Visa Options for Emerging Fields: Social Media Influencers and e-Sport Professionals

In the last several years, the global society, including in the United States, has experienced a lot of social, political, and technological transformations, including the emergence of new professional careers, such as e-sport athletes (“pro gamers”) and social media influencers. Since immigration law has remained largely unchanged with regard to nonimmigrant visa options for decades, the addition of new professions presents both a challenge and an opportunity for immigration practitioners and their clients who aspire to come to the U.S. to work in these emerging fields. This article discusses potential immigration options for pro gamers and social media influencers.

Pro Gamers : O1A and P1A Options

Pro gamers are widely recognized in today’s society as professional “athletes.” Just like in any other professional sport, pro gamers are organized into leagues, they hold competitions and tournaments, and draw large audiences of fans. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) routinely accepts and approves petitions filed for pro gamers in the O1A and P-1 categories based on the standard eligibility criteria set for each of these two categories.

Background on the O-1 Classification

Within the larger category of the O-1 visa classification, the O1A category is for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics. The extraordinary ability must be “demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim.” This is a very high legal standard that rests on a showing that the sponsored foreign national meets at least three out of six stringent criteria (and/or “comparable evidence”), to demonstrate extraordinary ability, based on the cumulative value of the alien’s overall achievements.

The O1A petition submitted to the USCIS typically requires a consultation letter from a relevant professional organization and documentary evidence of the sponsored individual’s achievements, such as prizes / awards, newspaper and journal clips, evidence of high remuneration, and other types of recognition and commercial success. The USCIS may issue the first O1A approval for up to a maximum validity of three years. Further extensions can be issued in one-year increments to complete the same events or activities.

Background on the P1A Classification

Since the O1A eligibility standard is extremely high, many practitioners use the P1A category, which applies to individual athletes and athletic teams at an internationally recognized level of performance. The P1A classification also requires a filing and approval of the petition submitted to the USCIS. The initial period of stay for individual athletes is up to five years, with possible extensions limited to a maximum of ten years. For athletic groups, the initial validity period is up to one year, with the possibility of extensions in one-year increments in order to continue or complete the event or competition.

Similarly, the P1A petition should be supported by a consultation letter from a relevant professional organization and documentary evidence of eligibility based on the athlete’s reputation and achievements and the proposed activities that require an internationally recognized athlete.

Social Media Influencer : O1B Option

The O1B category applies to people with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in motion picture and television industry. With regard to O1B, the term “extraordinary ability” generally means “distinction.”

An “influencer” is a broad term that applies to an individual with a large audience of followers on one or more social media platforms who promotes a specific brand, product, service, or industry. Hence, the types of evidence to demonstrate the requisite extraordinary ability depend on the nature and specific medium of the influencer’s work, and meeting at least three of the six criteria (and/or comparable evidence). With regard to the art of being an influencer, the types of evidence may include evidence of commercial success, reviews, interviews, the particularly high number of followers, prizes and awards, and other types of recognition of success.

The O1B category requires approval of a petition filed with the USCIS. The O1B can be valid for up to three years, with one-year extensions to complete the proposed activity and events.

Conclusion

Well-established nonimmigrant options under the employment-based nonimmigrant categories, apply to both traditional as well as emerging fields. With the rise of the new types of professional careers, individuals working in these fields must take a creative and resourceful approach to achieve their immigration goals. The Murthy Law Firm’s attorneys are available to review potential cases and provide an analysis and assessment of the individual’s background to devise the best strategy based on the person’s unique circumstances.

 

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.