Memo to Professional Boxing Community Regarding P-1 Visa issues
Contact: Sherrod Seward, Esq.
For Immediate Release:
We are contacting you as an important member of the boxing industry to make sure you are aware of current immigration circumstances and share potential solutions.
Immediate changes in P-visa processing for international boxers during the past month are affecting small and large promoters all over the nation. The results of these changes include delayed and inconsistent petition approvals, consular offices refusing to stamp approved visas administrative processing, the inability of small to medium sized promotions to obtain visas, and shorter validity dates for approved visas. The current changes are not only affecting boxers, but also important training and coaching staff. Our sports immigration team is in contact and observation with top sports focused immigration lawyers around the nation to determine best practices.
This is what we are noticing in USCIS and Consular Processing P-1 petitions for Boxers:
Inconsistency. USCIS is not being consistent to their historical interpretations, precedent, and norms of evidence presented for P-1 visa petitions. This is true for bout contracts, promotional contracts, and the length of validity time required for the P-1 visa. Constantly changing the evidence required for petition approval is resulting in delayed and unexpected denials.
P1 Visa Extension Difficulties. It is becoming harder to extend the length of visas due to increased evidence requirements of USCIS. USCIS is starting to require petitions to name the locations and dates for the full length of the visa which is of course very difficult in the sport of boxing.
Proving necessity for International Fighters. Small and medium promotions are having to prove that they need international athletes. This is something that is subjective and hard to prove in any sport. For major sports organizations such as the National Basketball Association and large events such as FIBA World Championships, the need for international athletes is inferred. However, even with these organizations, the need for international athletes is always subjective. This is concerning because there are not many ways to prove that an event REQUIRES international athletes. So theoretically, USCIS may always be able to make this argument to delay or deny a petition.
Consultation letters - Historically, letters from regulatory organizations are acceptable as proof without giving much scrutiny to the letter itself. Now, USCIS is looking for very specific language in the letters that often goes beyond what the regulatory bodies are comfortable putting on paper.
Consulate offices not stamping passport of approve P visa beneficiaries. There is an increase in consulates around the world subjecting athletes to administrative review after complete visa interviews. Administrative processing is potentially worse than a denial because the petition is referred to the State Department and there is nothing an attorney can do to address the situation. There is also no timetable on administrative processing which can take from days to years.
This is what we are doing to help keep track and address these changes for our clients
Petitions based on management contracts. We are petitioning for athletes based training contracts instead of promotional contracts based on competitions. In certain circumstances we are bringing athletes to the United States on training contracts, which USCIS tends to approve more than competition based petitions. Once under a training contract, the athlete is clear to compete overseas and be compensated. If the athlete does accept a bout in the United States while under a training contract approved petition, the P-1 visa can be amended by filing another application. There is a 30 day grace period to commence the new activity while the new petition is pending. This 30 day period can be used to allow the athlete to fight.
Extending Visa Validity Dates. We are working with promoters to establish a record of dates registered with venues, athletic commissions, and television networks to push the length of visas as long as possible.
Consultation Letters from Regulatory Bodies. We are keeping constant contact with regulatory bodies to address the specific needs of language for the letters. There are creative ways to satisfy USCIS requests while not asking the regulatory bodies to stretch the truth about fighters. We are also attempting to get regulatory bodies that typically only issue letters for championship bouts to participate in writing consultation letters for other fighters as well.
Avoiding Administrative Review. We are helping athletes avoid administrative reviews. There is little an attorney can do once a consulate places an athlete in administrative processing. We are in contact with other sports immigration attorneys around the nation to identify which consulates and nationalities are issuing the administrative reviews.
Evidence Loading. We are overloading petitions with evidence, including much more case law to remind USCIS officers of evidence standards. While this is initially more burdensome on our clients, this helps prevent USCIS from denying applications and leaves room for appeal.
We are offering consultations to promoters that are having issues to discuss ways to be successful in these difficult times. To request a consultation please do not hesitate to contact or sports immigration team at firstname.lastname@example.org or 704-500-2045.