After a petition linked to William "Leffen" Hjelte's denial of a US P-1 visa hit 100,000 signatures, the US government has issued a statement on whether or not eSports players are considered athletes.
Earlier in the year the Free Leffen campaign was started in an attempt to help secure Leffen, a top Super Smash Bros. Melee player, a US P-1 athletic visa so he could once again compete in tournaments based in America. Part of the campaign involved a petition to get the US government to recognise all eSports players as athletes so there would be fewer visa issues in the future. The petition hit 100,000 signatures meaning a response from the White House would be coming soon.
Today that responds hit, and it was somewhat underwhelming. The statement clarified that eSports players can, and often do, receive P-1 visas and that there is no policy that says eSports are not a sport.
According to USCIS, the agency responsible for processing P-1 visa applications, there is no current policy categorically precluding an eSport from being recognized as a qualifying athletic competition,” said the official statement. In fact, USCIS has approved P-1 visa petitions for athletes seeking to enter the United States to compete in eSport events.”
Leffen was granted his P-1 visa shortly after the petition was started and is set to make his US return at EVO.