Friday, January 10, 2014

P-1 Visa Can Be Issued to Professional Gamers

The five year P-1A visa is reserved for "internationally recognized athletes."  One traditionally considers "athlete" to mean those engaged in physical competitions or sporting events.  However, the definition of that terms seems to be expanding to encompass professional video game players.

The USCIS has recently issued a P-1 visa to a professional "World of Warcraft" gamer.  Another such visa was granted earlier to a Canadian player of the "League of Legends" game.

Many will be surprised to learn that professional gaming has an intense following, particularly overseas.

The move could bring more professional gamers to the U.S. and grow an already booming industry. This October, the final match for the game League of Legends almost packed the Staples Center, home of the Los Angeles Lakers, with more than 13,000 people. 
 . . . .
At live matches, Kim would play against his opponent inside a soundproof glass booth. Thousands of spectators watch these tournaments in person, along with professional commentators narrating for millions of online viewers.

Prize money can be very lucarative as well, as the combined prize money for the three StarCraft II world championship series next year is set at $1.6 million.

In our earlier post we questioned whether the League of Legends P-1 was a mere anomaly, or a marked shift in USCIS's interpretation of the visa.  With this latest development, it seems clear that the agency now considers gaming to qualify as an athletic event for P visa purposes. 

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