With the recent signing of South Korean pitcher Suk-Min Yoon by the Baltimore Orioles, much of the coverage has focused around what he can do for the team’s prospects in the 2014 season. However, before he can have an impact on the mound, Yoon must first get his US work visa.
As a professional athlete, Yoon will most likely seek a P-1 visa in order to play and collect his salary in the US. P visas are specific visas reserved for international performers and athletes that allow them to live and work in the US for a specific period of time while collecting their salary. As a professional athlete who is signed on contract to a team, Yoon’s P-1 visa will be granted for up-to 5 years.
While a P-1 visa is relatively inexpensive to obtain (it costs $325 for the base fee, with expedited review costing an additional $1,225), the time it takes to prepare the petition, undergo United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) adjudicatory review, and ultimately receive the visa from a United States Embassy or Consulate can be very costly for teams and players alike. While the US government offers approximately a two-week turn-around time on expedited applications, many delays can occur, and push back the issuance date.
Here is a brief look at some of the required documents that a P visa beneficiary must submit in his petition (per Immigration and Nationality Act):
- Copies of any written contracts between the petitioner and the alien beneficiary or, if there is no written contract, a summary of the terms of the oral agreement under which the alien(s) will be employed;
- An explanation of the nature of the events or activities, the beginning and ending dates for the events or activities, and a copy of any itinerary for the events or activities; and
- A written advisory opinion from a labor organization (the corresponding union).
At this point, the major concern comes from Yoon’s physical; while Yoon’s official ‘signing’ was two days ago, the contract is technically ‘pending physical’ and not completely official. This could push back when he would be eligible to even begin the petition process. It’s unclear whether the Orioles and Yoon were able to reach an “oral agreement” for the purposes of visa filing. If not, Yoon won’t be able to apply for his visa until he passes the physical, leading to further delays.
Yoon will also need to obtain an advisory opinion from the corresponding union before filing his visa petition, in this case, the MLBPA.
With Yoon’s signing coming so close to the start of Spring Training, Yoon and the Orioles have had to find creative work-arounds. It was announced on the 14th that Yoon will be applying for his visa at the US Embassy in Canada, instead of traveling back and forth from South Korea to the US. This will save Yoon valuable commuting time and allow him to adapt to his new team quickly.
Prominent immigration attorney Jonathan Grode of Green and Spiegel, LLC thought the most likely place for Yoon to apply would be the US consulate in Toronto, Canada. As for when Yoon could expect to get his visa, Grode said, “typical processing time is about 1 month: 1 week to prepare the petition; 2 weeks to get the P-1 petition approval from the USCIS and finally, 1 week at the US Consulate.” Grode also said, “based on the urgency, I think it could get done in 2 weeks with congressional assistance.” Grode cited to the assistance New York Senator Charles Schumer provided the New York Yankees in getting Masahiro Tanaka’s visa issued before the start of spring training.
With the Presidents Day holiday closing US government offices on Monday, February 17th, Yoon may not even be able to file his petition until the middle of next week.
Yoon completed his physical in Sarasota, FL on the 14th, but the club has not yet officially announced a deal with him. According to Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun, Yoon had not yet officially passed his physical as of late Friday night, but initial reviews were positive.
While Yoon waits for his visa, he won’t be able to participate in Grapefruit League games, but he will still be able to practice with the team and play in intrasquad games.