Friday, August 18, 2017

Athletes Like Ray Beltran Literally Fight to Stay in the US

A recent story in Yahoo Sports highlights the visa issues facing Mexican-born lightweight boxer Ray Beltran, who is currently in the United States on P-1 status.  He has had a distinguished career thus far, enjoying a record of  33-7-1 with 21 knockouts.  Beltran was the primary sparring partner for Manny Pacquiao and fought for the world title two times.  He has been ranked No. 2 by the WBC, WBO and IBF and No. 6 by the IBF.
Beltran now has a P1 visa which, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, an athlete qualifies for a P1 if he or she is “coming to the United States to participate in individual event, competition or performance in which you are internationally recognized with a high level of achievement; evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered so that the achievement is renowned, leading or well known in more than one country.”

The article states that Beltran and his immigration attorney are very confident that his record is strong enough to warrant continued stay in P-1 status. 

However, all athletes retire, and those on P-1 status must look towards longer term options to remain in the US. The next logical step in the immigration journey of a P-1 athlete is typically the first preference EB-1 visa, which includes an allocation for those showing extraodinary ability in athletics.  The standards for acquiring an EB-1 immigrant visa are higher than for P-1 nonimmigrant visas.  The upshot is that a P-1 athlete facing only moderate success will face challenges in staying in the United States permanently.

The heightened standard for EB-1 immigrant visas requires P-1 athletes to maintain a high level of success.  As a result, athletes like Beltran feel continued pressure to keep winning.  Losing can be painful for any athlete, but that pain is compounded in cases where a string of defeats can threaten the loss of immigration status. 

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