This petition arises from an ongoing situation regarding one of the best Super Smash Bros. Melee players in the world, William "Leffen" Hjelte. In 2015, Mr. Hjelte was deported from the United States because he was sponsored by an American company while using a tourist visa, when he needed a work visa. After applying for a P1 Visa, which is what professional athletes use to come to the US, he was denied due to Super Smash Bros. Melee not being recognized as a "legitimate" sport. Competitors in other eSports, such as League of Legends, have been approved for P1 Visas in order to travel to the US and compete. Given the precedent set with League of Legends, other eSports should be considered "legitimate" sports in order to let players come and compete in the United States.
Response to Petition
Thank you for using the We the People platform. On May 23, a petition you signed on eSports reached 100,000 signatures, which is the threshold for receiving a White House response.
The P-1 nonimmigrant visa classification allows individuals to come to the United States temporarily to perform at a specific athletic competition as an athlete, individually or as part of a group or team, at an internationally recognized level of performance. You raised questions about a specific Super Smash Bros. Melee player and his P-1 visa application. Consistent with the We the People Terms of Participation, we decline to address such matters that are properly within the jurisdiction of federal departments or agencies -- in this case, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a component of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
However, we do want to provide more information about the broader issue you raised.
According to USCIS, the agency responsible for processing P-1 visa applications, there is no current policy categorically precluding an eSport from being recognized as a qualifying athletic competition. In fact, USCIS has approved P-1 visa petitions for athletes seeking to enter the United States to compete in eSport events.
It's important to remember that every case, regardless of what sport it involves, is different and is reviewed on its own merits. USCIS may request additional information when there is not enough documentation or evidence to establish eligibility for the requested classification. Given this case-by-case adjudication, a particular denial or approval does not necessarily represent a broader policy interpretation or change.
You can find more information on the P-1 visa process on the USCIS website. Individuals who have issues about particular cases can also contact the DHS Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman. The Ombudsman helps to provide impartial and independent perspectives in an attempt to address issues related to pending cases. Learn more about the Ombudsman.
Thanks again for using the We the People platform.
-- We the People Team