US Visas for Equestrian Athletes

There are a wide variety of US visa options available for equestrian athletes, trainers, and support personnel. Our immigration law office has extensive experience filing O-1, O-2, P-1, P-2, and J-1 visas for members of the equestrian community. O-1 visas are for individuals of extraordinary ability or achievement whereas O-2 visas are for essential support personnel for the O-1 visa holder. P-1 visas are available to equestrian athletes as well as essential support personnel which provide services that cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker. J-1 Visas are available to individuals that would like to enter the U.S. for educational and cultural activities. Contact our immigation law office today for a free telephone consultation so that we can better assist your individual needs.

O-1 Visas for Equestrian Athletes, Trainers, and Business Managers of Extraordinary Ability

Our equestrian visa law office has been fortunate to assist Eric Lamaze, and Yann Candelle, with obtaining O-1 Athlete Visas, Tracey Edge with an O-1 Trainer visa (for multiple employers), and Wocjiech Slomski, with obtaining an O-1 visa as an Equestrian Business Manager of Extraordinary ability. In addition, we have been fortunate to assist Mr. Slomski with multiple O-2 essential support personnel for the team’s grooms. With over 28 years in the field, we are able to prepare and gain approval for significant number of O-1, and O-2 equestrian visas.

We have also had the privilege to help many foreign artists, fashion designers, and entertainers with obtaining O-1, and O-2 visas.

Our legal fee to prepare and file and O-1 visa is only $7,000. The legal fee does not include USCIS filing fees of $325, and $1,225 for the optional USCIS premium Processing fee for their expedited 10 business day processing service. The normal processing time for the O-1 visa is 6-12 weeks.

Evidentiary Criteria for O-1 Equestrian Athletes

Evidence that the beneficiary has received a major, internationally-recognized Olympic Medal or International Grand Prix Award, or evidence of at least (3) three of the following:

  • Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor, such as an Olympic, or other major athletic medal.
  • Membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought which require outstanding achievements, as judged by recognized national or international experts in the field
  • Published material in professional or major trade publications, newspapers or other major media about the beneficiary and the beneficiary’s work in the field for which classification is sought
  • Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media in the field for which classification is sought
  • A high salary or other remuneration for services as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence
  • Participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in a field of specialization allied to that field for which classification is sought
  • Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation
  • No Objection letter from the USEF.
  • At least five (5) letters from person of extraordinary ability attesting to the extraordinary ability of the O-1 Athlete.
  • A detailed list of competition results, and venues.
  • An itinerary of events and competitions in which the O-1 Athlete will perform.
  • Contract between petitioner and beneficiary. A copy of any written contract between the petitioner and the beneficiary or a summary of the terms of the oral agreement under which the beneficiary will be employed.
  • A detailed explanation of the nature of the events or activities, the beginning and ending dates for the events or activities, and a copy of any itinerary events and competitions that the O-1 is planning to perform. In many cases, the USCIS may require that the O-1 beneficiary to provide evidence that he/she has officially registered to compete at each venue listed in the itinerary.

The O-1 Can Either Be Filed by a U.S. Agent or By A U.S. Employer

A U.S. Agent of foreign company, is solely responsible for acting as the Petitioner, for the foreign company. The foreign employer remains liable for providing the salary to the O-1 Athlete. In addition, an Agent for purposes of submitting and O-1 petition can represent multiple employers.

Additionally, agents filing O-1 petitions for multiple employers must include with the petition:

  • Supporting documentation including a complete itinerary of the event or events which specifies the dates of each service or engagement, the names and addresses of the actual employers, and the names and addresses of the establishments, venues, or locations where the services will be performed
  • Contracts between the actual employers and the beneficiary; and
  • An explanation of the terms and conditions of the employment with required documentation.
  • A no-objection letter from the USEF, At least five (5) letters in support from persons of extraordinary ability in the field, attesting to the extraordinary ability of the O-1 Beneficiary.
  • News articles about the beneficiary including performance photos, and a full account of the O-1 Beneficiary’s competition results, and prize earnings is required.

Our Law Office Can Assume the Role of Agent For Foreign Employers

The advantage of our law office acting as agent for the sole purpose of submitting the O-1 petition is that, the O-1 Athlete does not require a job offer from a U.S. employer.

Agents filing O-1 petitions for foreign or U.S. employers must submit the minimum general documentary evidence as required for all O-1 petitions which include:

  • Copies of any written contracts between the foreign employer and the beneficiary or a summary of the terms of the oral agreement under which the beneficiary will be employed.
  • A copy of the contract between the U.S. agent and the U.S. or foreign employer.
  • An explanation of the nature of the events or activities, the beginning and ending dates for the events or activities, and a copy of any itinerary for the events or activities.
  • A written advisory opinion, or no-objection letter from the USEF.
  • In this regard, our law office establishes a U.S. Branch office of the foreign employer, and assumes of role of Registered Agent of such foreign company authorized to do business in Florida.
  • A complete itinerary of events.
  • At least five (5) letters in support from persons of extraordinary ability in the field, attesting to the extraordinary ability of the O-1 Beneficiary.
  • News articles about the beneficiary including performance photos, and a full account of the O-1 Beneficiary’s competition results, and prize earnings is required.

The regulations do not require any additional documentary requirements for an agent filing on behalf of a foreign employer, however, it is the foreign employer who is responsible for complying with all applicable employer sanctions provisions.

In a number of cases, both our law office and Equestrian Sport Productions has acted solely as the U.S. agent of foreign companies of O-1A athlete. The salary obligations in the O-1 petition pertain only to the foreign company; and the U.S. is not liable to provide the salary offered in the O-1 petition.

O-2 Visas Available For Essential Support Personnel

Detailed evidence is required to establish the current essentiality, critical skills, and experience of the O-2 beneficiary with the O-1 beneficiary and that the beneficiary has substantial experience performing the critical skills and essential support services for the O-1.

Once the O-2 petition is approved the O-2 support personnel may have the option of changing his/her visa within the United State. A change of status from within the United States is available to those visa applicants with B-1 visitor visas. However, support personnel in the United States from countries that allow entry through the ESTA program are no eligible to change their visa in the United States, to O-2, but must obtain the visa at a consulate of embassy abroad in his or her home country.

Thus, our law office encourages Athletes and their Support Personnel that plan to compete at equestrian events in the United States to apply for a B-1 business visitor visa abroad, instead of entering under ESTA.

However, the change of status to O-1, or O-2, is valid only while the athletes and their support personnel, remain in the United States. Once these change of status visa holders travel abroad, they will need to obtain an O-1 or O-2 visa stamp at a consulate or embassy in their home country, or seek to obtain the visa stamp at the U.S. consulate in Toronto (one of the few consular offices that permit third country nationals from applying for the O-1, or O-2 visa stamp at their office). Since the waiting period for a third country national visa appointment in Toronto, most applicants with approved O-1, or O-2 visas apply for the visa stamp at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy in their home country. In addition, a visa may be necessary for foreign equestrians to enter Canada from the United States.

On the other hand, Canadian nationals are exempt from the requirement of obtaining a visa stamp abroad. Canadian beneficiaries of approved O-1, or O-2 visas, can apply for the visa stamp at any U.S. port of entry, with the original approval notice, and other supporting documents.

Our legal fee for the O-2 visa is only $5,000, plus USCIS fees. The legal fee does not include USCIS filing fees of $325, and $1,225 for the optional USCIS premium Processing fee for their expedited 10 business day processing service. The normal processing time for the O-1 visa is 6-12 weeks.

Period of Stay and Extension of Stay

The period of stay for an O visa is up to 3 years. The USCIS will determine time necessary to accomplish the initial event or activity in increments of up to 1 year.

As an O nonimmigrant, the beneficiary may be admitted to the United States for the validity period of the petition, plus a period of up to 10 days before the validity period begins and 10 days after the validity period ends.  The beneficiary may only engage in authorized employment during the validity period of the petition.

The petitioner or U.S. employer must request an extension of stay to continue or complete the same events requiring the person of extraordinary ability to extend his or her stay in the United States. However, if there is a material change in the events requiring the O-1 visa holder, a new or amended O-1 visa petition must be filed.

In this regard, our law office first extended the stay of Trainer, Tracey Edge as an O-1 for Kessler Show Stables, than we amended the original petition to include part-time work for Tequestrian Stables. Thus, and O-1 visa holder may work for multiple employers or petitioners, and accept endorsements from multiple manufacturing, and service related companies.

In order to assist USCIS in adjudication of your request for extension, the statement should describe the event or activity that was the basis for the original approval and confirm that the extension is needed in order for the beneficiary to continue or complete the same event or activity as described.

The beneficiary’s spouse and children must file Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, and submit any supporting documents to extend their stay.

Family of O-1 and O-2 Visa Holders

Any accompanying or following to join spouse and children under the age of 21 may be eligible to apply for an O-3 nonimmigrant visa, subject to the same period of admission and limitations as the O-1/O-2 nonimmigrant. They may not work in the United States under this classification, but they may engage in full or part time study on an O-3 visa.

Change in Employers or Change in Terms and Conditions of Employment

An O-1 nonimmigrant visa holder in the United States may change employers, as soon as the new employer files an O-1 petition on his or her behalf.

In the event of a material change in the terms and conditions of the beneficiary’s employment or the beneficiary’s eligibility, the petitioner must file an amended petition with the USCIS.

P-1 Internationally Recognized Athletes and Support Personnel

The P-1 classification applies to you if you are coming to the U.S. 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. The P-1 visa is available for a maximum initial term of 5 years, with one (1) five year extension available.

The processing time for a P-1 visa, can be as short as two weeks, if the P-1 beneficiary chooses the optional Premium Processing service of the USCIS. Otherwise, the processing time for the P-1 visa can be as long as 6-12 weeks.

The advantages to using the USCIS premium processing service include, a decision within 10 business days, and expedited submission visa email or fax, of any additional information requested by the USCIS.

The Legal Fee to Prepare and Submit the P-1 visa petition, is only $6.000. if sponsored by a U.S. employer, and only $6,500 if sponsored by our law office. The aforementioned legal fees, do not include the USCIS petition fees.
The USCIS Fees Are As Follows:

  1. $325
  2. $1,225 (optional Premium Processing Fee)

Individual Athletes Eligibility

You must be 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.
Advantages of having a P-1 visa as opposed to competing in the United States with a B-1 business visitor visa.

  1. The P-1 Athlete May Accept Lucrative Sponsorship agreements to market products in the United States, such as television and print media sponsorship of U.S. and foreign made products sold in the United States.
  2. The P-1 Athlete May Enroll His or Her Children in Public School. Although, the state of Florida accepts undocumented aliens, and alien B-1 visitors into the State Public School System, this is a major violation of United States Federal Law that can result in a permanent lifetime bar to entry into the United States.
  3. A P-1 visa can be sponsored by our law office. In situations where the p-1 athlete is unable to secure a position with a U.S. employer.  In this case, our law office would be considered the agent of the P-1 Athlete’s foreign employer or company, for the sole purpose of submitting the P-1 visa petition. To achieve this goal, our law office would need to form a U.S. branch office of the foreign employer, and act as the Registered Agent of the U.S. branch office.
  4. The goal of the P-1 visa is to enable the foreign athlete to achieve the status or a person of Extraordinary ability in his/her field, and thus qualify for a future O-1 visa for persons of extraordinary ability.

Our law office has assisted many young aspiring equestrians with obtaining P-1 visas, including Tonya Henning, and Tory Bova.

Athletic Teams

P-1 visas are also available to athletic teams entering the United States to participate in team events and must have achieved significant international recognition in the sport. The event in which your team is participating must be distinguished and require the participation of athletic teams of international recognition.

Required Supporting Documentation

The P-1 petition should contain the following supporting documentation:

  • A written consultation from an appropriate labor organization (USEF).
  • A copy of the contract with a major U.S. sports league or team or a contract in an individual sport commensurate with international recognition in the sport, if such contracts are normally utilized in the sport
  • An explanation of the event and itinerary
  • Documentation of at least two of the following:
    • Evidence of having participated to a significant extent in a prior season with a major United States sports league
    • Evidence of having participated to a significant extent in international competition with a national team
    • Evidence of having participated to a significant extent in a prior season for a U.S. college or university in intercollegiate competition
    • A written statement from an official of a major U.S. sports league or an official of the governing body of the sport which details how you or your team is internationally recognized
    • A written statement from a member of the sports media or a recognized expert in the sport which details how you or your team is internationally recognized
    • Evidence that you or your team is ranked, if the sport has international rankings
    • Evidence that you or your team has received a significant honor or award in the sport
    • We encourage P-1 applicants to provide at least five (5) letters from persons recognized as distinguished and/or extraordinary in their fields, accompanied by a biography of the persons offering such letters in support of the P-1 petition.

Applying for a Visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate

Once the visa petition is approved, you can change your status within the United States from B-1 Visitor to P-1 Athlete, and later obtain the P-1 visa stamp required for travel after departure from the United States from a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad. In most cases this would be the embassy or consulate in the beneficiary’s home country. However, the U.S. Consulate in Toronto does provide this service to foreign nationals visiting Canada.

Period of Stay/Extension of Stay

Initial Period of Stay

Extension of Stay

Individual Athlete - Time needed to complete the event, competition or performance, not to exceed 5 years

Individual Athlete –Increments of up to 5 years in order to continue or complete the event, competition or performance.
Total stay is limited to 10 years.

Athletic Group - Time needed to complete the event, competition or performance, not to exceed 1 year

Athletic Group – Increments of up to 1 year in order to continue or complete the event, competition or performance.

Essential Support Personnel  - Time to complete the event, activity, or performance, may not exceed 1 year

Increments of up to 5 years in order to continue or complete the event, competition or performance.
Total stay is limited to 10 years

Change of Employer

A P-1 visa holder may change employers once a new P-1 petition is field with the USCIS. Thus, the P-1 visa holder can change U.S. employers or visa petitioners, as soon as the new P-1 petition is received by the USCIS.A P-1 visa holder may change employers once a new P-1 petition is field with the USCIS. Thus, the P-1 visa holder can change U.S. employers or visa petitioners, as soon as the new P-1 petition is received by the USCIS.

We recently provided this service to Tory Bova, who changed petitioners from Equestrian Sport Productions, in Wellington to Parkside Stable in the State of Washington.

Family of P-1A Visa Holders

Your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may obtain P-4 status. Your dependents may not engage in employment, but may attend school or college.

P-1 Essential Support Personnel

Essential Support Personnel who are an integral part of the performance of a P-1 athlete (team) and who perform support services which cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker, are eligible for P-1 classification. Support personnel may include coaches, scouts, trainers and other team officials and referees.
The U.S. employer must file a separate Form I-129 for support personnel.  The petition must include the following documents:

  • A consultation from an appropriate labor organization with expertise in the area of the support person’s skill (USEF).
  • A detailed statement describing the support person’s prior and current essentiality, critical skills and experience with the P-1 athlete (team)

A copy of a written contract between the employer and the support person or a summary of the terms of the oral agreement under which the support person will be employed.

The 12-month J-1 Trainee Visa

The J-1 visa was established to enable nonimmigrant foreign nationals to legally enter the United States for participation in educational and cultural activities. The U.S. State Department has designated a number of J-1 sponsor to issue J-1 trainee visas, to equestrian groom, trainers, and barn managers.

Requirements of the U.S. Employer "The Host"

  • Host application and agreement.
  • A Training-Internship Plan.
  • Minimum wage OR a room/board/stipend package equal to the minimum wage.
  • Compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) as well as state law governing minimum wage and other employer obligations
  • Compliance with the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA)
  • Worker's Compensation
  • A Tax ID Number (TIN):

Processing Time: 1-2 Months

Fees:

  1.  Legal Fee: $2,500.
  2.  Sponsor Fees: $1,290 Includes Site Visitation Fee of $150
  3.  Host Fee: $90 Per Month.
  4.  Health Insurance: $1,040 (If Employer Does Not Provide Its Own Insurance)

J-1 Trainee Requirements

  1. Have either a minimum of 5 years of experience abroad, in the position offered by the U.S. host company, or a university degree in the field, or
  2. Have a minimum of 1 year practical work experience, and college diploma in their career field,

In addition to the above, all prospective foreign J-1 trainees must speak conversational English, have a driver’s license, and be at least 21 years old.

Obligations of the U.S. Employer(Host)

  • Provide work-based, on-the-job practical training, guided by a written training plan
  • Provide fulltime work for one or more trainees for 3-12 months
  • Assign a supervisor to the participant.
  • Provide the trainee or intern with exposure to the diversity of functions involved in your workplace in exchange for gaining a motivated and productive member of the workforce
  • Provide safe work conditions and ensure safe work practices
  • Provide either a living wage or combination of stipend, housing and food
  • Provide Worker's Compensation Insurance
  • Provide cultural opportunities and ideas for sharing of cultures
  • Work with Experience International to comply with Department of State Regulations
  • Comply with Fair Labor Standards and Migrant & Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Acts.
  • Provide a minimum wage (or higher) or combination of stipend, room, and/or board equal to minimum wage (or higher). Trainees are exempt from federal payroll taxes: Social Security, Medicare and Federal Unemployment.
  • Federal Withholding must be deducted from paychecks (participants must file a 1040NR).
  • Trainees are subject to State payroll taxes where applicable.
  • Worker's compensation must be provided.