Riot Games, creator of the game League of Legends, successfully campaigned the United States Immigration and Citizenship Services for recognition of the game as a professional sport. Players of the game can now be awarded P-1 visas for “individual athletes,” the same visas in the U.S. as professional athletes.
The move has been described as “groundbreaking,” and presumably sets a precedence for other e-sport players and professional gamers to receive similar visa treatment. “This is a watershed moment,” stated eSport VP Dustin Beck. “It validates e-sports as a sport. Now we have the same designation as the NBA or NHL or other professional sports leagues.”
The move essentially allows the United States to issue visas to international players to come to the U.S. and join American League of Legends teams—as Beck described, “like David Beckham coming to LA Galaxy.” The process was contingent upon Riot Games proving that League of Legends can provide individuals with the opportunity to make a professional living playing the game.
“A lot of people have been dismissive of it because they don’t understand the scope of this,” explained Beck. “Our viewership numbers are stronger than 80 or 90 percent of the sports covered on ESPN.” League of Legends currently has over 40 million players worldwide.
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The first beneficiary of the new visa policy was Canadian player Danny “Shiphtur” Le, who was unable to compete in the spring due to problems with his work permit.