New Labor Board General Counsel Rescinds Guidance Declaring Student-Athletes ‘Employees’

One of the first actions of new National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Peter Robb was to rescind guidance that college football players at private universities are employees under the National Labor Relations Act.

Robb’s Memorandum GC 18-02, which created a mandatory Division of Advice review of many Board decisions from the Obama Administration (and rescinded many previous NLRB General Counsel memorandums), rescinded Memorandum GC 17-01, “General Counsel’s Report on the Statutory Rights of University Faculty and Students in the Unfair Labor Practice Context”.

GC 17-01 stated that college football players at private universities are employees under the Act, and, therefore, they are entitled to seek pay for their contributions and to request improved working conditions.

In GC 17-01, former NLRB General Counsel Robert F. Griffin determined that scholarship football players at private colleges, such as Stanford, Notre Dame, University of Southern California, and Northwestern, have employment rights and are protected by the law should they seek protection against unfair labor practices, seek to bargain for a safer work environment, or request pay. Scholarship FBS athletes at private institutions, Griffin wrote, “clearly satisfy the broad definition of employee and the common-law test.” Griffin explained that the athletes, like employees, work full-time hours during the regular season, receive “significant compensation” in exchange for their work, and can be “fired” from the team for poor performance or other reasons. GC 17-01 did not carry the force of law or give players at private colleges the right to unionize or collectively bargain. Therefore, its impact was minimal. However, it provided positive legal substance to the belief that student-athletes are university employees under the labor laws, and it could have lent support to an NLRB determination that student-athletes, in fact, were employees.

Robb’s reversal halts administrative momentum toward the declaration of student-athletes as employees of the universities they attend.

Further, the rescission should quell any remaining notion that the NLRB, as currently composed, will grant student-athletes the right to collectively bargain or the right to file unfair labor practice charges, effectively intercepting the legal Hail Mary thrown by student-athletes in their attempts to organize.

 

 

Can NFL Players be Fired, Disciplined for Protesting During National Anthem?

President Donald Trump has suggested that the National Football League’s television ratings decline was caused by “fans seeing those people (players) taking the knee when they’re playing our great national anthem.” Trump has urged fans to “leave the stadium” when players kneel during the national anthem and suggested that NFL team owners fire players who kneel.

What, if any, discipline can NFL owners hand out to their players for kneeling during the national anthem?

Currently, the possibility of potential terminations or discipline seems remote. Owners, players, and coaches have responded uniformly to Trump’s comments: More than 150 players, coaches, and owners participated in a showing of defiance to protest against the President’s comments. The protesters either locked arms, knelt, or raised fists in silent protest and a rare showing of unity between labor and management.

Despite a long history of public, verbal sparring over numerous labor issues, even NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell gave separate, but similar, statements condemning the President’s comments. Smith tweeted that the NFLPA will “never back down when it comes to protecting the constitutional rights of our players as citizens…” and Goodell called the comments “divisive” and “demonstrating an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players….”

Nonetheless, many wonder what a team can do to discipline a player and what is the likelihood that such discipline would be upheld.

The relationship between NFL players and their respective owners and team are governed by an individual player contract and a collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA. These contracts contain numerous provisions concerning the rights of the League and its owners and the rights of the players.

The standard NFL player contract contains specific language that could empower an owner to act.

For example, paragraph 2, covering employment and services, states that the player agrees to “conduct himself on and off the field with appropriate recognition of the fact that the success of professional football depends largely on public respect for and approval of those associated with the game.” Paragraph 11, on player “skill, performance and conduct” also could be the basis for termination. It states that a team can terminate a player’s contract if the player “has engaged in personal conduct reasonably judged by the Club to adversely affect or reflect on the Club.”

Should a team fire a player for expressing his opinion and engaging in the protest, the player likely would file a grievance pursuant to Article 43 of the collective bargaining agreement. Article 43 allows players to file grievances for any dispute arising from their contract that does not involve an injury. Moreover, it allows players to avoid the commissioner’s serving as the arbitrator and to have their grievance heard before a neutral arbitrator chosen by agreement of the NFL and the NFLPA.

The player’s legal right to challenge team or League discipline for engaging in a protest would not be limited to their collectively bargained rights.

They can pursue state or federal law remedies as well. For example, a player could pursue relief before federal agencies such as the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (Act) protects the rights of non-union and union employees. It guarantees the rights of employees to act together and engage in other concerted activities for the purposes of collective bargaining or other mutual aid and protection. If employees are fired, suspended, or otherwise penalized for taking part in protected group activity, Section 8(a)(1) of the Act makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of these rights. The NLRB may process a charge filed by the NFLPA or an individual player against the employer and seek redress to address any act taken against the employee in violation of their rights, including reinstatement to their former position.

Similarly, the EEOC could offer protection against the termination or discipline of players for engaging in protests. The law protects employees against discrimination. Any player who is a member of a class of employees that the law protects (e.g., African American players) could argue that the discipline he received for protesting the national anthem was related to his race. In addition, state laws may protect employee rights to express their first amendment rights without potential reprisal from their employers.

Ultimately, owners and players must listen to and respect the fans. As players express their views and opinions and owners decide if and how they should react, the voice of the fan and their reaction to these protests ultimately will determine the next steps in this very visible and polarizing reaction to the President’s comments.

 

 

NLRB Finds Sports Team’s Electronic-Content Workers As Employees Eligible To Unionize

The National Labor Relations Board has found the individuals who produce electronic content for viewing during professional basketball games are employees, rather than independent contractors. Minnesota Timberwolves Basketball, LP, 365 NLRB No. 124 (2017). The Board reversed the decision of an NLRB regional director and reinstated a representation petition filed by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

The 2-1 Board majority held the employer failed in its burden of proving independent contractor status. The Board pointed out that “the crewmembers work for the Employer at times and locations determined and provided by the Employer, using tools, equipment, and supplies that, almost with exception, the Employer provides.” NLRB Chairman Philip Miscimarra dissented. As Miscimarra soon will be in the majority with two new NLRB members holding a pro-employer view, replacing the 2-1 pro-union bent of the current NLRB, the possibility that a similar case may be decided differently cannot be dismissed.

In this case, the crewmembers included camera operators, replay operators, engineers, computer operators, audio/tape operators, and other technical and utility workers. Sixteen crewmembers work each game. Crewmembers volunteer for a “roster” (51 names on the most current roster) and identify the games they are available to work. The employer assigns the roster crewmembers for each game and decides what position each will fill. The employer sets the start time of work, requires crewmembers to find a replacement if they cannot work as assigned, determines compensation, provides nearly all equipment, and scripts production work before the game. “Live calls” regarding specific assignments during games are made by a crewmember. Many of the crewmembers work season after season.

Under the National Labor Relations Act, independent contractor status is determined by common law agency criteria, with no one factor controlling. The NLRB also will consider whether the entrepreneurial endeavor of the putative independent contractor is real or theoretical.

The common law agency criteria include:

  • the extent of control by the employer over the individual’s work;
  • whether the individual is engaged in a business;
  • the degree of supervision by the employer over the work performed;
  • the skills required;
  • who provides necessary tools, equipment, and place of work;
  • duration of employment;
  • method of payment;
  • whether the work is part of the employer’s regular business;
  • whether the parties believe an independent contractor relationship exists; and
  • whether the individual operates an separate business.

The Board found that some factors favored employee status, while others were inconclusive; none were found to support independent contractor status. It explained, however, that “the Employer … exerts much more significant control than the Regional Director acknowledged over … [the crewmembers’] work and the circumstances under which it is performed.” It also noted that “the crewmembers enjoy neither a proprietary interest in their work nor a voice in any important business decisions.”

Since independent contractor cases are inherently fact-specific, employers who pay non-employees to perform services for the business should review the relationship against the common law agency standards to assess compliance with several employment law standards (beyond labor law).

Please contact a Jackson Lewis attorney with any questions.

Eight United States Senators Implore NCAA to Adopt ‘Uniform Policy’ on Sexual Assault

On the heels of the NCAA’s Board of Governor’s recent policy announcement requiring college coaches, athletics administrators and student-athletes to be educated in sexual violence prevention, eight United States Senators have forwarded a letter to the NCAA’s Commission to Combat Campus Sexual Violence.

The letter from Richard Blumenthal, Robert Casey, Jr., Al Franken, Kirsten Gillibrand, Margaret Hassan, Jeffrey Merkley, Patty Murray, and Ron Wyden

requests that the NCAA develop a “uniform policy” to formally address all prospective and current student-athletes possessing a history of sexual violence to protect all students, regardless of what college they attend.

The Senators’ letter addressed the “alarming rate” of sexual violence on college campuses.

While they recognized the challenges that NCAA member conferences and colleges face to balance student-athlete accountability, they emphasized ensuring that all students are safe on campus.

The letter acknowledged the specific steps taken by the Pac-12 conference and the University of Oregon to restrict transfer student-athletes from receiving athletic aid and participating as a student-athlete if they are unable to re-enroll at the previous school they attended because of prior misconduct while attending that prior school.

The Senators also commended Indiana University for creating a policy that makes all potential student-athletes subject to a policy that makes any athlete who previously had been convicted or pled guilty to a sexual violence felony or been held responsible for sexual violence by any university’s formal discipline policy ineligible for any athletic aid and intercollegiate competition. The Indiana University policy is believed to be the first Power Five conference school enactment to formerly ban student-athletes for sexual violence.

The NCAA has not issued a formal public response to the Senators’ letter.

 

New Sexual Violence Prevention Education Policy Adopted by National Collegiate Athletic Association

Coaches, athletics administrators, and student-athletes must be educated in sexual violence prevention under a policy adopted by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Board of Governors on August 8, 2017.

The new policy provides that annually, every member institution’s president or chancellor, athletic director, and Title IX coordinator will be required to attest that the school’s:

  • Athletic department is “knowledgeable about, integrated in, and compliant with institutional policies and processes regarding sexual violence prevention and proper adjudication and resolution of acts of sexual violence”;
  • Policies and procedures are distributed to all student-athletes; and
  • Policies and procedures are readily available in the athletics department.

The new policy, however, does not impose any requirements with respect to bans or restrictions on the participation in athletics of individuals accused of, or found responsible for, violations of policies against sexual violence. Institutions continue to have discretion with respect to those determinations.

NCAA member institutions should review their training and awareness programs to ensure that all members of the athletics department, including staff and student-athletes, are educated about sexual violence prevention, bystander intervention, the institution’s procedures for filing and adjudicating complaints of sexual violence, and the resources available to support and assist those who have been affected by sexual violence. Athletic departments should consider including the institution’s policies and procedures relating to sexual violence in their student-athlete handbooks.

Jackson Lewis attorneys are available to assist you in evaluating, designing, and delivering training programs to meet the new requirements.

NCAA’s Statement on Student-Athlete Side Hustle Raises Questions

University of Central Florida Kicker Donald De La Haye has been deemed ineligible because of compensation he earned from his YouTube videos. UCF submitted a waiver on behalf of De La Haye requesting that he remain eligible while continuing to create videos. The waiver was granted, but with conditions. The NCAA’s conditions were that De La Haye could not monetize any videos that referenced his status as a student-athlete or depict his football skill or ability. De La Haye declined these conditions and was ruled ineligible.

On July 31, 2017, the NCAA issued a statement on the De La Haye decision that may have significant implications for the “student-athlete” debate:

Although Donald De La Haye has chosen not to compete any longer as a UCF student-athlete, he could have continued playing football for the university and earn money from non-athletic YouTube videos, based on a waiver the NCAA granted July 14

 

Contrary to misperceptions, making a YouTube video – and even making money off of it – is not a violation of an NCAA rule. Further, years ago the membership gave NCAA staff the ability to review situations like these on a case-by-case basis, consistent with previous actions.

After the national office received the waiver request from UCF July 12, that process was used to confirm that De La Haye could monetize his video activity as long as it was not based on his athletics, reputation, prestige or ability.

Although these issues are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, the NCAA has effectively indicated that student-athletes may make money off of “non-athletic” YouTube videos. This creates more questions than answers. What constitutes a “non-athletic” YouTube video? When is it based on an athlete’s “reputation” or “prestige”? Is a higher-profile student-athlete more restricted than other student-athletes because of a built-in “reputation” or “prestige”?

Consider this hypothetical: If during his time at the University of Florida Tim Tebow created a YouTube page devoted to various topics, including his values, work ethic, and religious beliefs, would he be able to monetize it? At the time, he was the most famous student-athlete in the country and his YouTube page would be popular, in part, because of his “reputation” and “prestige.” What if the content has nothing to do with his role as a student-athlete? What if the content is tangentially related to his approach to athletics or his life as a student-athlete?

Notwithstanding its statement, the NCAA’s bylaws still prohibit accepting pay to promote commercial products or services, being paid “at a rate higher than the going rate” based on athletic ability, reputation, fame or “personal following,” See e.g., NCAA Bylaws 12.4, 12.5.

Under the bylaws, it would be difficult to quantify whether an athlete is paid “at a rate higher than the going rate” based on remuneration from a YouTube video.

Is it because of the athlete’s fame? Personal following? If it is, can the NCAA quantify the “higher rate”? Is the student-athlete entitled to the potential compensation he would receive if not for his fame? It is virtually impossible to make this determination. The NCAA will have to evaluate whether a video “deserves” the attention it receives. Does Donald De Lay Haye have almost 100,000 followers because he was the Kicker for UCF? Do these followers need to be surveyed? Even under the NCAA’s bylaws, it is a slippery slope to start making determinations as to whether student-athletes are monetarizing their status as college athletes under similar circumstances.

The question now is whether student-athletes will take advantage of the possibilities presented by the NCAA’s statement. They may be able to carefully market themselves to earn compensation while maintaining eligibility. Another question is how these principles will apply to other mediums in which student-athletes can be compensated for “non-athletic” endeavors.

Finally, what happens if a school does not seek a waiver as UCF did with De La Haye? And, what if they do not seek a waiver based on the NCAA’s statement in this situation? What is clear, however, is that the NCAA and colleges will continue to face these issues.

 

 

 

Former Big League Pitcher Awarded More than $1.5 Million for Wrongful Termination

A New Jersey jury in the Superior Court of New Jersey for Camden County has awarded former Major League Baseball pitcher Mitchell Williams $1,565,333 in a wrongful termination action he filed against MLB Network, Inc. Mitchell Williams v. The MLB Network, Inc., et al., No. L-3675-14.

Williams, nicknamed “Wild Thing,” played professional baseball from 1986 until 1997, and was an All-Star in 1989. Over the course of his career, Williams played for the Philadelphia Phillies, the Texas Rangers, the Chicago Cubs, the Houston Astros, the Kansas City Royals, and the California Angels. In 2009, Williams became a major league baseball studio analyst for MLB Network. In 2011, Williams signed a new five-year contract (with an option for a sixth year) with MLB Network, but his employment was terminated in 2014.

In September 2014, Williams sued MLB Network and Gawker Media Group Inc., alleging that Gawker erroneously reported that, during a May 2014 Little League baseball tournament, Williams cursed out a child while coaching his 10-year-old son’s Little League team, ordered one of his son’s teammates to hit the opposing pitcher with a beanball, and was ejected from the game for arguing and cursing.

Williams’ action further alleged that, following the erroneous Gawker reports, MLB Network: (1) issued public statements that suggested Williams had admitted to the reported misconduct at the Little League tournament; (2) forced Williams to take a 30-day leave of absence from MLB Network; (3) threatened to terminate Williams’ employment unless he signed an amendment to his contract agreeing not to coach or attend any of his children’s Little League baseball games, go to therapy, and get approval before posting any pictures on Facebook; and (4) terminated Williams employment when refused to sign the amendment. Williams claimed that, as a result of MLB Network’s and Gawker’s conduct, he also lost jobs with MLB.com, Sports Network, and Fox Sports.

The case went to trial in June 2017. After an 11-day trial, the jury rejected MLB Network’s claim that Williams had violated a “morals clause” in his contract. The jury found that MLB Network wrongfully terminated Williams, and breached his contract, when it fired him based on the Gawker stories. The jury then awarded Williams $1,565,333 in damages. Gawker Media Group Inc. filed for bankruptcy, and was dismissed from the case, in 2016.

This case serves as a reminder that employers should act cautiously and carefully before taking adverse employment action against an employee based on negative reports from third-parties. When possible, employers should conduct their own follow-up investigations, and assure themselves of the accuracy of any negative reports, before relying on them.

As Williams v. The MLB Network makes clear, if the third-party’s report is inaccurate, the employer may end up paying the price.

The attorneys at Jackson Lewis routinely work with employers conducting internal investigations and reviews. If you have any questions regarding these issues, do not hesitate to contact Jackson Lewis.

 

Pacific Pro League To Provide Amateur Football Alternative, Glimpse Of Value Of College Athletes

NFL agent Don Yee, longtime representative of Tom Brady, and a list of football notables including ESPN’s Adam Schefter and two-time Super Bowl winning coach Mike Shanahan intend to form the Pacific Pro Football League (“PPFL”) with four teams in the Southern California region and commence league play in the summer of 2018. Not seeking to compete with the NFL,

the burgeoning league seeks to create a new feeder-system to help develop the next generation of NFL stars.

The PPFL, in theory, aims to compete with amateur football organizations, such as the NCAA, National Junior College Athletic Association (“NJCAA”), California Community College Athletic Association (“CCCAA”), and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (“NAIA”), rather than the NFL.

The PPFL will only be open to football players who are up to three years removed from high school. This means the PPFL’s eligibility age restrictions coincide with the NFL’s current restrictions which mandate that players must be three years removed from high school graduation or 21 years old in order to be eligible for league competition. Currently, the 18-21 age group of football players competes almost entirely in amateur football. High-profile student-athletes enroll almost exclusively in “Power Five” or “autonomy” institutions, and those who fail to academically qualify for Division I or otherwise render themselves ineligible compete in varsity competition for junior college or NAIA institutions.

In recent litigation involving the NCAA and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), the NCAA has faced legal challenges to its amateurism model. The NCAA and NFLPA have had the NFL’s age restrictions challenged in court. The principle at the crux of these lawsuits is that high-profile student-athletes in football are economically valuable and deserve to be compensated fairly. Media narratives have hammered home this sentiment, as the NCAA often has been cast as an entity that has exploited high-profile football student-athletes for economic gain.

In theory, the PPFL will test both the economic value of football players who are disqualified from being compensated as NFL players, and the economic value of participation in NCAA, NAIA, and junior college athletics.

Should the PPFL attract high-profile football players as it hopes, some of the questions raised in recent litigation regarding the actual value of high profile college football players will be answered. Consumer interest in the PPFL may demonstrate if consumers are drawn to college football because of the institutions or the spectacle of amateur competition, or if consumers are interested because of the quality and appeal of the players themselves.

Additionally, whether high-profile players choose to join the PPFL will demonstrate the value of participation in college athletics. The PPFL intends to pay all of its players around $50,000 annually and provide vocational and internship opportunities, workers’ compensation packages, and insurance coverage. Whether these are enough to lure the most elite football players away from Power 5 programs remains to be seen, but it could be argued that the value of scholarship, cost-of-attendance, insurance, training, coaching, disability insurance, and additional benefits that Division I programs are able to offer appears to be of equal or greater economic value.

Perhaps the PPFL’s most significant competitor for talent will be the junior college associations and the NAIA. In basketball, some elite prospects who did not qualify academically for Division I competition have decided to turn to international professional leagues or the National Basketball Association Development League (NBDL). If an NBDL-like alternative exists for football, what option will future non-qualifiers choose?

 

National College Players Association Urges Prospective Student-Athletes To Negotiate Scholarship Terms With Colleges

The College Athletes Players Association (CAPA) and Executive Director Ramogi Huma’s (Huma) efforts to unionize the Northwestern University football team failed when the National Labor Relations Board refused to rule on the legal ability of these student athletes to form a union. Huma has now shifted his focus to working with the National College Players Association (NCPA) in an effort to impact the relationship between student-athletes and colleges with the creation of the College Athlete Protection Guarantee (Guarantee) and the College Athlete Protection Agreement (Agreement).

The Guarantee and the Agreement were recently introduced at the National Basketball Players Association’s camp held at the University of Virginia for the top 100 rising high school senior basketball players. The Guarantee encourages these highly recruited basketball recruits and other student-athletes who are being recruited to play college sports to use their leverage to request and negotiate issues like their right to secure medical treatment and insurance beyond the years of collegiate athletic eligibility and to seek an automatic scholarship release if they decide to transfer to another university.

The Guarantee claims that student athletes can secure additional protections and benefits that could be worth over $100,000 more than minimum scholarships without breaking any NCAA rules. The Guarantee encourages transparency on protections and benefits because Huma claims coaches often break verbal promises and stated,

“Coaches themselves don’t rely on verbal promises from their college and neither should you.”

Huma further asserts, “..this will change things. This is a good place to start. It opens a Pandora’s Box.”

The Agreement, already vetted by NCAA experts according to Huma, can be used instead of the National Letter of Intent (“NLI”) or in conjunction with the NLI. The additional protections and benefits that Huma and the NCPA encourage student athletes to seek are:

  • Guaranteed multi-year scholarships that cannot be terminated
  • Summer school scholarships
  • Degree completion scholarships to provide continued financial support to complete undergraduate degrees if athletic eligibility has expired
  • Stipend and reimbursement money in excess of NCAA “full” scholarship coverage
  • Medical expense coverage for 100% of all premiums and sports-related expenses, including deductibles and copays
  • Transfer releases
  • Disability Insurance

Tom Nevius, a former NCAA associate director of enforcement, has been serving as an advisor to Huma and the NCPA suggested,

“This has a chance to be successful if you find a coach or a school who is interested in bringing in a top prospect.”

 

 

 

Visa Options For Athletes

In these days of “extreme vetting,” entering the United States as a business visitor (B visa or Visa Waiver status, with an ESTA approval) can have its hazards – especially for athletes who need to enter the United States quickly and have no time to spare. [Link to blog on extreme vetting: http://www.globalimmigrationblog.com/2017/05/state-department-proposes-supplemental-questions-for-visa-applicants/ ]

Earlier this year, three Belgian Olympians of Moroccan descent heading to the 2017 Taekwondo U.S. Open in Las Vegas had their ESTA status denied as they attempted to board a plane. [Link to article: https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/02/207237/belgian-athletes-moroccan-descent-refused-entry-united-states/ ]

In February, a Canadian-born student-athlete of Moroccan descent travelling with his team was denied entry at the Vermont border crossing. [Link to article: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/another-canadian-citizen-refused-entry-united-states-border-1.3976230 ]

Enhanced security screening is not the only issue. The Trump Administration also wants to ensure that individuals are not circumventing immigration processes and inappropriately entering in visitor status.

For a professional athlete to enter successfully as a business visitor:

  • The entry must be for a specific, limited time (up to 90 days for Visa Waiver and up to 180 days for B-1/B-2 entries);
  • The individual must have sufficient funds to cover expenses during the stay;
  • The individual must prove ties abroad and have a residence outside of the U.S. he or she has no intention of abandoning; and
  • Except in limited circumstances, the foreign national should receive no U.S. remuneration (other than reasonable expenses).

Prize money is an exception to the “no U.S. remuneration” rule. According the Foreign Affairs Manual, “professional athletes such as golfers and auto racers, who receive no salary or payment other than prize money for . . . participation in a tournament or sporting event” may enter in business visitor status. The same holds true for athletes or team members who seek to enter to compete with another sports team, provided:

  • The foreign athlete or team have their principal place of business or activity in a foreign country;
  • The income of the foreign-based team and the salary of its players are principally accrued in a foreign country; and
  • The foreign-based sports team is a member of an international sports league or the sporting activities involved have an international dimension. [Link to FAM: https://fam.state.gov/fam/09FAM/09FAM040202.html ]

An athlete also can enter as a business visitor to try out for a professional team and individuals who are a “normal and necessary component of the athlete’s entourage,” such as caddies or racing car mechanics, may enter as visitors (and continue to be paid by the athlete), as long as the individual is:

  • Customarily employed by the athlete (not just hired for the particular U.S. tournament or tour); and
  • The athlete is receiving no payment other than possible prize money.

Athletes entering the U.S. for a tournament, but who also have valuable U.S. endorsement deals, should consider applying for a P visa to avoid having the remuneration they receive for the endorsements not fit the “prize money” exception.

To qualify for a P visa, the athlete must provide proof of having an “internationally recognized reputation in the sport.”

USCIS statistics released in response to a FOIA request reveal that in 2016, the California Service Center had an 88% approval rate for P visas and the Vermont Service Center had a 90% approval rate. Both California and Vermont had about a 22% Request for Evidence rate. (Vermont Premium Processing had a slightly lower 17% rate.) In California, the after-RFE-approval rate was 46% for regular processing and 65% for premium processing. In Vermont, the after-RFE-approval rate was 28% for regular processing and 75% for premium processing.

The USCIS announced that, as of May 20, petitions for P status for beneficiaries who will be working or training in the popular training states of Florida, Georgia, or North Carolina must be filed with the California Service Center, instead of Vermont. P major league sports-related petitions, however, will continue be filed with the Vermont Service Center. [Link to USCIS announcement: https://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/new-direct-filing-addresses-l-o-and-p-nonimmigrant-petitions-beneficiaries-florida-georgia-and-north-carolina ]

For more information on how to apply for P-1 status or an other immigration questions, please reach out to your Jackson Lewis attorney.

 

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