VIDEO: What visas are available for international athletes who want to work or compete in the US?

What visas are available for athletes who want to come to the United States and work in their field? Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration attorney practicing law here in St Louis, Missouri.

Our office has handled some athlete visas in the past, and we get questions from time to time from people about how does the athlete visa work? What kind of visas are available? There’s basically 5 different kinds of visas and they sort of go in the hierarchy of how exceptional the athlete is. With baseball or football, you’re going to have varying degrees of an athlete’s ability and expertise and that’s going to impact what visa might be available to them.

If we just talk about baseball, which is one of my favorite sports and one of my favorite things to talk about, we can go through the hierarchy of baseball, and where different athletes are in the baseball system, and use that as an example to talk about the different types of visas.

Let’s say that there’s a baseball team from the Dominican Republic or Venezuela who want to come to the United States and have their baseball players participate in a tournament at the amateur level, these baseball players would come to the United States on a B2 Visitor Visa. They would not be coming to earn a living or to make any money. They would not be here competing for cash prizes, so they would have a B2 Visitor Visa. It would just be for the length of the tournament and maybe a little bit longer, so that they can go around and visit various parts of the United States as regular tourists would be.

If athletes are professional and want to come for a specific sporting event, and let’s say they’re a professional team out of Mexico or Venezuela and these athletes are playing and being paid, then they would come on a B1 Visitor Visa if it’s just for a short tournament or a short competition. Then, if they are baseball players who are going to come and play in the Minor Leagues … They’re not good enough to play in the Majors … They’re going to be here on a seasonal basis, on a H2B Visa. That’s the visa that would be available to them, to Minor League players who don’t rise to the exceptional level of professional baseball.

For professional baseball players, if they want to come from Japan or the Dominican Republic or whatever country they come from, they would come on a P1 Visa. Those are the visas too that we handle sometimes with some of our circus acts. We’ve brought various circus performers that come for a set period of time on a P1 Visa.

The last visa that is available for truly exceptional, really gifted athletes, superstars like Wayne Gretsky or … Who else? Really exceptional baseball players … These players would come on an O1 Visa. That would be for someone who you can demonstrate has exceptional ability in their given field. That would be an O1 Visa.

Athlete visas are a lot of fun. It’s really interesting work to be engaged in and to help athletes come to the United States and work in their given field. If you have any questions about athletes visas or about these different visa classifications, be sure to pick up the phone and give us a call: 314-961-8200. Or you can email me at  I’d be happy to answer any questions that you have. Thanks.