Immigration Options For Foreign Professional Golf Caddies
As well-known golfer, broadcaster, author and golf commentator David Feherty has said about the game, “the level of competition has seen a dramatic increase which has resulted in golfers extending their training and level of play through the use of specialists in a number of fields, including athletic trainers, coaches, psychologists and professional golf caddies.” Gone are the days when a caddy would be responsible for carrying the bag of clubs and offering minimal advice only when asked. The art of caddying is now a true science requiring extensive knowledge of courses, turf, the player’s swing mechanics and his psychology. So, when a golfer forges that magical bond with the perfect caddy who completely understands these factors and how they relate to the player’s game- how does the golfer bring the caddy to the U.S. where he/she can work with the golfer?
The following is intended as a summary of the various immigration options available to caddies and other support personnel in order to allow them to assist a golfer to compete at the highest level in professional golf tournaments in the U.S. It is intended as a general discussion and is not a substitute for legal advice based upon an individual’s specific fact situation.
As a general rule, the foreign caddy or other support personnel can obtain the same status of the foreign golfer he/she is coming to assist. For instance, if the foreign golfer has a B-1 visa, the caddy may also use a B-1 visa to assist. If the foreign golfer has a P-1 visa, the caddy is eligible to obtain a P-1S (essential support) visa. If the foreign golfer is in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident or U.S. citizen, the caddy must also normally be a lawful permanent resident or U.S. citizen. A problem occurs when the golfer is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and wants to employ a foreign caddy. In such a situation, the foreign caddy simply cannot readily obtain the same status as the golfer.
One option for foreign caddies attempting to enter the United States to assist a golfer to play in professional golf tournaments is to apply for a B-1 visa. The B-1 regulations, §402.2-5(C)(4) (previously 9 FAM 41.31, N 9.4) of the Foreign Affairs Manual of the U.S. Department of State, specifically discuss golfers: “professional athletes, such as golfers and auto racers, who receive no salary or payment other than prize money, for their participation in a tournament or sporting event” may qualify for a B-1 visa. The United States Department of State has provided written verification that foreign caddies may be accorded a B-1 status if they are coming to assist a B-1 professional golfer participating in tournament play, provided the caddy can show he/she has regularly assisted the golfer in the past and that he/she will receive no fee other than compensation for expenses and a portion of the winnings, if any. Please note that this letter does not allow a caddy to use a B-1 visa to assist anyone other than a foreign golfer who is also using a B-1 visa. Golfers and caddies that use the B-1 visitor visa to enter tournaments in the U.S. usually reside abroad and only come to the U.S. sporadically to compete in specific events.
To obtain a B-1 visa, the applicant completes a generic DS-160 non-immigrant visa application with an attached photo and presents the application to the U.S. Consulate with his/her passport and some form of evidence that he/she is assisting the professional golfer, has done so in the past and will receive no fee other than compensation for expenses and a portion of the winnings, if any. In addition, it may be appropriate to provide evidence that the player is eligible to play in tournaments, along with a listing of the events in which he or she will compete (including dates and locations), plus a visa fee (which varies depending on nationality). The B-1 is normally issued promptly and can be issued for up to 10 years depending on nationality. Such a visa would give the applicant the right to enter the U.S. repeatedly during the 10-year period, while all the while being required to maintain a residence abroad.
At the time of entry to the United States, the caddy will be admitted to the U.S. in B-1 status for the length of time required to complete the events as evidenced by the tour’s letter, not to exceed six months. If the player qualifies for additional events, the caddy may file an extension application by mail with the USCIS to extend his/her stay to assist the player at such additional events.
The player should provide the caddy with a letter from the tour as evidence that the player is eligible to compete. In addition, the player should provide the caddy with a letter stating that the caddy is assisting the player currently, that he/she has regularly assisted the player in the past and that he/she is receiving no fee, other than compensation for expenses and a portion of the winnings, if any.
Caddies or other support personnel who are accompanying golfers using the ESTA Program should carry a letter from the golfer and the tour as described above.
The P-1S visa is available to foreign caddies and others to serve as “essential support personnel” to a golfer who will be competing in professional tournaments in the U.S. in P-1 status. Although the regulations require no period of previous employment with the golfer, the USCIS has recently begun asking for evidence of prior employment to show the caddy’s services are actually “essential” to the golfer. Contracts, check stubs, wire transfers or other forms of payment can be used to satisfy this new “requirement.”
The caddy may obtain P-1S status by having a P-1S visa petition filed on his/her behalf with proof that the golfer already has P-1 non-immigrant status.
The O-2 visa is available to foreign caddies and others to serve as “essential support personnel” to a golfer who will be competing in professional tournaments in the U.S. in O-1 (extraordinary ability) status. The caddy may obtain O-2 status by having an O-2 visa petition filed with the USCIS with proof that the golfer already has O-1 non-immigrant status.
Alternatives for foreign caddies seeking employment with U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent resident golfers:
Those caddies that have achieved international recognition by providing services to golfers who have also achieved international recognition can sometimes file for O-1 visas as caddies of “extraordinary ability.” Normally, they must submit evidence of their past accomplishments as well as those of golfers they have assisted, evidence of articles or books that reference the caddy or that have been written by the caddy and evidence that they have received a high salary in relation to others in their occupation. In order to qualify as a caddy of “extraordinary ability”, they must establish that they are among the very top caddies in the world.
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In conclusion, caddies and other support personnel may use all of the non-immigrant visas described herein to come to the U.S. to assist a golfer to compete in professional golf tournaments for prize money. Those who believe that they would like to remain in the U.S. for more than six months may find it advantageous to apply for a P-1S visa so that they are not repeatedly required to seek extensions if they need to remain in the U.S. beyond six months. Additionally, the P-1S visa may provide more peace of mind to the caddy by allowing him/her to remain in the U.S. for up to the same period of time as the golfer in most cases.
*Steven M. Ladik is past President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and represents numerous professional golfers on the LPGA Tour and PGA TOUR. He also serves as the outside Immigration Counsel to the National Football League. He is a Partner at Seltzer Chadwick Soefje & Ladik, PLLC. www.realclearcounsel.com