Friday, November 5, 2010

Status Issues Beleaguer NHL Defenseman

In an article on the Anaheim Ducks' efforts to revitalize their season after a dismal 0-3 start to their NHL season, the following passage appears:

Defenseman Andreas Lilja, signed as a free agent, will have to leave the United States to take care of paperwork related to his visa and is unlikely to play this weekend, a team spokesman said. The 35-year-old Swede's work visa expired on Sunday, and he needs new documentation before he can play. However, he has been skating with the Ducks and should be ready to play as soon as the red tape is cut.

Apparently, Lilja's status has expired, and he would require a new visa (mostly likely P-1) to return to the United States in status. The above snippet indirectly highlights two important issues. First, it demonstrates that an extension of status petition cannot usually be filed with USCIS where a nonimmigrant's status has expired. This is likely the reason why Lilja was required to leave the country and return again with a new visa in his passport. Secondly, the article implies that, for Lilja, "skating with the Ducks" is permissible but appearing in games is not. In actuality, if his status has expired, any sort of employment activity with the Ducks would be impermissible, whether it involve mere "practice" or actual game play. In fact, even being in the US would be a technical violation as there is no so-called "grace period" for those in expired P-1 status. While we hardly expect ICE to conduct raids against famous professional athletes (indigent farm and industrial workers being their preferred targets), it may have been more prudent for the Ducks to be more circumspect on the matter of Lilja's status.

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