P Visa for artists, athletes & entertainers

If you are an athlete, artist or entertainer and are looking to travel to the US for temporary employment, you will need to apply for the P visa. As with all US visa categories, the requirements on applicants are rigorous and the application and approval process can be complex and lengthy.

We look at the key eligibility criteria and the process for making your US P visa application.

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What is the P visa USA?

The US P1 visa is designed for athletes or teams who have been internationally recognised as outstanding. Entertainment companies who have been recognised as outstanding for a long period of time may also qualify for the P1 visa.

If an entertainment company is applying for a P1 visa most performers will only qualify if they have been a key member of the group for at least one year. Up to 25% of the group can be exempt from this requirement and it can also be waived in exceptional circumstances such as illness or a performer vital to the company being unable to travel at that time. If a supporting team is travelling with the company this requirement does not apply and all members of a circus are exempt.

What is the definition of an athlete?
In order to be admitted as an athlete on a P1 visa the individual or team must have an international reputation. This must be demonstrated by proving a connection with an international event or a major US sports league or team. In addition you will need to provide at least two of:

  • Evidence of the international ranking of the person or team
  • Proof of major honours or awards in the sport
  • Evidence of significant participation with a major U.S. sports league
  • Proof of involvement in an international competition
  • Evidence of significant participation with a U.S. college team
  • A written statement from a major U.S. sports league or the governing body of the sport outlining the significance of the person or team
  • A written statement from the sports media or an expert outlining the significance of the person or team

What is the definition of an entertainer?
A P1 visa can only be obtained by members of groups, not individual entertainers. To qualify the group must have been performing for at least a year.

To qualify, the US employer must file a petition on behalf of the company, and they will need to demonstrate proof of the international success of the group through at least three of the following:

  • Evidence that the group has starred in distinguished events or productions or will be doing so in the future
  • Published material or reviews that prove the group has an international profile and has achieved acclaim in their field
  • Evidence of large box office receipts or ratings that prove the group has achieved critical or commercial success on an international scale
  • Confirmation that the entertainment group receives a high salary or significant remuneration
  • Evidence of significant recognition from critics, government agencies or other known experts or organisations

Possible P1 exceptions
The P1 visa rules are different for circus performers. Circus performers and those working in an essential support role for the circus do not need to have been part of the company for a year as long as the circus has an outstanding and internationally recognised reputation.

Additionally, there are some circumstances where the international recognition requirement may be waived. This is generally for groups who have difficulty proving international reputation due to circumstances such as having limited access to media or issues surrounding their geographical location.

P2 visa

The P2 visa is designed for entertainers or artists who are visiting the US to perform as part of an exchange programme. This can be as part of a group or individually and must be through an official exchange programme between the US and one or more other countries.

In addition, essential support staff for the individual or group will qualify for travel under a P2 visa.

For the exchange to be recognised you will need to show evidence of the validity of the exchange programme through a formal exchange agreement. The exchange programme must have been agreed by a US labor union and the US individual or group involved in the exchange must-have skills and employment terms comparable with the performer/s visiting the US.

P3 visa

This visa is for entertainers who visit the US to deliver a program that is culturally unique. It can be individuals or groups and the activity may be commercial or non-commercial.

To qualify for a P3 visa the individual or group must be taking part in cultural events that will further the understanding of their art form. The US employer will need to submit an application on the behalf of the applicant, this will need to include:

  • Written support from known experts demonstrating the person or group’s skills in either performing, teaching or coaching their art form and evidencing the basis of knowledge of the person or group
  • Evidence of the culturally unique nature of the art form through published materials such as reviews and journals.

Support personnel of P3 entertainers may also qualify for a P3 visa, the US employer will need to provide:

  • Statements outlining why support staff are essential, their critical skills, and experience
  • A copy of the contract or summary of the terms between the applicant and employer
  • A copy of a consultation from a US labor organisation that has expertise in the applicant’s field

Can a P visa be extended?

If you have secured a P1 visa USA it may be possible to extend your stay in the US. The employer sponsoring your stay must request an extension to your visa during the stay through a Form I797. It must be filed with a statement that outlines the reason for the extension. You will need to be present in the United States at the time your employer is filing the extension.

It is possible for individuals to get extensions of up to 5 years at a time but the total stay on a P1 visa must not go beyond 10 years. Extensions of 1 year can be given to other visa P visa holders and support staff and it is common for holders to be permitted entry for recurring events or activities they have previously been admitted for.

Need assistance with the P visa USA?

As with all US visa applications, the P visa process can be complex and involved. The immigration guidelines are open to adjudicator discretion and it is essential you have detailed supporting evidence that proves you meet the requirements. An expert in in US immigration law c

NNU Immigration specialize in US visa and immigration applications and can help you prepare your application and supporting evidence to ensure your case for a P visa or a P visa extension has the best chance of success. For expert advice and guidance with your P visa application, talk to our specialists.

This post does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only. 

Last updated: 22 December 2019