The United States is a magnet for sports athletes who dream of making the transition from amateur to professional athlete. Athletes can enter into pro leagues, tournaments and circuits here that are not available in other countries. Whether you are an amateur or have gone professional, there are a variety of visas and ways to gain permanent legal residence green card for sports athletes. Athletes, coaches and trainers should be proactive about their immigration options to ensure they have a clear path forward once their career is over.
How can an athlete get a green card?
Currently, most professional team athletes are in the United States on O-1 or P-1 nonimmigrant visas that expire once they retire. It is important for these individuals to consider green cards at an early stage in their careers as it may be difficult to satisfy the requirement of demonstrating “extraordinary ability” once their careers are over.
Athletes or coaches who qualify for the EB1-A immigrant category can self-petition for a green card. This is a significant advantage over EB-2 or EB-3 immigrant categories as it eliminates the need to secure a job offer and go through the lengthy labor certification process.
The EB1-A category does not list sports as an area of extraordinary ability but there have been several cases in which we have successfully convinced USCIS that athletics is a qualifying occupation. Proof of a specialty occupation can be established in many ways, including salary levels, confirmations from industry experts, etc.