For 23-year -old professional StarCraft video game player, Kim “ViOLet” Dong Hwan, it was a choice between entering the Korean military, or pursuing his dream of competing on a professional level in the United States. He had the skills and accomplishments to achieve P-1 status, which is typically granted to professional baseball players, soccer players, and other pro athletes. The only problem – he was competing in an e-sport, which had not been recognized as a “sport” by the U.S. government until August 2013. He was denied student visas to study English three times in 2013, causing him to forfeit three times in the World Championship Series, a $1.6 million competition that he repeatedly committed to, despite being unsure that he could actually compete.
In a previous blog article, we covered an apparent policy shift in granting P-1 visas to professional video gamers. The policy shift comes after much lobbying from Riot Games, creator of League of Legends and a promoter of e-sports tournaments. "The [League Championship Series] itself is now officially recognized as a professional sports league, just like the NBA, NFL, NHL, etc.," Riot Games spokesman Chris Kramer announced. "Pro players can now apply for a P-1A Visa in order to come to the United States."
After seven months, the 500 pages submitted as part of ViOLet’s application got the job done. On December 9, 2013, ViOLet’s application for P-1 status was finally granted because he was able to demonstrate that, like any other athlete, he was “internationally recognized” for his success playing StarCraft. P-1 status will allow him to remain in the country competing for at least the next five years.