Athlete & Team Immigration

For many international athletes, competing in the United States or Canada can mark the pinnacle of their careers. And important qualifying trials for the Olympics or world championships are often held in North America, as are many major tournaments. To enter the United States, either as individuals or as part of a team, foreign national athletes must secure an O or P visa. Dickinson Wright is known globally as a go-to immigration firm for world-class international athletes and teams, as well as for the domestic organizations sponsoring their visas. We have served as trusted counsel to many well-known international athletes for their entire careers, and our clients have come to rely on our guidance through what can be a very stressful process.

With immigration lawyers in 18 offices across North America, the Dickinson Wright team offers deep experience in this area. We have been successfully securing O and P visas for many years, and we understand what is needed for an application to have the best chance of success. Our lawyers work with foreign athletes to best position their “extraordinary abilities” to meet the specific and rigorous requirements for approval. We also continue our relationships with clients and sponsors after they are admitted, helping them to maintain continuous legal immigration status.

Our work in this area includes:

• Advising foreign national athletes and teams on the requirements, classifications, and process for obtaining O and P visas.
• Representing sponsoring organizations and entities.
• Advising visa holders on maintaining legal status once admitted.


Athletes, Coaches and Sports Teams Coming to Canada

Dickinson Wright’s Canadian immigration law department has worked with many foreign athletes, coaches and others involved in professional and amateur sports to obtain the appropriate status to allow them to work in Canada.

A great many activities associated with professional and amateur sports are specifically exempted from the need for a work permit, most notably foreign teams, athletes and coaches coming to participate in a sports event in Canada, rodeo contestants and professional wrestlers. For other types of activities, a work permit will be required. We work with our clients to determine the most cost-effective and least time-consuming methods for them to apply to enter Canada, whether by way of exemptions to work permits, exemptions from the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process, or otherwise. We are well-versed in ensuring that applications for work permits are structured to demonstrate the satisfaction of the criteria necessary to qualify for work permits exempt from the LMIA process. This advice is vital to clients, as the costs and time associated with an LMIA work permit are considerably greater than is the case for an LMIA-exempt work permit.

As well, we have considerable experience in how to best present the qualifications of athletes, coaches and individuals associated with teams so as to satisfy the authorities that they meet the standards required for the issue of “significant benefit” work permits, issued to those who create or maintain significant cultural, social, or economic benefits or opportunities for Canadians. We will help ensure that no details are left out of any such applications.

Sometime, complications can arise in particular cases. A person may be inadmissible to Canada due to a past criminal conviction – even convictions that would be considered minor in the person’s home jurisdiction may result in a bar from entry into Canada. In such situations, we can apply our wealth of experience to advise clients on how to overcome inadmissibility, and that advice will often make the difference between smooth entry on the one hand, and being turned away from Canada at a crucial time on the other.

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