Visa Validity for P1S Essential Support Personnel of P1A Athletes

 

Introduction

On May 9, 2019, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued an Adjudicator's Field Manual (AFM) Policy Alert (PA) titled “Initial Period of Authorized Stay for P-1S Nonimmigrant Individual Athlete's Essential Support Personnel” [AFM PA-2019-03 (May 9, 2019)]. The new update clarifies USCIS's guidance regarding the period of stay for P1S essential support personnel for P1A athletes. We will examine the new guidance in this brief article.

We discuss the P1A nonimmigrant category in detail in a separate article [see article]. Please see our growing selection of articles on work visas to learn more about the nonimmigrant work visa categories generally [see category].

New Guidance

The new guidance is published at AFM 33.5(a) [PDF version]. The duration of stay for P1S essential support personnel for P1A athletes was initially addressed in a July 14, 2009 USCIS Policy Manual (PM) issued by Donald Neufeld, titled “Procedures for Applying the Period of Authorized Stay for P-1S Nonimmigrant Individual Athletes' Essential Support Personnel” [HQ 70/6.2.19 (Jul. 14, 2009)]. The new guidance supplements the 2009 guidance.

8 C.F.R. 214.2(p)(8)(iii)(A) provides that a petition for a principal P1A athlete “shall be valid for a period of up to 5 years.” This means that the USCIS may grant the petition for a period of less than five years, but not more than five years. 8 C.F.R. 214.2(p)(8)(iii)(E) provides that a P1S essential support personnel petitions for P1A athletes “shall only be valid for a period of time determined by the [USCIS] Director necessary to complete the event…for which the [P1] is admitted, not to exceed 1 year.” There is an exception to the P1S one-year limitation, found in 8 C.F.R. 214.2(p)(14)(ii)(A). This regulation provides that an extension of stay petition for a P1S alien in order to continue or complete in the same event or activity of the P1A individual athlete may be approved for a period of up to five years, not to exceed ten years.

The new USCIS guidance clarifies its interpretation of 8 C.F.R. 214.2(p)(14). It states that the five-year extension of stay for P1S essential support personnel aliens for P1A athletes “is only available when the petition extension requests an extension of stay to continue or complete the same event or activity (and not consulate notification) for a beneficiary who is in the United States in P1A at the time the petition extension is properly filed, and the extension of stay request is approved.” P1 petitions for essential support personnel for P1A athletes remain restricted to a one-year validity period when approved initially. Five-year extensions are only available when the extension request is for the P1S essential support alien for the P1A athlete to continue in or complete the same event or activity for which the initial petition was approved.

If the P1S alien departs the United States while the extension request is pending, he or she must apply for a visa at a consular post abroad.

The USCIS summarized the circumstances in which a P1S essential support alien is eligible for a visa with a validity period exceeding one year:

1. [T]he purpose [of the extension request] is to continue or complete the same event or activity for which [the P1S essential support alien] was admitted; and
2. [I]t does not exceed the period of time necessary to complete the event, not to exceed 5 years, or a total period of stay of 10 years.

Conclusion

The new USCIS guidance clarifies the rules for the validity period of petitions approved as the result of extension of stay requests filed on behalf of P1S essential support personnel of P1A athletes. The P1S subcategory of the P1 nonimmigrant visa category represents an interesting case where the USCIS may grant a visa for a longer validity period after approving an extension of stay request than can be issued for a visa granted based on an initial petition. Petitioners and beneficiaries in the P visa categories should consult with an experienced immigration attorney for case-specific guidance on the applicable rules and requirements.