P visas are reserved for internationally recognized athletes and certain entertainers who have achieved national or international recognition as outstanding in their discipline. A notable feature of the P visa classification is that individual entertainers are excluded, except for P-2 reciprocal exchanges and P-3 culturally unique performers. Thus, the individual nonimmigrant entertainer who is skilled but does not meet the standard of prominence necessary for O-1 classification as an individual of extraordinary ability will find it difficult to perform in the United States.
The P category has the following subdivisions:
- P-1: Members of entertainment groups or individual athletes and members of athletic teams;
- P-2: Entertainers who are part of reciprocal international exchanges;
- P-3: Those coming to perform in programs that are culturally unique; and
- P-4: Spouses and minor, unmarried children accompanying P-1, P-2, or P-3 nonimmigrants.
An employer or sponsor must file a petition with USCIS for review of the services to be performed and for determination of the alien’s eligibility for P classification before the alien may apply for a visa or seek admission to the United States. If one lesson can be gleaned from years of experience in representing sponsors of athletes and entertainers seeking to enter the U.S. under the P visa classification, it is that it is essential to plan ahead and file early. No promoter wants to lose his or her deposit for use of a venue, refund tickets, and disappoint audiences due to the fact that the visas of the performers could not be obtained in time.
The P-1 classification is appropriate for internationally recognized athletes who are coming temporarily to the United States solely for the purpose performing at a specific athletic competition, event, or performance as an athlete, individually or as part of a group or team, at an internationally recognized level or performance.
A petition for a P-1 athlete or athletic team must include, among other documentation, a tendered contract with a major United States sports league or team, or a tendered contract in an individual sport commensurate with international recognition in that sport. Consultation with a labor organization that has expertise in the area of the alien’s sport is required in the case of a P-1 petition.
The P-2 classification authorizes artists and entertainers to come to the United States temporarily under a reciprocal exchange. Unlike the P-1 classification, P-2 provisions make no demand that the artist or entertainer have attained any particular level of proficiency, prominence, renown, or even experience. To qualify, the nonimmigrant must be either an artist or be an entertainer with skills comparable to those of the U.S. entertainer participating in the exchange.
In preparing a P-2 petition, the focus should be on establishing that the proposed admission is in fact part of a genuine and reciprocal program. The terms and conditions of employment for the U.S. and foreign participants should be similar and the artists or entertainers who will take part in the exchange should be of similar caliber. Additionally, the proposed length of employment should be equivalent, with a similar number of individuals involved on both sides of the exchange.
P-3 classification may be accorded to artists and entertainers, individually or as a group, coming to the United States for the purpose of developing, interpreting, representing, coaching, or teaching a unique or traditional ethnic, folk, cultural, musical, theatrical, or artistic performance or presentation. The program may be commercial or noncommercial in nature. This category accommodates exponents of unique art forms that may be less well known to the public because, by their nature, they do not ordinarily receive the widespread acclaim and recognition enjoyed in the mainstream arts or at commercial venues.
The P-3 applicant must establish that all of the performances or presentations will be culturally unique events, either through the attestation of recognized experts or through articles about the alien in published media.