P1 Visa or B1 Visa for Sports Players – Choosing the Cheaper Visa is not always Legal

The P1 Visa is for Internationally recognized athletes or athletic teams entering the U.S. to participate in an event of international standing. The B1 Visa is for Professional athletes to compete for tournament money and not for a salary among other things. Department of Homeland Security reserves B-1 visas for non-contracted players who are coming to training camp to try out. In reality, many players entering the U.S. with a standard contracts on a B1, even though it violates the letter of the law. The B-1 can cost up to $1,550 less than the P-1.

Chad Starling hopes something will change, and that he’s the last ECHL player who gets turned around at the U.S.-Canadian border because he doesn’t have the proper work visa.

ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna said if something does change, it will be up to the member teams. He’s comfortable with the league’s immigration policy as it currently stands.

“We’re very clear with our teams: If a player signs a contract, that contract is registered with the league, he needs to come in on a P-1 visa,” McKenna said. “If (the Reign) wanted to bring (Starling) in on a tryout basis, but the team isn’t comfortable signing him to a contract, they certainly have the ability to bring a player in on a tryout basis. It’s very clear. There’s no ambiguity from the league’s point of view.”
Starling, a Canadian citizen, wasn’t coming to the U.S. to try out. He already had signed his contract when he was turned around at a border station in Sweetgrass, Kemp knows that and accepts responsibility for what transpired.

“I don’t know that there’s ever been a policy, per se, but it’s typically what teams will do as a cost-savings measure,” he said. “Why we do things are because of cost-saving measures. Every team needs to look out for those interests.”
As one possible way around the issue, Kemp suggested the Reign simply wouldn’t announce the signing of any Canadian citizens until their P-1 visas are processed – usually later on in training camp and at a lower cost to the team.

Bottom line it is against the law to bring players who require P-1 visas across the border on B-1 visas. While the cost of the B1 visa is cheaper it may not be used as a replacement for a proper work visa. This abuse is also seen in cases when the H1B visa is not possible and workers come in under the B1 Visa. The B1 can be a great gap filler for a temporary period of time, but not a replacement for any visa.