Esports Fans Petition The White House To Address Player Visa Issues

Published: May 25, 2016 - Last Updated: Feb 1, 2023

[toc]A recent situation in which a professional player has been denied a U.S. work visa has lead to esports being discussed in the White House.

The denial resulted in a petition that was signed by more than 100,000 people, and basically asks that the USCIS to recognize all esports as “legitimate” sports so international players can come to the U.S. on “Internationally Recognized Athlete” visas.

The background

This all started when William “Leffen” Hjelte, one of the best Super Smash Bros. Melee players in the world, being denied a visa from the United States because Team SoloMid, an American company, was sponsoring him while he was in the country on a tourist visa instead of a working visa.

As a response, the #FreeLeffen campaign was created by Red Bull and Team SoloMid, which could be seen as the initial spark for the esports petition.

Leffen subsequently applied for the visa that most foreign athletes in traditional sports apply for, the P-1A, which requires athletes to compete “at an internationally recognized level of performance.” But since Super Smash Bros. Melee is not recognized as a “legitimate” sport, Leffen’s initial P-1A request was denied in late April.

Even though his request was approved on a second attempt, it exposed an important issue that needs to be addressed. And this is hardly the first, nor will it be the last, instance of visa troubles for esports players.

Precedence exists

In the past, professional players in other esports, such as League of Legends, have been approved for P1 visas in order to travel to the U.S. and compete.

Given this precedence, the petition tries to address this issue and make sure that other competitive games would be considered “legitimate” sports in order to let players come and compete in the United States.

An answer within 60 days

The White House is expected to give an official response to the petition within 60 days.

There is of course no guarantee that something positive will come out – or that anything will happen at all – but gaining this recognition would be an important step in bringing esports closer to traditional sports in terms of the rights of professional athletes.

With esports becoming more mainstream, development as such is very much welcome.

With Turner’s ELEAGUE now underway and other big competitions being around the corner, the esports community has a lot to look forward to. This coupled with professionals not having problems when traveling to the U.S. in the future could boost the competitive gaming community even further.

Dejan Zalik

Since: September 12, 2015

Dejan has been involved in gaming for over 10 years. Moving from classics like Diablo 2, Lineage 2, and Warcraft 3, he found his passion in Dota 2, which he’s been playing ever since. He also likes to keep up to date by reading and writing about whatever is happening in the industry.

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