If you are a non-U.S. citizen and looking to ply your trade as a game developer in the United States, your quest may take some time, particularly if Congress remains locked in mortal combat around immigration reform. But if you are a crack gamer looking to come to the U.S. simply to cast a few spells in a competitive league, you may have just gotten lucky. Riot Games, makers of game-of-the-moment League of Legends, said this week it has successfully lobbied U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services into granting visas to competitive gamers normally reserved for professional athletes.
Nick Allen, Riot Games’s head of e-sports, the leagues organized to enable international competitive gameplay among teams, told Gamespot, “the United States government recognizes League of Legends pro players as professional athletes and award (sic) visas to essentially work in the United State under that title.”
While pro athletes competing in traditional, or what Allen calls “analog” sports, such as baseball or soccer, foreign participants in multiplayer game tournaments have often had a difficult time getting into and staying the US with standard work permits. Riot says the new classification will come in time to allow teams into the US for its upcoming World Championships in Los Angeles in October. Athletes currently qualify under either O-1 visas, which also cover businesspeople and others who can be proven to bring something unique to their field of endeavor, orP-1 visas, which cover pro sports athletes and teams, and would seem to be the more likely category for classification of pro gamers.