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Athlete Immigration Attorneys in Charlotte

Providing Purposeful, Intelligent & Thorough Representation

At Queen City Immigration Law, we are committed to helping our clients get the results they need.

P-1: Individual or Team of Athletes, for Competition & Training

Professional fighters seeking to compete and/or train in the U.S. can obtain a visa for up to five years and the visa is renewable for another five years. Members of a team of athletes can stay in the U.S. for up to a year. The P-1 visa process takes approximately one month or more to process but can be expedited for extra fees. There are also visas available for immediate family members of the petitioner as well.

Employment Visas for Athletes Seeking to Immigrate

EB visas are appropriate for athletes that are looking to make a permanent move to the United States as opposed to staying temporarily to train or compete. These visas either usually require a high standard of achievement or for a sponsor to obtain a labor certification. In addition, depending on the category, there can be extended priority dates for visas which means the petitioner could have to wait for the visa to become available.

These visas include:

  • EB-1: Is appropriate for an athlete with extraordinary ability. The standard for approval is similar to an O-1 but is a self-petition visa for which no employer is required.
  • EB-2: Is also appropriate for athletes with exceptional abilities but the standard for approval is lower than the EB-1. The EB-2 requires either an employer sponsor to obtain a labor petition or for the petitioner to obtain a National Interest Waiver.
  • EB-3: Is appropriate for skilled or professional workers that can be characterized as a professional athlete or coach.

A labor certification requires employer/sponsor to go through PERM labor certification. In the last three options, the athlete and employer must complete a process called PERM labor certification, which can take six to nine months.

Visitor Visa for Amateur Fighters

Amateur fighters that are training and/or competing without receiving a prizefighting purse may qualify for a B-1/B-2 visitor visa. If the fighter is from a country in the visa waiver program, they might not even need to obtain the visa. The B-1/B-2 visa is very inexpensive and typically takes less than a month to obtain. While athletes cannot be compensated for competition, the athlete may receive benefits of free living expenses or reimbursement for living expenses. This visa may be granted for up to six months and is appropriate for short-term training, summer courses, and unpaid tours.

Individual with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement

An O visa is a specialty visa reserved for individuals of extraordinary ability in the fields of science, education, business, arts, or athletics. This visa is issued for a period of up to three years and is renewable. For an athlete, there is a high standard to obtain this visa and requires sustained national or international acclaim such as a world championship. These visas require stringent documentation for supporting evidence that includes evidence of achievement in competition, letters of support from industry experts, and support from media articles.

The O visa is extremely fact specific and a consultation is necessary before pursuing an application.

Artist or Entertainer (Individual or Group), Cultural Training

To perform, teach, or coach under a program that is culturally unique or a traditional ethnic, folk, cultural, musical, theatrical, or artistic performance or presentation. Includes persons providing essential services in support of the P-3 beneficiary.

Green Card Options for Fighters

Promoters from around the country have contacted Queen City Immigration Law to find out how their boxer, mixed martial artist, jiu-jitsu practitioner, and other fighting athletes can obtain Permanent Legal Residence (Green Card) through their profession. It is no secret that these applications are difficult to get approved and a lot of information is required to be successful. EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 applications often do not adequately articulate both the industry of the sport and the merits of every achievement accomplished by the athlete. Successful petitions also require a lot of proof from credible sources. It pays dividends to engage an immigration lawyer that understands the combat sports industry, has contacts within the industry, and also the ability to tell the athlete’s story to help obtain Permanent Legal Resident status.

There are two paths for a fighter or combat sports athlete to obtain a Permanent Legal Residence (Green Card) through their profession.

EB-1 Also Known as the Einstein Visa

  • Self-sponsorship - does not require sponsorship from an employer
  • High bar - must prove extraordinary abilities
  • Universal Employment Authorization during the process
  • Eight months for approval of EB-1 status
  • Six months to obtain Permanent Legal Residence (Green Card)

EB-2 or EB-3 Foreign Immigrant Skilled Worker Visa

  • Requires a labor certification
  • Promotion must sponsor the athlete
  • The position must be advertised
  • Lower bar - must match job description for an employer
  • Requires job offer
  • Lengthy application process - can take about two years

EB-1A Self Sponsorship Green Card

The appropriate EB-1 visa for a fighter is the EB1A visa for aliens that have extraordinary abilities. The good news is that it does not require a labor certification which requires sign off from the Department of Labor and for the position to be advertised to the public. Since the EB-1 does not require a labor certification, the timing is much shorter than both EB-2 and EB-3 visas. The first part of the process which involves getting approved as an alien with extraordinary abilities takes about seven to eight months for USCIS to process and approve. Once this portion is approved, the fighter will receive their work authorization while the Permanent Legal Residence (Green Card) portion of the application is adjudicated. This process can take another six to eight months. Once complete, the fighter will be a Green Card holder.

The fighter must meet 3 out of the 10 listed criteria below to prove extraordinary ability in the sport:

  • Evidence of receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence
  • Evidence of membership in associations in the field, which demand outstanding achievement of their members
  • Evidence of published material about the fighter in professional or major trade publications or other major media
  • Evidence of judging the work of others, either individually or on a panel
  • Evidence of original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance to the field
  • Evidence of authorship of scholarly articles in professional or major trade publications or other major media
  • Evidence that work has been displayed at artistic exhibitions or showcases
  • Evidence of performance of a leading or critical role in distinguished organizations
  • Evidence of high salary or other significantly high remuneration in relation to others in the field
  • Evidence of commercial successes in the performing arts

EB2 & EB3 Employer Sponsored Green Card

EB-2 immigrant preference classification is for individuals who have exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business (the government has interpreted this to include athletics); and EB-3 classification is for individuals who qualify for permanent employment in positions requiring professionals that possess a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a field directly related to the prospective employment - or “skilled workers" who possess at least two years of employment experience or related training.


This option typically requires the fighter to have college degrees in addition to being an accomplished athlete. The degree is typically at the master’s level from a U.S. university or foreign equivalent. The petition must include official academic record showing receipt of the degree and also letters from employers showing experience in the field. These requirements might not be appropriate for most fighters but can be a great fit for others. For example, in Russia, it is not uncommon to have a Masters of Sports Degree from a university in addition to an outstanding record in competition. The EB-2 process can be advantageous over the EB-3 because there is a limited amount of people that qualify which is helpful during the labor certification process. Both EB-2 and EB-3 petitions require that the position is advertised to the public before hiring the foreign worker.

In addition, the adjudicating officer will use a seven-point regulatory qualification system to determine eligibility for the visa.

The system involves the following:

  • Official academic record proving successful completion of degree from a college, university, or other institution of learning relating to the applicant’s chosen field.
  • Letters documenting at least 10 years of full-time experience in the applicant’s chosen profession.
  • A license or certification to practice the chosen profession.
  • Evidence of a salary demonstrating exceptional ability.
  • Membership in a professional association.
  • Recognition from government entities or professional organizations for contributions made to the applicant’s chosen field.
  • Other evidence of eligibility is acceptable.


EB-3 employees are professionals, skilled workers, and other workers with at least two years of experience as skilled workers, professionals with a baccalaureate degree, and others with less than two years’ experience, such as an unskilled worker who can perform labor for which qualified workers are not available in the United States. This is appropriate for fighters who do not have the academic credentials to support the EB-2 visa.

The difficult part about the EB-2 and EB-3 process is that the employer will have to show that there are no available, qualified, and willing U.S. workers for the position. The employer will also have to demonstrate that they have the financial ability to support the fighter.

Labor Certification Process

The most difficult part of the EB-2 or EB-3 process is the labor certification which must be performed with special care and attention. The purpose of this process is to prove that the employer cannot find available, qualified, and willing U.S. workers for the position. Adjusting qualifications for the position is where there is room for a Charlotte athlete immigration attorney to help the EB-2 or EB-3 application get approved. The job description and requirements for the job is tailored to match the skills and experience of your target employee.

The labor certification process is facilitated through the U.S Department of Labor (DOL). The U.S employer must prove that they will not discriminate against the foreign worker by promising to pay the prevailing wage. This process takes about 6 months to adjudicate, and the EB-2 or EB-3 process cannot continue until the certification is approved.

Government Fees & Application Timing

For EB-1, the government fees are $700 for the I-140, and $1225 for the I-485 Adjustment of Status. For EB-2 and EB-3, the PERM Labor Certification does not have government fees, the I-140 is $700, and the adjustment of status is $1225.

What You Can Expect

at Queen City Immigration Law
  • Personalized Service

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  • Multilingual Firm

    Our team speaks French, Vietnamese, Spanish, and Polish. Other languages are accommodated upon request.

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