So in addition to this whole blog thing, I moonlight as an immigration/human rights attorney. I never expected my two worlds to collide, but over the past few days, there has been not only one incident, but two – two! – that inspired this post. And you all are the lucky winners who get to hear about them.
The first incident, which I will talk about in a later post (it will make more sense then), relates to something I am sure that you all have heard about by now – Miguel Cabrera and his awesome DUI. Okay, awesome is not the right word there. I do not think that any DUI is “awesome.” I think it is a dirty crime that leaves no excuse. But I do think that when you are so wasted that you take a swig of scotch in front of a police officer and start yelling “do you know who I am?!,” while being pulled over for DUI, it is sort of maybe perhaps a little awesome. In a terrible non-promotional way, of course. But before we get to everyone’s favorite alchie, we should start with some background. And the second incident just happens to be the perfect segue.
When I got home from the office on Friday night, I saw that I had a new Facebook message from a man in Mali. I get a lot of messages like this because of my side gig. But this one, well, this one was special. It read:
Hey swetheart i want friendship with u. u do greencards? this is my number [redacted]. can u call me couse i play cricket. wuld u marry me couse i am very good athleete. can i get greencard thru cricket? thank u so nice.
I decided to answer his message here, because it ties into a larger question of immigration for athletes. I wouldn’t normally answer serious legal questions at CDTF, but I mean, they normally do not involve marriage proposals, so what the hell? Just know that all immigration cases are different – they depend on the individual facts, the country, the criminal and immigration history of the individual – and you can never generalize. So this is meant to be a humorous primer and not legal advice. If you have individual questions, contact an attorney. And in case you were wondering, “thank u so nice” was what really won me over.
Whether you play amateur cricket or Major League Baseball, there are a lot of options for athletes. In ways, I wish the government was more stringent because wouldn’t we all have been much better off if Jose Canseco had just stayed in Cuba? Regardless, you are a cricket player, and you want to come to the U.S. of A; step into my cyber-office-dugout.
Why don’t we start with you telling me pretty much everything about your life? Where you are from, if you are married and/or have kids, if you have been arrested and if so, what the hell for, how long you want to stay here, if you have ever been here before, what sport you play, what organization (if any) that you are part of, why you want to come here and for what purpose, and how good you are. Because how good you are matters. From there, we can figure out the best way to get you here.
Maybe you just need a visitor visa. B-1 visas are for professional athletes, or business visitors, who only get paid with prize money (i.e., they receive no salary or promised payment). Think individual tennis players, golfers, and racers. Teams can also qualify under this category, but their primary location must be in a foreign country, their income must be foreign, and they must participate in an international sports league or play a sport that is international at its core. Like a soccer team traveling to the United States for a tournament we are hosting. But maybe you haven’t quite made it yet; you are still an amateur and you aren’t going to be paid shit for coming here. You just want a vacay and to bang some hot chicks while playing in some lame-ass school tournament. A B-2 visa, used for visitors who are here for pleasure, may work for you.
But let’s say you are really good – like unbelievably good, in the top percentage of your field. You are so elite that one may say that you are an athlete of “extraordinary ability.” Then you can be eligible for an O-1 visa. Think big. You won the Olympics, you are an MVP, you are a captain. You need to be a big fucking deal. As an example, this could be used for Wayne Gretzky, Miguel Cabrera, Ronaldo, Steffi Graf, and Annika Sorenstam. It could also be used for a team, but every member of that team must pass the “extraordinary ability” test. Although you don’t need to keep a foreign residence, you also must intend to leave at some point. That said, the first O-1 visa can be issued for up to three years, and after that, you can renew it every year, without limit.
Maybe you are pretty good, but not extraordinarily awesome. Then there may be a P-1 visa in the cards for you. If you cannot meet the high “extraordinary ability” standard of an O-1, you could qualify for a P-1 if you are “internationally recognized” and you want to come to the United States to participate in a league or event with an elite and distinguished reputation. This could be used for any athlete across the Core Four: MLB, NFL, NHL, and NBA. All you need is a major league contract, no matter how much you suck. Ice-skaters, for whatever reason, are included here, too. The thing is, you have to prove to our government that you are going to get the hell out eventually; so you are probably going to have to keep a home abroad.
What happens if you aren’t that good? You are getting paid, but still riding the bus to games in the minor leagues? That sucks. But you could probably obtain an H-2B visa. If you cannot meet the higher standards of the O or P-visa, an H-2B would at least allow you to work here for awhile. These visas are only good for one year, or the length of one season. The COMPETE Act (Creating Opportunities for Minor League Professionals, Entertainers, and Teams through Legal Entry) of 2006 may help you, though. It expanded the P-1 category to include certain minor league athletes, but only those from legit leagues. Soccer players benefit from the COMPETE Act as well.
I was asked, however, about a green card, a.k.a. lawful permanent residence. More-or-less, the only way to get your green card as an athlete – unless you get it through something else, like marriage – is if you qualify for an EB-1 immigrant visa. These people do not need an employer or team to sponsor them, but they must be able to substantially document that they are of “extraordinary ability.” They are similar to O-1 non-immigrant visas, but they require a lot more evidence. News articles, salary, and awards can all be used to prove your awesomeness. But you have to unquestionably be the best of the best.
I assume, for example, that Miguel Cabrera has (at least) his green card. While I tried to research his immigration status, I couldn’t find anything. He was born in Venezuela and he debuted in the majors in 2003. He has been in the United States for a long time, he is of “extraordinary ability,” and he can definitely document it. If he has had his green card for five years, he may even be a citizen. But if he is not a citizen, I am really curious about the immigration consequences of his recent DUI. It is not the first time, and with “normal” people, he would most likely be in trouble. Would he be at risk for deportation? Probably not. Especially because many immigration decisions are discretionary. But that is a post for another time. Right now, we are worried about my cricket-playing potential husband.
And unfortunately, in terms of a green card, the cricket league probably won’t cut it. Unless you are “internationally recognized” or participating in the Olympics (do they even have cricket in the Olympics?), you will most likely only be eligible for a B-2 or H-2B visa, depending upon if you plan to earn money while you are here. These are not ideal by any means, because they are not lengthy and will not lead to permanent residency. At the same time, at least you can lawfully enter the United States, kick ass in some cricket matches, and check out a Yankees game while you are here. And then maybe one of those aforementioned hot chicks who you meet on vacay will marry you. Because this one won’t. Which is sad for everyone, but just the way it has to be right now. Please know that every time that I think about cricket, which is never, I will be reminded of you. I hope that you understand, and I hope that we can still be Facebook friends.