A League of Legends player has become the first eSports competitor to qualify for a US P-1A 'professional athlete' visa, further legitimising computer gaming as a genuine sport.
Danny Le, who plays the team-based title under the tag Shiphtur, hails from Canada's Edmonton - but recently joined a US team to further his career in professional gaming. Sadly, however, US immigration laws made that more difficult than it sounds: while an easily-obtained business visa allows for gamers to enter the country to play in a single event - and return home with their share of the prize money, should they remain victorious - they forbid the earning of a salary, which Le would be paid as a team member.
The solution: the P-1A visa, a temporary employment visa granted under 8 U.S.C. § 1101(P), Section 101 of the Immigration and Nationality Act to athletes, artists and entertainers and their families. Under the P-1A visa, an athlete can enter the country and earn a living so long as they do so to join a group also entering the country or already resident.
Competition for the P-1A visa is extremely fierce: a mere 25,000 visas are issued annually, and that figure includes P-4 visas granted to family members of those lucky enough to receive a P-visa. To quality, an athlete must have achieved 'international recognition
' in the sport of their choice as well as demonstrating considerable talent, which is defined by the immigration services as 'having a high level of achievement in a field evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered, to the extent that such achievement is renowned, leading, or well-known in more than one country.
For traditional athletes competing in high-profile events like the Olympic Games, that's no problem - but Le has become the first eSports gamer to qualify for a visa under P-1A regulations. According to the LA Times
, the visa was granted as the league in which Le sought to compete enjoys revenues of more than $10 million per year.
'We had to show this was a profession,
' Dustin Beck, vice-president of League of Legends developer Riot, told the paper. 'We had to make a case that this is just like Major League Baseball or the National Hockey League.
The move marks growing acceptance for eSports as a legitimate profession and - for those who follow the events rather than compete - hobby, and Le's successful application for a P-1A visa has opened the floodgates: since his visa was granted on the 29th of May, several other eSports players have also had their own applications approved.