posted by Malystryx.GDS,
eSports fans have united in a bid to get the United States government to recognise ALL eSports as legitimate sports. However, it only tackles one part of the problem.

The petition entitled The USCIS Should Recognize All Esports As "Legitimate" Sports So International Players Can Come to the US on P1 Visas was started on April 29th, and has gathered the necessary 100,000 votes to trigger a response from the White House on the matter.

This petition arises from an ongoing situation regarding one of the best Super Smash Bros. Melee players in the world, William "Leffen" Hjelte. In 2015, Mr. Hjelte was deported from the United States because he was sponsored by an American company while using a tourist visa, when he needed a work visa. After applying for a P1 Visa, which is what professional athletes use to come to the US, he was denied due to Super Smash Bros.

Melee not being recognized as a "legitimate" sport. Competitors in other eSports, such as League of Legends, have been approved for P1 Visas in order to travel to the US and compete. Given the precedent set with League of Legends, other eSports should be considered "legitimate" sports in order to let players come and compete in the United States.

Sign the petition!

The petition will help raise awareness, but is only a small part of a much larger problem in relation to foreign players coming to compete and live in the United States in eSports. I've attempted to explain in a bit more detail below. Special thanks to us Kyle "Beef" Bautista and us compLexity Gaming for their insights on the subject.

So what is the P1 Visa?
The P1 Visa is a type of United States visa which grants a person the right to enter the country in order to compete in an athlete for an organisation. It can last between 1 to 3 years.

In order to qualify for a P1 Visa an athlete or his organisation must prove he/she is "internationally recognised". A player on his own would be unable to apply for this visa without a team behind them. UCSIS defines international recognised as:

UCSIS' definition of being "internationally recognised"
Having a high level of achievement in a field evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered. The reputation of the group, not the individual achievements of its members or the acclaim of a particular production, is essential.

This obviously poses a problem, how does one prove in Dota 2 or any other eSport they are recognised "substantially above that normally encountered"? Teams are left to gather evidence of just how "big a deal" they are.

Obstacles between the P1 Visa and eSports - Proving you're a BIG DEAL

In order to get a P1 Visa for anyone wishing to live and play in the USA as a paid job, proving you're a big deal in your field is crucial.

As long as you can prove you're internationally recognised and you are going to do this for a living, you could be granted a P1 Visa.

For League of Legends the hands-on approach of Riot Games reduces the issues encountered for players of their title as they have a large organising body to support their application, but for players of other games it is not so simple.

They need to prove they are taking part in a "Major Sports League" - and obtain sufficient evidence from the organiser of it - they also need to provide evidence they are recognised in more than one country.

This is obviously a very grey area, and with eSports still only part of the way towards worldwide recognition, teams are left hunting for data to prove their players' stature.

So how can a team prove their player is recognised? Match viewership, Twitter followers, written statements from a recognised expert or sports media, international rankings, awards or honours and proof of participation in what the USCIS would deem a "major" competition are all possibilities. Whether they accept them as legitimate or not is another question entirely.

P1 Visa is NOT for players coming to compete at TI
In a Dota 2 context, the P1 visa is not relevant to players simply coming to the country to play in the Summit or The International. For these kind of competitions players can apply for a B1-B2 visa, which allows them to compete for material gain but they are NOT allowed to be paid for being there by a US company.

In other words if you wish to live in the United States as a non-US citizen and make a living from gaming you would need a P1 visa and an organisation behind you to support your application. If you wish to come to compete in the Summit you would need a B1-B2 visa, but you would not be allowed to receive a salary of any kind for your time spent in the United States aside from prize money winnings.

Major Dota 2 nations Russia, China and Ukraine are all not among the Visa Waiver Program countries

VWP makes it easy for citizens of some countries but not all to come to the US
If you are fortunate enough to be a citizen of one of the 38 countries on the Visa Waiver Program then you can enter the U.S. without even a need for a B1-B2 or a P1. These countries include big eSports nations such as Sweden, South Korea and Germany.

However, it does not extend to Russia, China or even the Ukraine. In the world of Dota 2 this is a major issue, and is the reason we often see CIS and Chinese teams struggle to get visas for The International and other events held in the United States. Players from these countries and any other country not listed in the VWP usually apply for a B1-B2 visa, which is for business and tourism.

B1-B2 visa is not always fair
In order to successfully apply for a B1-B2 visa, organisations need to prove their players are really travelling to the United States and are not being paid for being there. They also need to give evidence of funds to cover their expenses while in the United States, and prove that they are not planning to try to sneak into the US and not return to their home country.

The B1-B2 visa also requires the custom and border protection to understand what the players are going to the US for in the first place. This also can cause issues if the personal dealing with the application or the entrance into the country is unfamiliar with eSports, or does not believe in the validity of eSports. Overall the visa process for players coming to play in tournaments from non-VWP countries is a very hit or miss affair.

Will the petition make a difference?
The petition will of course raise awareness of the issues surrounding the P1 and eSports visas in general, but it's important to realise the P1 only affects players looking to live in the United States and earn a salary while being there. It will not reduce the visa issues we have seen at past Internationals and other U.S. based events where players are normally using a B1-B2 visa.

Signing the petition is still a good way to raise awareness of the problem and help pledge your support to professional gamers.

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