How Can An Individual Athlete Obtain A "Green Card?"


A green card is the document issued by the federal government that signifies that one has acquired lawful permanent resident status which allows the person to reside permanently in the U.S., subject to restrictions and cancellation primarily tied to criminal behavior. While one must renew the card to update it every 10 years, this is normally a formality. After 5 years as a lawful permanent resident, one can apply for U.S. citizenship (3 years if the card was obtained through marriage to a U.S. citizen).

I am often asked by individual athletes in many sports how they can obtain a green card. While they can keep renewing their temporary P-1 athlete visas for up to 5 years throughout their career, after residing in the U.S. for years and putting down roots here, many want something more secure than a temporary visa. After all, athletic careers can swing in different directions throughout a lifetime due to injury or changes to the body through the natural aging process.

The primary method by which a golfer could obtain a green card is through the filing of a petition as an athlete of “extraordinary ability” with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). It is not an easy standard to meet. The regulations state that extraordinary ability is reserved for that small percentage of individuals who have risen to the very top of their sport. I handled the first major case defining this standard, Matter of Price, in 1992. Based on the record of that case at the time, the primary appeals office of immigration found that Nick Price ranked 7th in earnings on the PGA TOUR out of over 10,000 professional golfers worldwide and over 600 professional golfers on various tours in the U.S. That put