1. P Visa: A Comprehensive Guide

The P visa is intended for internationally recognized artists, athletes, and entertainment professionals who wish to work legally in the United States. It allows individuals with unique skills to contribute to the entertainment, sports, and cultural industries.

The P visa is a non-immigrant visa, therefore, it allows its beneficiary to stay in the U.S. for only a certain period. However, it is considered a dual intent visa, meaning that the immigrant may eventually apply for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence (a green card) without it being interpreted as false representation or fraud by the authorities.

In this AG Immigration guide, we will delve deep into the four categories of the P visa, the application process, and the benefits associated with each of them.

2. Types of P Visa

The P visa is divided in 4 categories:

2.1 P-1 Visa (Athletes and Artistic Group Members)

The P-1 visa is intended for individuals traveling to the United States, either individually or as a group, to participate in sports competitions or artistic performances.

There are two main categories of the P-1 visa: P-1A and P-1B.

2.1.2 The P-1A Visa:

The P-1A visa is intended for professional athletes, including individual sports players or members of internationally recognized sports teams who visit the U.S. to compete or participate in demonstrations in these same sports. These athletes must demonstrate exceptional skills and have participated in high-level competitions.

2.1.3 The P-1B Visa:

The P-1B visa is intended for artists who will temporarily visit the U.S. to perform as a member of an entertainment group that has been established for a minimum period of one year and internationally recognized as excellent in the discipline for a substantial period of time. At least 75% of the group members must have been with the group for at least one year.

2.1.4 P-1 Visa Eligibility Criteria:

Eligibility criteria include evidence of international recognition in the field, as evidenced by awards, previous outstanding performances, contracts with sports leagues or prominent teams, or a significant career in the field.

Essential support personnel are eligible for P-1S classification if they are an integral part of the performance of a P-1 nonimmigrant and perform support services that cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker. Support personnel may include coaches, scouts, trainers, broadcasters, referees, linesmen, umpires, and interpreters.

2.1.5 Application Process:

The P-1 visa application process is virtually the same for both P-1A and P-1B categories. To apply for the P-1 visa, you need to be sponsored by a U.S. employer or organization, i.e., have an employment contract with a U.S. entity for participation in a sports competition or artistic performance.

It is this employer that initiates the P-1 visa application process by filling Form I-129 – Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The petition must be filed no more than 6 months before the planned performance in the U.S. If the U.S. employer is petitioning for a team, a single collective form may be submitted.

Once Form I-129 is approved, the USCIS will notify the U.S. hiring organization and the athlete/artist through Form I-797 – Notice of Action, so that the visa beneficiary (the athlete/artist) can then proceed with the P-1 visa application by completing Form DS-160 and presenting the evidence of visa eligibility at the consular interview:

  • DS-160 confirmation page
  • Passport valid for at least six months after your stay in the U.S.
  • Payment receipt for the consular fee
  • I-797 form confirming that your petition was approved
  • Letter from the U.S. employer describing the performance and events you will participate in
  • Signed contract with your U.S. sponsor
  • Proof that you or your team are recognized nationally or internationally
  • Marriage certificates (for spouses) or birth certificates (for unmarried children under 21) if they need to accompany you to the U.S (see more below in the P-4 section).

2.1.6 P-1 Visa Duration of Stay:

The initial duration of stay granted to P-1 visa holders varies depending on the event schedule but typically allows participation for the duration of the specific event.

For P-1A visa holders, the maximum initial period may not exceed five years for individual athletes or one year for athletic groups. Extensions of stay can be requested in increments of five or one year, respectively, to complete the event.

For P-1B visa holders, the initial length of stay may not exceed one year and can be renewed in increments of up to one year to complete the event.

2.2 P-2 Visa (Artists and Entertainment Professionals in Exchange Programs)

The P-2 visa is designated for artists and entertainment professionals who wish to enter the U.S. temporarily, either individually or as members of a group, to perform artistic presentations as part of a cultural exchange program between a U.S. organization and an organization from another country.

This visa is part of the U.S. government’s cultural exchange program and allows foreign artists to participate in cultural exchange programs, interacting with American artists and sharing their art with the U.S. audience.

2.2.1 Who Qualifies for the P-2 Visa?:

The P-2 visa applicant must participate in a reciprocal cultural exchange program recognized by the U.S. government. Currently, only five reciprocal P-2 agreements are recognized by U.S. immigration:

  • American Federation of Musicians (U.S.) and the American Federation of Musicians (Canada)
  • Actor’s Equity Association (U.S.) and Canadian Actors’ Equity Association
  • Actor’s Equity Association (U.S.) and British Actors’ Equity Association
  • International Council of Air Shows and the Canadian Air Shows Association
  • Canadian Artists Cinema and Radio Alliance and the Screen Actor Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists

If an exchange agreement, other than these five, is used to support a P-2 visa petition, the USCIS will determine whether it adheres to the standards and, therefore, is valid.

As you can see, the P-2 visa was basically created so that actors and musicians from Canada and England can work in shows and audiovisual productions in the U.S.

2.2.2 P-2 Visa Application Process:

Since the P-2 visa requires sponsorship by an American employer, it is this employer who initiates the P-2 visa application process by filling out Form I-129 and submitting it to USCIS, along with supporting documentation. Once the USCIS approves the P-2 visa petition, then the foreign artist can proceed with the application process by completing Form DS-160 and attending the consular interview.

2.2.3 P-2 Visa Duration of Stay:

The P-2 visa is issued for the period of time necessary to complete the event, activity, or work for which the beneficiary was hired, as long as that time does not exceed one year. However, the USCIS may authorize an extension of stay in one-year increments for the artist to complete the event for which they originally entered the U.S.

2.3 P-3 Visa (Unique Cultural Programs)

The P-3 visa is intended for artists who go to the U.S., either individually or as part of a group, to develop, interpret, represent, teach, or train in a program that is considered culturally unique. The program can be of a commercial or non-commercial nature. The P-3 visa applicant must be going to the U.S. to participate in a cultural event that will promote understanding or the development of an art form.

2.3.1 Who Qualifies for the P-3 Visa?:

To qualify for a P-3 visa, the applicant must provide evidence of their qualifications as an artist or performer. This may include awards, reviews, articles, and other documentation demonstrating their experience.

One of the key requirements for a P-3 visa is to demonstrate the cultural significance of the program in which the artist will participate. This means providing evidence that such art is an important part of a cultural tradition and has meaning beyond entertainment value.

2.3.2 P-3 Visa Application Process:

As in the P-1 and P-2 categories, it is the American employer/sponsor that initiates the P-3 visa application process, through Form I-129. This sponsor can be an individual or an organization, such as an event promoter or cultural institution. Your sponsor will need to provide, along with the I-129, all documentation about the nature of the artistic event/program, as well as information about your qualifications and experience as a culturally unique artist.

Once the USCIS approves the P-3 visa petition, the foreign artist beneficiary of the visa can proceed with the application process by completing Form DS-160 and attending the consular interview.

2.3.3 P-3 Visa Duration of Stay:

The P-3 visa allows the foreign artist to stay in the U.S. for the time necessary to complete the event/cultural program for which they were hired or invited, as long as that time does not exceed one year. However, the USCIS may authorize an extension of stay in one-year increments for the artist to complete the event/cultural program for which they were originally hired.

2.4 P-4 Visa (P Visa Dependents)

The P-4 visa is a category of P visa intended for dependents of P-1, P-2, or P-3 visa holders. This visa is granted to spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of P-1, P-2, or P-3 visa holders and allows them to accompany the visa holder during their stay in the United States.

The P-4 visa is generally granted for the same period allowed for the P-1, P-2, or P-3 visa holder to stay in the U.S. Additionally, the P-4 visa does not allow the dependent to work in the U.S.

The P-4 visa is designed to facilitate family unity while the primary visa holder is in the United States to participate in specific activities, such as sports events, cultural performances, or artistic exchanges.

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