Limits on P-1 Visas for Cuban Baseball Players

As 2014 spring training approaches and the number of Cuban players signing with major league clubs appears to be trending up, teams and agents should keep in mind that P-1 visa stamps for Cuban players issued at the US Embassies and Consulates continue to be valid for only three months and for a single entry into the US.

The limitations on validity and entry on P-1 visas are applicable to all Cubans under the current State Department Reciprocity Schedule for Cuba in the Foreign Affairs Manual – “(t)he validity of (P-1) visas may not exceed the period of validity of the approved petition or the number of months shown, whichever is less.”  Although we have suggested that consular officials should have discretion to issue visas with more generous limitations in compelling circumstances, consular posts appear unwilling to do so.

Impact on Travel to Toronto

Travel to Toronto for away games against the Blue Jays for Cuban players holding P-1 visa status is problematic.  After arriving in the US for spring training they no longer have a valid visa with which to return to the US from subsequent international travel and must apply for a new P-1 visa at the US Consulate in Toronto if accompanying their team on a road trip to Canada – assuming that they are even permitted entry by Canadian border officials.

We have been advised by US consular officials in Toronto for the past few years that it is no longer possible to obtain a visa by filing documents in advance since they are not permitted to request the necessary security clearances for Cuban citizens until the applicant appears in person and is fingerprinted.  The clearance process (“administrative processing”) can take several days or as long as two or three weeks and there is no way of predicting in advance how long it will take in any given case.  For that reason, clubs generally decide that it is safer to leave the Cuban player behind during road trips to Canada rather than risk having him miss more games back in the States while waiting while waiting in Toronto for the visa process to be completed.

 

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