The P visas are nonimmigrant (temporary) visas for foreign athletes, coaches, artists, performers, entertainment groups, or teachers of particular art forms to work in the United States for a specific event, performance, or competition. The P visa is typically limited to a specific main event, performance, or competition such as an athletic competition or season, tournament, project, entertainment event, tour, or exhibit, and the incidental or related activities of the main event such as short vacations, promotional appearances, or stopovers.
There must be a U.S. employer or U.S. agent to sponsor the P visa which means that a foreign person or foreign company cannot start the P visa petitions by themselves.
Table of Contents
There are eight subcategories under the P visa:
- P1A visa: Internationally recognized athletes or teams, professional or amateur athletes, amateur coaches, or theatrical ice-skaters.
- P1B visa: Member of an internationally recognized entertainment group.
- P2 visa: An artist or entertainer (individually or as part of a group) under a Reciprocal Exchange Program.
- P3 visa: An artist or entertainer (individually or as part of a group) under a Culturally Unique Program.
- P4 visa: Family members (spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old) of the P1 visa workers, P2 visa workers, P3 visa workers, and P1S/P2S/P3S visa workers.
- P1S visa: Essential support personnel of the P1 visa worker.
- P2S visa: Essential support personnel of the P2 visa worker.
- P3S visa: Essential support personnel of the P3 visa worker.
The P visas are for foreign workers in the arts or athletics to work temporarily in the United States. The type of workers under the P visas can include athletes, teachers, coaches, artists, entertainers, entertainment groups, etc. The P1S/P2S/P3S visas are for the support staff of the P1/P2/P3 visa workers. The P4 visas are for the dependent family members (spouse and unmarried minor children) of the main P visa workers.
P1A Visa Internationally Recognized Athlete & Other Athletic Related Workers
The P1A visa is for workers in the athletic field that includes 5 different types of workers: (1) P1A individual athletes who are known on an international level, (2) P1A athletes who are a part of an internationally known athletic team or group, (3) individual P1A professional athletes who are employed by a U.S. sports team that belongs to an association that has at least 6 professional sports team and a combined revenue that is over $10 million each year (or an affiliated minor league team), (4) individual P1A amateur athletes or coaches who are working with a team or franchise in the United States and is a member of a foreign league or association that has at least 15 amateur sports team and operates at the highest level of amateur performance in that sport in its foreign country, and (5) ice-skaters performing (individually or as part of a group) in a theatrical production or tour in the United States.
P1B Visa Members of Internationally Recognized Entertainment Group
The P1B visa is for foreign artists who are performing as a part of an internationally recognized entertainment group. The internationally recognized entertainment group under the P1B visa petition must have been established for at least 1 year and have continuously maintained to be outstanding in the field for a significant amount of time.
P2 Visa Artists or Entertainers Under Reciprocal Exchange Program
The P2 visa is for artists and entertainers working (individually or part of a group) under a reciprocal exchange program that allows the temporary exchange of artists and entertainers between certain U.S. organizations and foreign organizations.
P3 Visa Artists or Entertainers Under Culturally Unique Program
The P3 visa is for artists and entertainers who are coming to the United States to temporarily perform, teach, or coach (individually or as part of a group) under a culturally unique program.
P1S/P2S/P3S Visa Essential Support Staff
The P1S/P2S/P3S visa is for the essential support staff of P visa workers. The P1S/P2S/P3S support staff must be a highly skilled essential person who is an integral part of the P1/P2/P3 visa worker’s performance and they must provide services that cannot be readily replaced by a U.S. worker.
P4 Visa Dependent Family Members
The P4 visa is for the spouse and children (unmarried and under 21 years old) of the P1 visa worker, P2 visa worker, P3 visa worker, and P1/P2/P3 visa workers.
In most cases, the P visa can be granted an initial period of stay for up to 1 year depending on how much time is required to complete the event or performance, and renewals of the P visa (extensions of stay) may be granted in 1-year increments depending on how long the P visa worker needs to finish their initial event or performance.
The P1A individual athlete is the only type of P visa worker that can be granted an initial period of stay for up to 5 years. The renewals of the P1A visa (extensions of stay) for the P1A individual athlete and its P1S essential support staff can be granted a period of stay for up to 5 years. The P1A visa for individual athletes and the P1S visa for the P1A individual athlete’s essential support staff has a maximum time limit of 10 years.
P visa holders are allowed to enter the United States 10 days before the start date and stay an additional 10 days after the end date. However, P visa holders cannot work during those additional 20 days.
There are 4 main steps in the general process of obtaining a P visa:
Step 1: Work Agreement with Sponsoring Employer or Agent
The P visa worker must have a contract or agreement with a sponsoring (1) U.S. employer or (2) U.S. agent (or a foreign employer that is represented by a U.S. agent) for temporary work in the United States. The foreign worker cannot file for a P visa petition by themselves and a foreign employer can only file the P visa petition through a U.S. agent.
＊The P2 visa would need a reciprocal exchange program agreement instead.
Step 2: Written Advisory Opinion (Consultation)
A written advisory opinion (or letter of no objection of the P visa petition) must be obtained from a labor organization of the P visa worker’s field of expertise. The written advisory opinion must include whether the person has the qualifications of a P visa worker and whether the proposed work in the United States requires a person who has those qualifications.
The consultation requirement can be waived for the P visa petition if there is no appropriate labor organization for the field of expertise or when the case needs to be handled expeditiously.
Step 3: Filing the P Visa Petition (Form I-129)
The U.S. sponsoring employer or agent files the P visa petition (Form I-129) with the USCIS at least 45 days before the start date of the work-related event in the United States. The P visa petition cannot be filed over 1 year before the start date of the work-related event in the United States.
Step 4: Consular Processing or Change of Status to P Visa Status
After the P visa petition is approved by the USCIS, the person would need to change into their P visa status which involves either consular processing at the U.S. consulate or embassy overseas (usually in their home country) or a change of status in the United States.
Change of status is usually for a person who is already in the United States with another valid nonimmigrant visa status and has maintained a lawful visa status throughout their time in the United States. On the other hand, consular processing is for a person who lives outside the United States or for a person who is ineligible to change their status in the United States due to noncompliance of U.S. immigration law (e.g., overstayed on their previous visa status, worked when they did not have valid U.S. work authorization, the visa status they used to enter the United States does not allow them to change into another type of visa status, etc.)
Person Outside U.S. (or Person Ineligible for Change of Status)
For a person who is residing overseas (outside the United States) or a person who is ineligible for a change of status with the P visa petition (Form I-129), consular processing must be done to obtain the P visa status. Consular processing involves the person attending an in-person interview at the U.S. consulate or embassy usually in the person’s home country. In some certain circumstances, a person can do consular processing in another country as a “Third Country National.”
After the interview approval at the U.S. consulate or embassy, the person would have to be admitted entry into the United States by the CBP officer at the border (usually at the airport) which means that the person would have to physically enter the United States as the final step for the P visa status to be activated.
Person Residing in the U.S. (Maintained Lawful Visa Status)
For a person who is already in the United States with another valid nonimmigrant visa, there are usually two options available to obtain the P visa status:
(1) Change of Status: this is the more commonly chosen option where the person states that they would like to change their status without leaving the United States in their P visa petition (Form I-129). If the person is eligible (no violations of U.S. immigration laws), then their nonimmigrant visa status will be changed upon the approved employment start date listed in the P visa petition. In cases where the person’s change of status request is denied or the person needs to change it into consular processing, an application for action on an approved application or petition (Form I-824) may be required.
(2) Consular Processing: this must be chosen if a person cannot show that they have maintained lawful visa status in the United States or for any other reasons such as the person needs to travel internationally before the P visa petition is approved.
The total time a P visa takes is consisted of the processing time for the (1) P visa petition (Form I-129) with the USCIS and the (2) visa application (DS-160) at a U.S. consulate or embassy overseas if the person is not already in the United States or is ineligible to do a change of status within the United States.
Factors that influence the P visa processing time usually include but are not limited to if there was any Request for Evidence (“RFE”) issued, and the caseload of the USCIS service center and the U.S. consulate or embassy.
Premium Processing for Form I-129 (Expedited Service)
A rough estimate for the Form I-129 petition for the P visa is around 3 to 4 months. However, a 15-day premium processing (Form I-907) is available for the Form I-129 part of the P visa petition. Premium processing is an optional expedited service where the USCIS guarantees that the case will be processed within 15 calendar days (not business days). When a notice of intent to deny (NOID) or a request for evidence (RFE) is issued, a new 15 calendar days will start when the USCIS receives a response from the applicant. If the USCIS fails to process within the time frame, a refund of the service fee will be given and the case will continue to be expedited. Please note that USCIS’s guaranteed response may be an approval notice, denial notice, notice of intent to deny (NOID), request for evidence (RFE), or open an investigation for fraud or misrepresentation.
The current premium processing fee for the P visa is $2500 USD and it can be requested when the original petition is submitted to the USCIS or an upgrade to premium processing can be done when the case is pending.
Dual intent visas allow the foreign person to have both an intent to temporarily stay in the United States and an intent to permanently stay in the United States. The intention to permanently stay in the United States can be shown when the foreign person has a pending green card petition with the USCIS or an approved PERM labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor.
Both P1S/P2S/P3S visas and P1/P2/P3 visas require the foreign person to maintain a residence (home address) overseas that they have no intention in abandoning, however, the P1/P2/P3 visas are dual intent visas that allow the person to have a green card (permanent residency) petition pending while still being able to maintain and extend (renew) their P1/P2/P3 visa status in the United States.
In comparison, the P1S/P2S/P3S visas for the foreign support staff of P1/P2/P3 visa workers are not dual intent visas which means the person is not allowed to have the intention of staying permanently in the United States. And thus a P1S/P2S/P3S visa worker having a pending green card petition will interfere with their eligibility to maintain and extend (or renew) their P1S/P2S/P3S visa status in the United States. For example, if a P1S/P2S/P3S visa holder leaves the United States after they have filed a green card petition (which is an intention of permanently staying in the United States) with the USCIS, it would be likely that they will not be allowed to back to the United States with their P1S/P2S/P3S visa because it is not a dual intent visa and only allows the foreign person to have an intention to temporarily stay in the United States.
The P1A visas are for workers in the athletic field (e.g., internationally recognized individual athletes or athletic teams, professional or amateur athletes, amateur coaches, or theatrical ice-skaters) that are coming to the United States to work for a specific event, competition, or performance. The P1B visas are for artists performing as a part of an internationally recognized entertainment group for a specific event or performance in the United States. The P2 visa and P3 visa are for artists, performers, entertainment groups that will be working under a particular artistic exchange program or culturally unique program in the United States. The P1S/P2S/P3S visas are for the essential support staff of P1/P2/P3 visa workers.
If you have a P work visa (athletes, coaches, artists, entertainment groups, artistic exchange program, culturally unique program) immigration question, please fill out our contact us form or send us an email with some basic information about your background and your immigration needs. We will do our best to respond within 48 hours.
How we can help?
Kylie Huang Law’s immigration attorney will help identify whether the P visa is the appropriate nonimmigrant visa category for the client’s (or the client’s beneficiary’s) professional background and if there are other visa options for the client (or the client’s beneficiary). We will work closely with our client to prepare a convincing case for their (or it’s) P visa petition and we will also strategize on how the P visa petition should be presented to achieve the best chances of approval. It is strongly advised and common practice to retain an immigration attorney for a P work visa petition due to the complexities in the immigration process and visa requirements.