It started at the end of April, and has picked up widespread attention throughout the month of May. The petition titled “The USCIS Should Recognize All Esports As “Legitimate” Sports So International Players Can Come to the US on P1 Visas” seeks to bring an end to an issue faced in the eSports community.
Professional Super Smash Bros. Melee player William Hjelte was deported from the United States due to a visa issue back in 2015. He needed a “P1 Visa” to continue his sponsorship with an American company, but William was denied on the grounds that the government didn’t see Super Smash Bros. Melee as a legitimate sport.
The argument being made in this petition is that League of Legends visa acceptance sets a legal precedent for eSports in general. Back in July 2013, League of Legends was officially classified as a major sporting event. “The United States Government recognizes League of Legends pro players as professional athletes and award visas to essentially work in the United States under that title,” said at the time by Riot Games’ eSports manager, Nick Allen. “Now we can start looking at international players – when they come over it’s much easier to process because they’re actually recognized by the government.”
That decision in July 2013 opened the doors for the arguments being heard today. At the center of it is the “P1” level of visa. A P-1A level visa (Internationally Recognized Athlete) states that the applicant must be coming to the United States to participate in team events, and have achieved “significant international recognition” in said sport. A P-1B visa is different, designated for members of an “Internationally Recognized Entertainment Group”. The criteria state that the group must be internationally recognized, and have a high level of skill and achievement “substantially above” average.
Hopefully eSports in general is given a fair analysis by the governments of the world. It’s bound to happen sooner rather than later.