Petition Requests Visas for eSports Players



ESPN logoAre eSports a “legitimate” sport? This question has been argued on social media ever since ESPN began including eSports events on its channel. You can tune in to watch teams of people compete against each other in video games like League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm, or Hearthstone on the same channel that brings you baseball, soccer, and other traditional sports.

There is a petition on We The People (the White House’s petition website) that is asking the United States government to recognize all eSports as “legitimate” sports. The goal of the petition is not simply to win the “Twitter war” about whether or not eSports is are valid as basketball. The petition is also asking for international eSports players to be able to get a permit that allows them to compete in the United States.

The petition is called: “The USCIS Should Recognize All Esports As “Legitimate” Sports So International Players Can Come to the US on P1 Visas”. The USCIS the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. The petition says:

This petition arises from an ongoing situation regarding one of the best Super Smash Bros. Melee players in the world, William “Leffen” Hjelte. In 2015, Mr. Hjelte was deported from the United States because he was sponsored by an American company while using a tourist visa, when he needed a work visa. After applying for a P1 Visa, which is what professional athletes use to come to the US, he was denied due to Super Smash Bros. Melee not being recognized as a “legitimate” sport. Competitors in other eSports, such as League of Legends, have been approved for P1 Visas in order to travel to the US and compete. Given the precedent set with League of Legends, other eSports should be considered “legitimate” sports in order to let players come and compete in the United States.

There are two types of P1 visas. I’m going to assume the petitioner is thinking of the P 1A which is for internationally recognized athletes. It is for a person who is “coming to the US temporarily to perform at a specific athletic competition as an athlete, individually or as part of a group or team, at an internationally recognized level of performance.”

The petition must get 49,667 signatures before May 29, 2016, in order to receive a response from the White House. A response does not guarantee that the petition will be granted or acted upon. At the time I am writing this blog, the petition has 50,333 signatures.