Immigration Status of Professional Athletes and Actors

There are many people from other countries that come into the U.S. to work as professional athletes or actors. What is the INS category for people such as Yao Ming, Sean Connery, etc.? Do they apply for green cards, H1 visas or is there a special category? Many work visas have a long waiting list, is there an expedited process for these jobs?

Many thanks!! :slight_smile:

There are separate visa categories for them. Most would hold either an O-1 (Alien with Extraordinary Ability in sciences, business, arts, education or athletics) or a P-1 (individual or team athletes and group performers.)

ETA: cite -

Thanks! Mouse_Spouse was curious about this. :smiley:

Entertainers are allowed work visas because they are considered to be individuals whose abilities cannot be directly compared. So nobody can argue that hiring Alanis Morrisette to perform is taking work away from Sheryl Crow and Alanis gets a work visa as long as she can show she is being hired to work in the US.

I recall a court case about this a few years back when some Canadian strippers were denied work visas because they were told stripping is not legally considered entertainment. The argument was that the clubs could have hired American strippers to do the equivalent work.

As always, IANAL.