What is a Type P Visa?

Employment-Based Immigration

The P visas are a family of temporary nonimmigrant work visas that are granted to athletes and artists or entertainers, who wish to stay in the United States for a temporary period working for a U.S. employer. There are eight different types of P visas available—the P-1A, the P-1B, P-1S, the P-2, the P-2S, the P-3, the P-3S, and the P-4. A brief description of each is provided below.

The P-1A Visa

You should be coming to the US temporarily in P-1A status to perform as an athlete. You must meet one of the following criteria:

  • You are coming for the sole purpose of competing at a specific athletic competition; and either:
  • You or your team/group competes at an internationally recognized level of performance; or
  • You are a professional athlete; or
  • You are an athlete or coach of either a team or a franchise that is located in the US and is a member of a foreign league; or
  • You are a P-1 athlete coming to the US for the sole purpose of performing in a specific theatrical ice-skating show, either individually or as a part of an ice-skating group.

The P-1B visa

The P-1B visa category is designed for members of established entertainment groups who come to the United States to perform. Qualifications that entertainment groups should meet include:

  • It should have been established for at least a year prior to your visa petition;
  • It should be internationally recognized as outstanding;
  • At least three-quarters of the group should have been associated with the group for at least a year; and
  • The group should possess an extraordinary degree of skill and have achieved international recognition.

It is the reputation and skill of the group itself, not your individual contributions, that is essential. You cannot obtain a P-1B visa as an individual–you should be coming to perform as part of a group. The international recognition requirement can be waived if the group is nationally recognized and enjoys a particularly strong reputation, and its achievements are truly extraordinary.

The required supporting documentation proving that the group is eminent and internationally recognized is extensive. A consultation from an appropriate labor organization is required along with many other supporting documents.

The P-1S Visa

The P-1S visa is for essential support personnel working for a P-1A team, athlete, or entertainment group (a coach, for example).

The P-2 Visa

The P-2 visa applies only to artists and entertainers, not to athletes or athletic teams, who wish to come to the United States as individuals or members of a group or team. This classification applies to you if you are coming temporarily to perform as an artist or entertainer under a reciprocal exchange program between a US organization and an organization located abroad.

To obtain the P-2 visa, you must meet one of the following criteria:

  • You must be an artist or entertainer entering the United States through a US government-recognized reciprocal exchange program. Currently, there are only five P-2 reciprocal exchange programs in existence, all between US and Canadian or British organizations.
  • You can come to the United States under some other program, if you must submit the details of the program to the USCIS and if it is approved. You must prove that you possess similar skills to other P-2 artists and entertainers. If your program is new, it might need international recognition before the USCIS will accept it.

The P-2S Visa

The P-2S visa is issued to essential support personnel working for a P-2 visa holder.

The P-3S Visa

The P-3S visa is for essential support personnel, similar to the P-1S and P-2S visas.

P-4 Visa (Dependents)

Anyone who is issued a P-1, P-2, or P-3 visa can bring their dependents (spouse and unmarried children under 21) to the US for the duration of their stay under a P-4 visa.

Dependents must apply for P-4 visas for this purpose, either at the same time or after the principal applicant does. The P-4 visa allows its holders to study in the US, but they may not work even with an Employment Authorization Document.

Visa Petition Process

A P nonimmigrant visa applicant must complete the following procedures unless they are invalid status in the United States.

  1. Your sponsor must file Form I-129 with the USCIS on your behalf, together with supporting documentation (which typically includes consultation from an appropriate US labor organization, among many other documents).
  2. After approval of Form I-129, you should complete Form DS-160 and submit it, along with supporting documentation, at a US embassy or consulate overseas.
  3. You must attend an interview at a US embassy or consulate overseas.
  4. You must attend a biometrics appointment (for fingerprinting, etc.)
  5. You must present your P visa at the US border and be allowed to enter the U.S.

The procedure is somewhat different if you are applying for a P visa from inside the United States. Additionally, each type of P visa (P-1A, P-1B, P-2, etc.) has its own application requirements that add to the procedures listed above.

Frequently Asked Questions About P Visa (FAQs)

How much does a P-1 visa cost?

The fee for filing Form I-129, required for all applicants except P-4 dependents, is $695. If you select premium processing, the fee is $1,440 (premium processing, when available, must be paid by the employer). The visa fee, required for both the principal applicant and all dependents, costs $190 per person. All told, the fee is $885 plus $190 for each dependent (without premium processing) and $2,325 plus $190 per dependent (with premium processing).

What is the processing time for a P-1 visa?

Generally speaking, it takes between three and six months to process a P-1 visa. If you select premium processing, however, you can probably reduce your wait to 15 days. If your petition is not decided one way or the other (acceptance or rejection) within 15 days, your premium processing fee will be refunded.

How long is a P-1 visa valid for?

The period of validity of a P-1 visa may vary:

  • If you are coming to the US to participate in an athletic competition or entertainment performance, your period of stay will roughly coincide with the period of time you need to complete the event or activity. If you are coming for a two-month concert tour, for example, your visa will last for approximately two months.
  • If you are an individual athlete, you can receive a visa valid for up to five years, extendable for up to another five years. No second extension is possible, although you might seek another immigration status such as lawful permanent resident.
  • Members of teams are normally granted a maximum stay not to exceed one year, extendable for another one year.
  • Essential personnel, such as coaches and managers, can receive one year for their initial period of stay, and up to 10 years of the total stay including extensions.
  • Entertainers are generally given up to one year, extendable for at least one year or until their scheduled performance is complete.

Does the P-1 visa have portability?

Some types of US employment visas, such as H-1B visas, allow their holders to change jobs without obtaining a new visa. Such visas are said to have “portability.” Unfortunately, the P visas are not eligible for portability.

Although P visa holders can work for more than one employer at the same time, each employer must file their own I-129 petition. Moreover, if the P-1 visa holder wants to change jobs, the new sponsor must file a new P-1 visa petition.

What do essential support personnel have to prove?

To work for a P-1, P-2, or P-3 visa recipient in the US, you must be coming to the United States to perform essential support services that cannot be readily performed by a US worker. Your work must be an indispensable part of the performance of services to be performed. Band managers, team managers, and lighting and sound technicians are common examples.

Theoretically, you should be able to prove that your services are essential, although in practice the USCIS doesn’t always require this. It is also advantageous to present evidence of your prior skills and experience as well as your prior work with the primary P visa holder.

Can a P-1 visa get a green card?

The P visa is not considered a dual intent visa. This means that to receive a P visa, you must declare that you intend to return to your home country when your P visa expires. It is still possible to become a permanent resident starting from a P visa, however. Following are the four main pathways:

  • Marry a US citizen and have your spouse sponsor you for permanent residence;
  • Obtain sponsorship from a close family member who is a US citizen;
  • Change your status to H-1B and use the H-1B’s dual intent provisions to apply for an employment-based green card.
  • As an athlete, apply for an EB-1 or EB-2 green card based on extraordinary or exceptional ability. If you are a player in a major U.S. sports league you may qualify, although even playing for a major sports league might not be enough by itself to qualify for EB-1 status. Internationally recognized individual athletes often apply for the EB-1 status.

You need to be careful about transitioning from a P-1 visa to a green card because you can get into immigration trouble if you do it the wrong way. Consult an experienced immigration attorney for further details.

Your Chances of Success are Better If You Retain an Attorney

Immigration law and policy can change quickly and without notice. Additionally, in many cases, it is not obvious which attributes will most strengthen a P visa petition. Herman Legal Group, LLC has been handling P petitions for years, and our track record of success is outstanding.

Contact the Herman Legal Group today by telephone at 1-216-696-6170, or by filling out our online contact form. We look forward to hearing from you!

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