Special Visas Permit Elite Athletes to Move to the US

Posted by Matthew Green | May 12, 2014 | 0 Comments

There are a number of different visas an immigrant may consider when he or she is looking to come to the United States. Of course, there is an application process involved when requesting one, but a visa is nonetheless a common way for those abroad to come to the U.S. There are some visas that are given out more than others. One of the more unique visas is referred to as an O-1A visa.

The O-1A visa is specifically set aside for those who have an “extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics (not  including the arts, motion pictures or television industry.)” Immigrants who qualify for this visa are allowed to temporarily work in the U.S. O-1A visas are valid for up to three years and can be extended after that in one-year increments. A story recently posted by the New York Post highlights one immigrant who has taken advantage of this very visa.

Masahiro Tanaka is a pitcher who has recently made his MLB debut. Tanaka was born in Japan and would most likely not be a New York Yankee if it weren't for the O-1A visa. As it stands today, immigration law allows for professional athletes to come work in the U.S. without a lot of red tape. Sure, they have to fill out applications and other paperwork, but is less cumbersome than some other, more common, visas.

Major League Baseball is no stranger to having players with O-1A visas. In truth, just about one in four players on “this year's Opening Day rosters was born outside the United States.” The New York Yankees alone has three starting pitchers who were born outside of the U.S.

As far as the MLB is concerned, it is pretty clear that it needs international players in order to compete. This is accepted as truth by the majority and doesn't lead to a lot of intense debate. However, why is the same not true when it comes to other businesses? It has been reported that 40% of all “Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or first-generation Americans.” As for small-business owners, there is a disproportionately large share of owners who are immigrants. In addition, immigrants are more than two times more likely to receive and commercialize a patent than those who were born in the United States.

Even with all of these facts and figures showing how important immigrants are to the U.S. economy, we continue to make it hard for those individuals to live and work in this country. Generally speaking, an O-1A visa is for athletes and the equivalent for those who are not athletes is the H1-B visa. In some ways, the two visas are similar: both are for individuals who are at the top of their profession.

There is a problem, however, when you consider the annual cap associated with the H1-B visa program. There are only 85,000 of these visas allowed each year. In addition, H1-B visa petitions are turned in so quickly, the window to apply for one can close in a matter of days. One answer to this problem would be to increase the cap or do away with the annual cap altogether.

What are your thoughts on this topic?

About the Author

Matthew Green

Managing Attorney. The Law Offices of Matthew H. Green focuses on the aggressive defense of immigrants. A native of Arizona, Mr. Green understands the difficulties that immigrants and families of immigrants face when a loved one is charged with a crime. He knows how frightening it can be for some...

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