A month ago, Riot Games said it had gotten the US government to include eSports contestants under the visa policy that allows professional athletes from other countries to visit for purposes of competition. The first such visa has been awarded, to a Canadian League of Legends star.
Danny "Shiphtur" Le, of Edmonton, got the visa, reports the Los Angeles Times, to come to southern California to train for October's world championships, to be held in Los Angeles. The visa he holds is a P-1A, the one set aside for "internationally recognised athletes" according to a spokesman for the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Each case will be evaluated individually, he told the Times.
Yes, Canadian visitors are generally allowed to enter the US directly from Canada without a visa and stay for up to six months. Why did Shiphtur need a visa, then? While pro gamers may come to the US as a business gamer, play in a competition and leave with any prize money they earn, they cannot earn a salary while they're here. That's what Le is doing as he trains.
Of course, a government policy equating video game players with professional athletes arched eyebrows and drew a lot of sneers when it was first announced, but this sort of thing appears to be with us for good. Everyone's favourite bizarro animation shop Next Media Animation, as usual, took great delight in the reaction, whipping together that video above with Shiphtur trashing traditional sports and laying waste to the Olympics. Enjoy.
Online game League of Legends star gets US visa as pro athlete [Los Angeles Times]