P visas are reserved for athletes and certain entertainers who have achieved national or international recognition as outstanding in the discipline. The P category has three subdivisions:
- P-1 aliens are defined as members of entertainment groups or individual athletes and members of athletic teams;
- P-2 aliens are entertainers who are part of reciprocal international exchanges; and
- P-3 aliens are those coming to perform in programs that are culturally unique.
The most striking feature of the P visa definition is that individual entertainers are excluded, except for reciprocal exchanges and culturally unique performers. All P nonimmigrants must seek to enter the United States temporarily and are required to have a residence abroad that they do not intend to abandon. However, a P nonimmigrant may pursue a plan to immigrate to the United States, so long as he or she maintains P status.
The regulations permit essential support aliens to be admitted in the same classification as the principal alien. To qualify, the accompanying alien must perform support services which cannot be readily performed by a United States worker, and which are essential to the principal alien's performance. Furthermore, the accompanying alien must also be qualified to perform the services, have critical knowledge of the specific services to be performed, and have experience in providing such support to the principal alien.
P-1 classification is available to an athlete who is internationally recognized as an individual; alternatively, each member of an athletic team or group (two or more individuals) may be admitted as a P-1 alien if the team as a unit is internationally recognized, even if its individual members are not. Both the athlete and the position must meet standards of eligibility. The position must have a distinguished reputation and require the participation of an individual or team with a distinguished reputation.
Petitions for P-1 athletes require a tendered contract with a major United States sports league or team, or a tendered contract in an individual sport commensurate with international recognition in that sport (if such contracts are normally executed in the sport), and documentation of at least two of the following:
- Evidence of having participated to a substantial extent in a prior season with a major United States sports league;
- Evidence of having participated in international competition with a national team;
- Evidence of having participated to a substantial extent in a prior season for a United States college or university in intercollegiate competition;
- A written statement from an official of a major United States sports league or an official of the governing body of the sport which details how the alien or team is internationally recognized;
- A written statement from a member of the sports media or a recognized expert in the sport which details how the alien or team is internationally recognized;
- Evidence that the individual or team is ranked if the sport has international rankings, or
- Evidence that the alien or team has received a significant honor or award in the sport.
P-1 athletes must be coming to perform at a specific athletic competition
P-1 status is available only to those entertainers who perform (or are an integral part of the performance) as members of an entertainment group. However, if a solo artist usually performs with the same back-up singers or musicians, the act may be classified as a group. Entertainers admitted as P-1 nonimmigrants must perform as part of a group or must be ''essential support aliens.'' It is the stature of the group, and not of the individual members, that is determinative. The group must be internationally recognized as outstanding for a sustained period. There is no requirement, however, that other members of the group qualify for P-1 classification, or even be aliens.
To qualify an alien as a P-1 member of an entertainment group, the petition requires:
- Evidence that the group has been established and performing regularly for a period of at least one year;
- A statement from the petitioner listing each member of the group and the exact dates which that member has been employed on a regular basis by the group, and
- Evidence that the group is internationally recognized in the discipline. This may be demonstrated by the submission of evidence of the group's nomination or receipt of significant international awards or prizes for outstanding achievement in its field or by three of the following different types of documentation showing that the group:
- Has performed and will perform as a starring or leading entertainment group in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts, or endorsements;
- Has achieved international recognition and acclaim for outstanding achievement in their field as evidenced by reviews in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other published material;
- Has performed and will perform services as a leading or starring group for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials;
- Has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, as evidenced by such indicators as ratings, standing in the field, box office receipts, record, cassette, or video sales, and other achievements in the field as reported in trade journals, major newspapers, or other publications;
- Has received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field. Such testimonials must be in a form that clearly indicates the author's authority, expertise, and knowledge of the alien's achievements; or
- Has commanded or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services comparable to others similarly situated in the field as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence.
P-1 entertainment groups may be admitted for the period of time necessary to complete the performance or event.
P-2 Artists and Entertainers under Reciprocal Exchange Programs
Unlike the P-1 classification, P-2 makes no demand that the artist or entertainer have attained any particular level of proficiency, prominence, renown, or even experience. Moreover, P-2 visas do not require a cultural or ethnic component. The statute authorizes P-2 visas either for individual artists or for groups. To qualify, the alien must be either an artist or be an entertainer with skills comparable to those of the U.S. entertainer participating in the exchange. The terms and conditions of employment for the U.S. and foreign participants should be similar. Thus, the artists or entertainers who will take part in the exchange should be of similar caliber. The proposed length of employment should be equivalent, and a similar number of individuals should be involved on both sides of the exchange.
The petition must include a copy of the formal reciprocal exchange agreement between the United States organization or organizations (including management organizations) sponsoring the aliens, and an organization or organizations in a foreign country that will receive the United States artists or entertainers.
P-3 Culturally Unique Artists and Entertainers
This category accommodates exponents of unique art forms that may be less well known to the public because, by their nature, they do not ordinarily receive the widespread acclaim and recognition enjoyed in the mainstream arts or at commercial venues.
For inclusion in this category, artists or entertainers must be coming to the United States primarily for cultural event(s) to further the understanding or development of that art form. Teachers and coaches, as well as performers, are eligible for P-3 status to encourage them to disseminate their knowledge.
The regulations require affidavits, testimonials, or letters from recognized experts which attest to the artist's authenticity, state the expert's credentials, and show the basis for knowing the artist's skill and recognition. Also required is evidence that all of the performances or presentations will be educational or cultural events. ''Culturally unique'' is defined as ''a style of artistic expression, methodology, or medium which is unique to a particular country, nation, society, class, ethnicity, religion, tribe, or other group of persons.''
P-3 aliens may be admitted for commercial or noncommercial performances.
Spouses and children of P nonimmigrants are admitted in P-4 status. They may not accept employment without an independent nonimmigrant classification permitting employment or another independent basis for employment authorization.