A short-term U.S. work visa known as the P visa is available to outstanding athletes, athletic teams, and entertainment companies (including circuses) with a job offer from a U.S. employer. Their essential support personnel may also be granted visas with the same letter-number designations. There is no annual limit on the number of people who can receive P visas.
Qualification Criteria for a P-1 Visa
P-1 visas are available to athletes or athletic teams that have been internationally recognized as outstanding for a long and continuous period of time. Entertainment companies that have been nationally recognized as outstanding for a long time also qualify. P-1 visas can be issued based on the expertise of a group.
In the case of an entertainment company, each performer who wishes to qualify for a P-1 visa must have been an integral part of the group for at least one year, although up to 25% of them can be excused from this one-year requirement, if need be. This requirement may also be waived in exceptional situations, where due to illness or other unanticipated circumstances, a critical performer is unable to travel.
The one-year requirement is for performers only. It does not apply to support personnel. It also does not apply to anyone at all who works for a circus, including performers.
To qualify as a P-1 athlete, the person or team must have an internationally recognized reputation in the sport. Applicants will need to demonstrate this to the immigration authorities by showing a contract with a major U.S. sports league, team, or international sporting event, and at least two of the following:
P-1 visas are not available to individual entertainers, but only to members of groups that have an international reputation. The group must have been performing regularly for at least one year, and 75% of its members must have been performing with that group for at least a year.
When the U.S. employer files a petition on the applicant's behalf with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the employer will have to supply proof of the group’s sustained international recognition, as shown by either its nomination for, or receipt of, significant international awards or prizes, or at least three of the following:
P-2 Visas: Participants in Reciprocal Exchange Programs
P-2 visas are available to artists or entertainers, either individually or as part of a group, who come to the U.S. to perform under a reciprocal exchange program between the U.S. and one or more other countries. All essential support personnel are included. The applicant will need to prove the legitimacy of the program by presenting a formal, written exchange agreement. In addition, a labor union in the U.S. must have either been involved in the negotiation of the exchange or have agreed to it.
The U.S. individual or group being exchanged must have skills and terms of employment comparable to the person or group coming to the United States.
P-3 Visas: Culturally Unique Groups
P-3 visas are available to artists or entertainers who come to the U.S., either individually or as part of a group, to develop, interpret, represent, teach, or coach in a program that is considered culturally unique. The program may be of either a commercial or noncommercial nature.
The P-3 applicant must be coming to the U.S. to participate in a cultural event or events that will further the understanding or development of an art form. In addition, the employer will have to submit on the applicant's behalf:
Support Personnel for P-1, P-2, and P-3 Visa Holders
Highly skilled, essential persons who are an integral part of the performance of a P-1, P-2, or P-3 visa holder may also be granted P visas (with the same visa designation as the primary visa holder). These persons must perform support services that cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker and that are essential to the successful performance of services by the P-1, P-2, or P-3 visa holder.
The support person must have appropriate qualifications to perform the services, critical knowledge of the specific services to be performed, and experience in providing such support to the P-1, P-2, or P-3 visa holder.