Athletes Without a Team: Alternatives to the P Visa for Tryouts in the U.S.

If you are an athlete seeking to expand your career by playing in the United States, you’ve probably been reading a lot about the P-1 visa. This visa is ideal for bringing well-established individuals and team players who have achieved international recognition for their skills in their field to the U.S. But what if you are coming to the U.S. for a chance to be part of a major team, but haven’t yet been offered a position?

While USCIS does not allow athletes to use the P visa for tryouts in the U.S., there are other ways athletes may enter the country to compete for a spot on a team. The most popular choices are the B-1 visitor visa or by applying for a visa waiver.

To apply for the Visa Waiver Program, an athlete must be from a participating Visa Waiver country, have a valid passport, and stay in the U.S. for no longer than 90 days. If you do not qualify for a waiver, you may be able to seek a B-1 visa, which will allow you up to six months of residence in which to accomplish your goals.

In order to be granted a B-1 visa, you must demonstrate that you:

  • Are traveling specifically for legitimate business reasons—open trials, open training days, etc.
  • Will remain in the U.S. for a specific, limited period of time
  • Will be able to pay for your own travel expenses and the full cost of your stay in the United States
  • Have a permanent residence outside the U.S. that you continue to maintain and do not plan to abandon
  • Have family, business, or other binding ties which ensure your return to your native country
  • Meet all other USCIS admission requirements

While you will only be able to stay in the U.S. for a limited time under a visitor’s visa, you will be able to apply for a P-1 visa after your trial is over and you have been offered a position. At that point, you may want to consider the O-1 visa instead of the P-1 visa, as it will allow you and your family the opportunity to stay in the U.S. permanently.

Vaughan de Kirby
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San Francisco California EB-5 Investment Immigration Attorney