The Morning Skate Memo #2: The Tryout Visa

Last time, we had whiskey and talked about how NHL teams and affiliates are pretty much guaranteed visas for their athletes and staff. 

Today, we will have whiskey and wonder how unsigned non-American hockey players can legally try out for an American pro hockey team.

The Morning Skate Bar is serving whiskey at an unprecedented rate.

Disclaimers: the sun is definitely still up, but it’s a P.M. hour in New Orleans, so alcohol is acceptable. Don’t judge me. I’m a lawyer, but this isn’t legal advice (but if you want some, feel free to pay me).

What’s the key difference between a work visa and a tryout visa? If you are not signed to a professional contract, you need a B-1 visitor visa because you are not yet employed by an American company.

From Federal Prospects League hopefuls to the elites invited to an NHL camp, unsigned pro hockey prospects all use the B-1/B-2 visitor visa. To apply, you have to show that you’re visiting the U.S. “for business of a legitimate nature,” prove you can cover the cost of your trip, and don’t intend to abandon your residence. If approved, you get a B-1/B-2 visa for 1-6 months.

HOWEVER, some countries have a visa waiver agreement with the United States. This allows tourism or business travel for up to 90 days (if you’re on the list). Countries on the international hockey scene are well-represented: Canada, Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Sweden, and the U.K.

There is one major hockey country that is conspicuously missing. I think we know which hockey powerhouse that is.

Sorry Putin.

So basically just Russian hockey players would have to secure a B-1 visa to try out for a pro hockey team in the U.S. (also Belarussian, Chinese, and Khazak players). However, the Visa Waiver Program only allows 90 days of travel — so if you wanted to stay longer than 90 days, you’d also need a B-1. 

Once you make a team and get signed, you need a P-1 or other work visa (like an H-1B) immediately. Teams can expedite the visa process for $1,225. (Just a friendly reminder that I am available for legal work, folks.)

Fed and SPHL prospects can start with a B-1 visa (or register your passport with ESTA if you’re exempt), but need an H1-B visa if they make a team. I’ll talk about the H1-B another time!


-Puckraker, TMS Bar Association

Author: Puckraker

Puckraker grew up skating and retired after a Tier III NYS tournament appearance with the Great Neck Bruins. These days, Puckraker is a lawyer living the dream from New Orleans, where there are no hockey rinks.

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