issuance of P-3 visas so long as the performance that will be given is culturally unique.

The following evidence must be submitted with a P-3 application:

Affidavits or letters from experts regarding the authentic cultural uniqueness of the performance, or
Other documentation that the performance is culturally unique, such as material published in newspapers and trade journals, and
Evidence that each performance will be culturally unique.

The application must include an I-129 Form as well as a P Supplement and the $110. It must be submitted to the INS Service Center having jurisdiction over the petitioner’s location.

P-3 essential support personnel are also given P-3 visas.

About The Author

Gregory Siskind is a partner in Siskind, Susser, Haas & Devine's Memphis, Tennessee, office. After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, he received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Chicago. Mr. Siskind is a member of AILA, a board member of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and a member of the ABA, where he serves on the LPM Publishing Board as Marketing Vice Chairman. He is the author of several books, including the J Visa Guidebook and The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. Mr. Siskind practices all areas of immigration law, specializing in immigration matters of the health care and technology industries. He can be reached by email at

Amy Ballentine is an associate in Siskind, Susser & Haas's Memphis, Tennessee office. She graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Rhodes College in 1994. While in law school at the University of Memphis she was a member of the law review staff as well as a published author. She also worked with the local public defender’s office in death penalty cases. In May 1999, she graduated Cum Laude from the University of Memphis Law School. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. She can be reached by email at

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.