Can I Apply for a Green Card if I am in the U.S. on a P-1 Athletic Visa?

While you won't be able to get a green card solely from you P-1 status, a variety of family and employment-based green card options are available to you.

It depends. There are a lot of factors at play when it comes to get a Green Card.

While you won’t be able to get a green card solely on the basis of time in the U.S. in P-1 status, a variety of family and employment-based green card options are available to you.

Can I Apply Based Solely on My P-1 Status?

athlete in action of high jump.

No. If you are applying for a green card solely based on your P-1 status, then you will certainly be denied.

Your P-1 status is a nonimmigrant status and as such is not eligible for permanent residency.

Along with the myriad of requirements to get your P-1 visa approved, you have to swear that you had and intended to maintain a foreign residence and that you only intended to temporarily enter the United States to perform at your qualifying athletic event.

If USCIS determines that you entered the U.S. with the intent to remain permanently, then they can strip you of your status and charge you with immigration fraud.

This would leave a mark on your record that would likely keep you from ever gaining legal permanent residency.

What if I entered in good faith, but have experienced a change in circumstances?

USCIS understands that plans change with time.

Maybe you had the best of intentions to honor your P-1 requirements, but circumstances arose that forced you to change your mind.

Some reasons you might remain in the U.S. include the following:

  • You met the love of your life and got married.
  • You received a job offer from a U.S. employer who has completed the necessary steps to sponsor your employment-based immigrant visa.
  • You have chosen to invest a significant sum of money in a new commercial enterprise.

No matter the change of circumstance, you will not be barred from applying to adjust status simply because you are currently in the United States under a P-1 nonimmigrant visa.

What Other Factors Make Me Eligible for a Green Card?

sprinter waiting for start of race on running tracks at outdoor stadium. sport and fitness runner woman athlete on blue run track with orange running shoes. panorama banner.

If you are currently in the United States with P-1 status and you apply to adjust status (i.e. get a green card) based on a relevant ground of eligibility (e.g. family based, employment based, or investor based), then you may be able to get a green card.

While green card options likely include a family- or investment-based visa category, there are two particular employment-based visas you should be aware of as an athlete:

EB-1 for Athletes with Extraordinary Ability

If you are among your sports elite, you may be able to self-petition for a green card using an E-1 visa. However, this is a high standard to meet.  

The E-1 visa is available to people with an extraordinary ability in certain fields (which includes athletics).

In regards to athletics, extraordinary ability amounts to obtaining “once in a lifetime” international recognition.

For example, medaling in the Olympics or being inducted into your sports hall of fame.

If you can establish (1) that you have an extraordinary ability in athletics, (2) that you intend to work in the area which you have your extraordinary ability, and (3) that your work will benefit the United States, then you may be able to adjust status under the EB-1 program.

EB-2 for Athletes with Exceptional Abilities

If you have a U.S. employer who is willing to sponsor your petition, then you may be able to obtain an EB-2 visa as an athlete with exceptional ability in your field.

Put another way, if you are unable to apply for the EB-1 visa, you may find some success in applying for the EB-2 preference instead.

This visa preference could be especially helpful to individuals who are well-known in their field, but may not have that “once in a lifetime” achievement we mentioned earlier.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls

close-up of young person rafting on the river, extreme and fun sport at tourist attraction

Sham Marriage

USCIS presumes that all marriages that are less than 5 years old are a sham designed to obtain immigration benefits.

Therefore, USCIS will almost alway scrutinize your allegedly good-faith marriage before approving any immigration materials.

You will need to acquire as much supporting evidence as you possibly can to show that your marriage was entered into in good faith and not for immigration benefits.

You will also need to prepare yourself for a barrage of interview questions about your spouse and your relationship.

What if I entered the U.S. with P-1 status, but my status expired?

If you entered the United States with legal status but you have let your status expire, then you are currently an illegal overstayer.

As such, you will be barred from obtaining any further immigration benefits and will not be able to adjust status to a legal permanent resident (i.e. a green card holder) without first obtaining a waiver of your unlawful presence.

If this is your situation, it is imperative that you speak with an experienced immigration attorney as soon as possible.


If you have any questions regarding your eligibility for a green card, or you are ready to get the ball rolling with your adjustment application, you should speak with an attorney immediately.

With the proper planning you may able to gain legal permanent residency.

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