The Fair Pay to Play Act, California SB 206, would allow college-level student-athletes in California to market their name, image, and likeness without affecting their amateur status. How may the new law, which is in the final phases of approval, affect international student-athletes?

Foreign students enter the United States on F-1 student visas. The terms of this type of visa drastically restrict the ability of each individual to earn money while studying in the United States as an international student.

The F-1 visa is a non-immigrant student visa that allows foreign-born individuals to pursue academic studies in the United States. International students must meet the following criteria in order to qualify:

  • The student must be enrolled in an “academic educational program”
  • The specific school must be approved by the Student and Exchange Visitors Program, which is administered by Immigration & Customs Enforcement
  • The student must be enrolled as a full-time student at the proposed school
  • The student must be proficient in English or enrolled in courses leading to English proficiency
  • The student must have sufficient funds to be able to support themselves during the entire length of their proposed course of study and stay in the United States.
  • The student must maintain a residence abroad that the student has no intention of abandoning
  • The F-1 student cannot work, except in specific circumstances regulated under federal law

The terms of the F-1 visa restrict the student from working off-campus during their first academic year.

F-1 students may engage only in three types of off-campus employment: Curricular Practical Training, Optional Practical Training, and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Optional Practical Training Extension. All off-campus employment for F-1 students must be related to their area of study and authorized by the Designated School Official before starting any work. An F-1 visa does not authorize any other type of work activity and clearly does not authorize international student-athletes to enter into endorsement agreements to secure remuneration for their name, image, and likeness.

In fact, an international student found to have been working illegally while on an F-1 visa is deemed to have committed a serious violation of the regulations and could result in the student being deported.

The proposed California legislation authorizes student-athletes at all 24 California public and private colleges and universities to market their name, image, and likeness and restricts the ability of the NCAA to prevent student-athletes from participating in any such marketing opportunities.

SB 206 fails to address the predicament of the international student-athlete.

How will the hundreds of international student-athletes participating on California colleges and universities teams benefit from the new legislation? Will the California legislature address this apparent loophole that would restrict an international student-athlete from benefiting from the value of their name, image, and likeness before the bill can be signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom?

Jackson Lewis’ Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group is prepared to counsel colleges and universities on any of the issues that may arise if the SB 206 becomes law. The Practice Group will continue to monitor the status of this proposed legislation and similar legislation that has been introduced around the country. Please feel free to reach out to any member of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group with questions.

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Photo of Gregg E. Clifton Gregg E. Clifton

Gregg E. Clifton is a Principal in the Phoenix, Arizona, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group and serves as the editor of the firm’s sports law blog.

Mr. Clifton has extensive experience in…

Gregg E. Clifton is a Principal in the Phoenix, Arizona, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group and serves as the editor of the firm’s sports law blog.

Mr. Clifton has extensive experience in the collegiate and professional sports world. He has advised numerous professional franchises on general labor and employment issues, including Title III ADA regulatory compliance and wage and hour issues. He serves as lead counsel for several Major League Baseball teams in their salary arbitration matters and has represented NCAA and NAIA collegiate clients regarding rules compliance, investigatory matters and in disciplinary hearings. In addition, he has handled Title IX investigations and compliance issues for NCAA and NAIA member institutions. Mr. Clifton has also worked extensively in the area of agent regulation and enforcement in professional and college sports and regularly provides counsel on issues relating to NCAA and NAIA amateurism issues and athlete eligibility questions. He has also served as an expert witness in matters involving sports agents’ work and responsibilities, as well as athlete compensation issues.

Prior to joining Jackson Lewis, he spent six years as Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Team Sports for Gaylord Sports Management. He also served as President of the Athlete and Entertainment Division for famed sports attorney Bob Woolf’s firm, Woolf Associates, in Boston.

Mr. Clifton began his career as an Associate at Jackson Lewis where he focused his practice on traditional labor law. He continues to counsel clients in the areas of collective bargaining negotiations, representation cases, arbitrations and National Labor Relations Board matters.

Mr. Clifton frequently serves as an expert speaker to law schools, including Harvard University, Boston College, Hofstra University and Arizona State University, and bar associations regarding sports law issues, including agent regulation and salary arbitration. He is also often cited as an expert source in national news media for his commentary and opinion on legal issues in sports.