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Will Congress End The Ability Of Our Greatest Athletes To Immigrate?

While most of us are aware of the turmoil that has been taking place on our southern border, few are aware that Congress is quietly moving forward with a plan that would force athletes of extraordinary ability to wait over 15 years to obtain “green cards” to remain in the U.S.

In July, the House of Representatives passed HR 1044, strangely named “Fairness for High Skilled Immigration Act.” It now awaits Senate action under S. 386 where there have been no hearings and it enjoys widespread bipartisan support.

In order to understand the problem with S. 386, you must first understand how current law regulates immigration to the U.S. through “per country caps” where no one country can send more than 7,000 immigrants to the U.S. in any given year. Unfortunately for Indian nationals, there are over 500,000 would be Indian immigrants caught in an ever-growing backlog that now forces them to wait over 10 years for their residency. S. 386 would end these “per country caps” and, after a transition period, allow Indians to use virtually all available visas every year for at least a decade when they would have substantially reduced their backlog. Since the tech companies employ a disproportionate number of Indian nationals, they are highly supportive of this legislation.

What does this mean for the best foreign athletes and entertainers in the U.S. who would like to remain in the U.S. after their career is over? It means they are out of luck! As I said, it would take at least 10 years until October 2029 when visas would become available for non-Indian nationals. After that, if an athlete or entertainer of extraordinary ability wishes to immigrate, projections on availability of visas coupled with projected demand, indicate to experts that these athletes and entertainers would be subject an additional 5.4 year wait before they could obtain residency. Many athletes do not have careers that last 10, much less 15 years. These individuals would be forced to leave the U.S. and return to their home countries.

Those athletes or entertainers who are merely “exceptional”, as opposed to extraordinary, would be subject to an additional 17 year wait after October 2029! That would be impossible in 99% of cases for athlete green cards. Is this the way we want our immigration laws to work? Foreign born athletes and entertainers come to us from all over the world. Think of baseball, hockey, soccer, golf and music, among other fields. These individuals come to the U.S. and provide years of entertainment to our citizens through their play and performance in our sports and arts. The tech companies now seem content to restrict immigration primarily to their Indian employees and it is plainly not fair to these athletes and entertainers. If you are employed in a sport or entertainment field that has foreign born superstars, you should immediately contact your Congressional representatives to express your strong disapproval of this legislation.

*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.

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