DHS Wastes Staff Time on a Trivial Issue – The Ten-Year Limit for P-1S Visas

By David North on May 14, 2019

Most people do not realize that not only is there a specialized nonimmigrant visa for a successful alien athlete – it is class P 1 – but there is a slightly different one for that athlete's "Essential Support Personnel."

Clearly that alien boxer needs a cut man in his corner who speaks his own language; and that tennis player needs, similarly, a fitness coach that she knows, trusts, and can communicate with. So, with the public interest hanging in the balance, the P-1S ("S" for support) visa was born. It is different from the P-1A for the individual athlete.

But just creating that visa, something done years ago, is clearly not enough. We must figure out the length of time that it is valid. This is a problem because there are different rules for the star (P-1A) and for the subordinate (P-1S). The star gets an initial visa for one year, but if the activity is ongoing for a longer time, it can be extended for as much as two five-year periods (which might just outlast the athlete's fleeting years of fame.)

Apparently there used to be some uncertainty of how long the subordinate could stay in the country when the star had one of those extensive nonimmigrant visas. With that burning question in mind, USCIS has just issue a Policy Alert (AFM PA-2018-03) stating:

Therefore, while the initial validity period of a P-1 petition for essential support personnel is limited to 1 year or less, the validity period of an extension of stay of essential support personnel of a P-1A individual athlete may thereafter exceed one year, provided (1) the purpose is to continue or complete the same event or activity for which they were admitted, and (2) it does not exceed the period of time necessary to complete the event, not to exceed 5 years, or a total period of stay of 10 years.

So that personal trainer, or the cut man, provided all the specifications are met, can linger in the U.S. for up to ten full years. That must be comforting to the star to know that she can have an indentured alien worker of her choice for up to a decade.

My point is not really on the substance of this issue, which is probably reasonably rare, particularly in the second five years. Instead, the issue is the DHS staff time expended on its writing the draft, probably re-writing it more than once, and then shepherding it through the various clearance processes. That time could have been spent – in an understaffed and stretched agency – on something more useful to the rest of us. But it was not.