What happens to an athlete's P-1 visa when released from employment contract?

Contact: Sherrod Seward, Esq.

Phone: 704-500-2045

Email: sherrod@qcilaw.com

Website: www.sportsvisasusa.com


We are noticing an increase in USCIS work authorization enforcement to athletes not changing status when there sponsoring employer terminates their contract. The consequences include visa denials during application processing and visa interviews due to unauthorized work. 

According to the regulations, an athlete has 30 days to change their status or sponsoring employer after their business relationship with the sponsor ends. For example, if a mixed martial artists is cut from the UFC or if a boxer is released from their management agreement. In the past, USCIS officers did not put much effort into finding out if an athlete’s employment was cut before the validity date of the visa expires. Finding out if an athlete was released used to be difficult to find out, but it is getting easier to find out.  

Finding out if an athlete is released is also becoming easier due to the length of time visa adjudicators are taking to process applications. It used to take 1-2 months for USCIS officers to adjudicate P-1 visas with regular processing just a few months ago. As of July 1, we have several P-1 visas with no response from USCIS that were filed on April 1. We have also heard from other immigration attorneys that processing times for p-1 visas is occurring with other sports as well.  There are rumors that the internal employee metrics from USCIS has changed to offer more incentives for officers to find issues with petitions. This will lead to more enforcement measures on athletes that are released from employment because the officers are looking for releases.

Here is an example of an article USCIS would look for: https://www.bloodyelbow.com/2013/1/29/3928296/ufc-roster-current-list-fighters 

Notice the list of released athletes by date.

What is the proper response? 

We are encouraging managers of athletes to sponsor their athlete’s visas rather than event promoters in certain cases. There is a 30 day window from the contract release for a new P-1 or other appropriate visa petition to avoid a lapse in work authorization. We have been very successful with this option and both managers have enjoyed the flexibility it gives their clients. 

Here are a few success stories:

Brazilian Mixed Martial Arts Management - 3 year P visa - 3-0 MMA Fighter

Boxing Gym - 3 Year P visa - Top 20 Boxer

 Why should a manager sponsor visa?

  1. More control over client’s immigration status

  2. Client can work for several promotions using the same P-1 visa

  3. Clients’ visa can support visas for coaches and family

  4. Clients’ visa will survive termination from promotion. 

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 our sports immigration team at combatsportsvisas@qcilaw.com or 704-500-2045.

Sherrod Seward