How Will the U.S. Visa Ruling Impact eSports?

Team Dignitas’ Crumbzz talks about being considered a professional athlete by the U.S. Government.
The U.S. Visa change is good, say progamers.
By Taylor Cocke

For a player who competes in Southern California, Alberto “Crumbzz” Rengifo’s citizenship was often a problem. Born in Venezuela, and now living in Vancouver, Canada, he couldn’t stay in the United States for extended periods of time due to international immigration laws, forcing him to go back to Vancouver in between matches.

Alberto “Crumbzz” Rengifo is one of the best junglers in the world, and a starting member of Team Dignitas, who are currently tied for third place in the League of Legends Championship Series.

“Previously, gamers had to get celebrity visas, which are much more expensive and tedious to get. Not every gamer has a massive following and can get away with a celebrity visa,” he told Red Bull eSports.

Before acquiring the visa I entered the country regularly on intervals ranging from weekly to monthly, but there was a limit of days I could stay in the U.S., this resulted in excess traveling which can prove to be tiring.

That constant traveling was the norm for non-American players up until a couple of weeks ago. Thanks to a recent ruling by the United States government, professional gamers are now able to get the same visas - called the P1 visa - that professional athletes receive to play in the States.

Crumbzz ©

P1 visas aren’t exactly easy to come by. The U.S. reserves them specifically for major league players, meaning those who play in the so-called “minor leagues” are not eligible. That means no amateurs players hoping to make money from some of the less-than-official tournaments. The government requires:

A high level of achievement in a field evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered, to the extent that such achievement is renowned, leading, or well-known in more than one country.

While foreign LCS players are the currently the most affected by the policy changes due to the league’s weekly games, the new precedent will extend to pros in StarCraft 2, Dota 2, and others. They simply must prove that they’re competing at a major league level. And for some players, like Crumbzz, who have made the move to gaming in a full-time capacity.

The seemingly never-ending growth of professional gaming leagues will only help more and more players make the jump into gaming full-time. Between Riot’s League of Legends Championship Series, Major League Gaming, and the recently Blizzard’s newly purchased IGN Pro League. The legitimacy provided by the regularity of tournaments and high-level sponsors will only make it easier for pro-level players to gain entry to the States.

According to Crumbzz, that will only help everyone. “Now everyone that is involved in the game at a competitive level has the opportunity to participate in it and fully commit to their passion without having to worry about how long they can stay inside the country. It makes me ecstatic that gaming has finally gained the recognition it deserves as a sport and as hopefully a viable career path for those who are told gaming gets you nowhere.”

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