Player visas aren’t typically something you’d think would be an issue in the world of video games. But it’s becoming an increasing problem within esports, particularly when it comes to players from certain countries. After all, video games is their living — but to the US government, that’s not a legitimate career.
Riot Games and League of Legends got around this quirk by getting approval for P1 visas. But the wider esports community has been lobbying to have video games recognised more broadly so athlete visas can be issued to all types of professional gamers. And now, the White House will have to respond.
To get a response from the White House for a petition, you need 100,000 signatures. The system launched in 2011 to allow common citizens to have their causes heard by the upper echelons of the United States government, although not all of those causes raised in the last five years have been entirely legitimate — like spurring on the economy by building a Death Star.
But the petition to have esports legitimised in the eyes of the White House is a touch more serious. There’s precedent too: by granting a P1 visa to Canadian League of Legends player Danny “Shiphtur” Le in 2013, the United States surpassed the first barrier preventing immigration from recognising professional gamers as athletes.
Note that granting visas to video gamers wouldn’t be tantamount to saying esports were in the same category as real sports. It would merely result in the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) grouping professional gamers in the same category as “individual or team athletes, or members of an entertainment group that are internationally recognised”. And it might make more sense to group professional gamers under the same banner as entertainers anyway, considering the global exposure gained from being a star in an online community.
Either way, now that the community has raised more than 100,000 signatures the White House is going to have to officially respond on the immigration status of esports. It doesn’t mean that the legal status of players will change or that any decision will be made, and the bitter nature of the current political campaign could mean that nothing ends up happening.
But we’ll hear something from the current administration, and if the White House Petitions tracker is any guide it shouldn’t take too long.