Monday, October 21, 2013

NBA Player Mac Koshwal's Visa Troubles

A recent story in the Newark Star Ledger follows the visa travails of Sudanese basketball player Mac Koshwal.  The story touches on the mental suffering that even top-level athletes face in finding a way to stay and work in the United States. Koshwal is fighting for a roster spot on the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers or the NBDL's Delaware 87ers.  His challenge to stay and work in the country is particularly acute because of how few professional basketball jobs exist in the US. 

Of course, in some ways his story is no different from other employment-based nonimmigrants (like H-1B professionals or L-1 intercompany transferees) whose right to stay in the United States is also tied to ongoing employment.  On the other hand, a computer professional with average skills in the industry could rather easily find an employer willing to sponsor his/her H-1B visa.  In contrast, being NBA-caliber, Koshwal is clearly in the top 1% among basketball players in the country.  Even so, if he fails to make an NBA or NBDL team, he would no longer have eligibility for an O or P visa, and would most likely have no basis to stay in the USA.

The article does make one puzzling claim: that Koshwal could not play in foreign countries.

Koshwal said he got help from the NBA in his quest to obtain a work visa, something that he finally received three months ago after a two-year battle. According to Koshwal, however, that visa does not apply to other countries, however. Meaning that unlike players like Blue, Wyatt and Thompson who could go potentially go overseas should things not work out in Philadelphia, Koshwal said he does not have that option. 

Each country has its own visa procedures, and the inability to secure a US work visa does not preclude acquiring a work visa in another country - say Spain or Greece - which also features top-level basketball leagues that could employ Koshwal.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Competitive Video Gaming Recognized by USCIS as "Athletic Competition" for P-1A Purposes

The P-1A visa allows foreign athletes to come to the United States temporarily to perform at a specific athletic competition as an athlete, individually or as part of a group or team, at an internationally recognized level of performance.

Until now, the common understanding was that this visa was only available for "traditional" sports like baseball, soccer, track and the like.  However, the USCIS has expressed what seems like a willingness to consider a broad range of competitive activities as "athletic" in nature.

The Service recently issued a P-1A visa to Danny "Shiptur" Le, a Canadian citizen who plays the League of Legends video game.
Last month’s decision, which places e-sports at an equivalent level as those sports played upon a field [] at least in terms of international travel, has been described as a “watershed” moment for the U.S. Competitive Teams in gaming contests.
What remains to be seen is if the approval in this case actually means that online gaming will be considered an eligible athletic category under the P-1A category across the board, or if this approval was merely an anomaly.