Sunday, February 21, 2010

Summary on Visa Options for International Boxers

The 8CN Boxing website contains a useful summary of the various visa options available to international boxers seeking to travel to the United States for various purposes. As one might expect, the US has been a prime destination for top boxers.

"Foreign-born prospects Ji-Hoon Kim, Ruslan Provodnikov, and Maxim Vlasov all scored important wins on the February 12, 2010 ESPN Friday Night Fights card at the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, California; the Germany-based, Ukrainian-born WBO Junior Middleweight Champion Sergiy Dzinziruk signed a joint promotional agreement with Banner Promotions and Gary Shaw Productions; Britain’s Amir Khan signed a co-promotional agreement with Golden Boy Promotions with an eye towards his U.S. debut; the Russian-born Matvey Korobov continued his march towards middleweight contention with a first round knockout win at the Las Vegas Hilton on February 13, 2010 on the undercard of Filipino Nonito Donaire’s third round destruction of Mexican contender Manuel Vargas; and Roy Jones, Jr.’s Square Ring Promotions signed undefeated Ukrainian-born light heavyweight prospect Ismayl (The Black Russian) Sillakh, 11-0 (10 KOs), to name a few examples. A common thread connects each of these boxers, and a myriad of others: each of them requires a visa to train, live, and/or box in the United States."
8CN Boxing - Immigration Issues in Boxing

As always, the primary factor in determining which visa avenue to choose is: what does the athlete seek to do and accomplish in the United States? Other important factors are the athlete's country of citizenship, how long he/she would stay in the US, and what level of skill and accomplishment the athlete has achieved.

Friday, February 5, 2010

USCIS Explains its Current Policy Vis-a-vis United States Employers; Self-petitions by Athletes and Coaches Rendered Questionable

Foreign athletes and coaches seeking to provide services for multiple teams/venues in the United States can have their O or P visas filed through agencies based in the US. In the past, a foreign athlete or coach seeking to avoid going through an agent had the option of incorporating an agency in the United States, and having that company sponsor his/her visa petition and provide an itinerary of services with teams. A recent memorandum by the USCIS may indicate a policy shift that could affect the continued viability of this strategy.

The memo does not directly address filings by agent-petitioners, but rather focuses on filings by petitioners that will employ foreign nationals. Specifically, the memorandum explains the USCIS's interpretation of "United States employer," which is a term that is defined at 8 C.F.R. Sec. 214.2(h)(2)(i)(A). USCIS will determine whether a particular petitioner qualifies as a United States employer on a case-by-case basis, taking into account a number of common law factors. Basically, the touchstone of employment is control over the manner and means by which work is performed. The factors specified in the memo are similar to the factors used by the IRS in determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. USCIS has slyly avoided precedent decisions allowing so called nonimmigrant "self petitions." Under the current interpretation, a proprietor of a business will no longer be able to sponsor himself/herself for an H-1B, L-1 or O-1 visa through the company since there is no true control by the company over the individual.

Notably, the FAQ accompanying the memorandum explicitly states that it "does not change any of the requirements" under the law (emphasis added). Whether the memorandum constitutes a de facto change in the law remains to be seen. As noted above, the memorandum does not address petitions filed by agents. However, the same reasoning as in the memorandum could be used to deny an O-1 self-petition by an athlete or coach that files through his or her own single-person corporation/LLC, on the basis that the agent-petitioner is not legitimately distinct from the visa beneficiary. Even though the law recognizes corporate entities as legally distinct entities with their own privileges and responsibilities (e.g., see the recent Supreme Court decision granting almost unfettered rights to political speech by corporations), the USCIS has essentially ignored this long-held legal tradition in its recent memo.