P-1 Athletic Visas Opened to E-Gamers

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Who knew being really good at video and computer games could qualify you for a U.S. visa and you would be known as a professional athlete? Check out the Korean who made it happen and what his “specialty” game is.

Kim “Violet” Dong Hwan now has a five-year visa to enter and live in the United States as a professional athlete. His sport? Playing Starcraft II.

He is the first person to receive a visa for playing Starcraft II professionally.

This visa falls under the P-1A category. This is the same visa granted to professional athletes. Hwan is considered an “E-athlete”. Of course, he needed support to make this happen. The organization, Cyber Solution Agency (CSA) lobbied the government on his behalf.

Just in time too. Hwan was going to be drafted into the military in South Korea. But now he can play video games in the U.S.

Reportedly, Hwan tried to apply for student visas to study English, but was denied three consecutive times. If he attempted to enter the U.S. without permission, he would put on a “no fly” list and permanently banned from the country. But now, he’s an “E-athlete” and plans to apply for U.S. citizenship in the future.

Kim "Violet" Dong Hwan  Image source: Cyber Solutions Agency via The Daily Dot
Kim “Violet” Dong Hwan
Image source: Cyber Solutions Agency via The Daily Dot

More about the P Visa

There are two types of P visas:

1. Individuals coming to the U.S. to perform as an athlete (individually or as part of a team) to compete at an internationally recognized level of performance.

2. Individuals coming to the U.S. to perform as a member of an entertainment/musical group that has been recognized internationally as outstanding for a sustained and substantial period of time.

Immigration attorney, Fuji Yussefieh Whittenburg explained in an article posted at discuss.ilw.com that by looking at the definition of what it means to be an athlete, a professional gamer does fit the criteria.

“It is undeniable that gamers in eSports possess a high degree of both mental and physical agility worthy of being classified as athletes,” Whittenburg defended.

If you feel you would qualify for a P Visa as an E-athlete, here a few things to consider (provided by Whittenburg):

  •  List of all national or international competitions/events that the gamer has participated in.
  • Evidence of all competitions that the gamer has won or placed in.
  • Copies of any press/interviews/publicity about the gamer or his record. Any newspaper/magazine article or review that mentions the gamer should be included.
  • If the gamer has appeared on television or radio, please provide a brief explanation of the show and story, and if possible, some written confirmation/transcript (videotapes and audiotapes cannot be submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • Evidence of the gamer’s national or international ranking in the sport.
  • Evidence of the gamer’s past or current membership on any national or international teams.
  • Experts in the industry willing to sign letters of reference or peer consultation letters on the gamer’s behalf.
  • Information about upcoming events/competitions in the United States in which the gamer will be competing (including events or campaigns for a promotional company or sponsor).
  • Consultation letter can be obtained from peer groups or organizations (perhaps a company in the eSports industry such as Blizzard, IGN, Activision, Riot Games, etc.)

Read more about Hwan by checking out this article on The Daily Dot.

Information and featured photograph for article provided by The Escapist and ILW.com.

My Thoughts

I have to give the kid kudos for not giving up. He was determined to come to the United States and he found a way. Five months before, another “E-athlete” from Canada trailblazed the way for all video game professionals to qualify for the P-1A visa. His name is Danny “Shiphtur” Le and his game profession is League of Legends.  I mean, who knew? So the next time your parents tell you to quit playing games, tell them you’re an athlete and you are perfecting your profession!


international student voice magazine webCarrie2Article written by Carrie Circosta

Editor in Chief

International Student Voice Magazine





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