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Helpful Guidance for Brazilian Jiujitsu and MMA Athletes/Coaches Seeking Green Cards

Although not precedential, a very important decision regarding athletic extraordinary ability cases was recently issued that may provide further guidance to athletes making a career transition from competitor to coach. The case was decided by the Administrative Appeals Office of USCIS and titled Matter of K-S-Y. In the appeal, the petitioner was a judo expert seeking approval of an employment-based application (EB-1) as an individual of extraordinary ability. The Texas Service Center denied the I-140 petition, concluding that the petitioner had not submitted sufficient proof of his ability. On appeal, the petitioner contended that USCIS erred in not finding the evidence satisfactory. The AAU reversed and found for the Petitioner.

This case is instructive because it illuminates a unique issue in the area of sports-based applications where the applicant has transitioned from active competitor to coach. Up to now, there has not been much guidance or even many cases that delve into this scenario and the type of complications it presents. Unlike a conventional case where the applicant has maintained a consistent record of competing and will continue to compete, the athlete in this scenario may not be intending to compete as much instruct younger athletes in the field. The issue then becomes whether the applicant has demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence that he/she is coming to the US to continue to work in the area of extraordinary ability, which is the second prong which must be met after the applicant has demonstrated extraordinary ability in the field. This can be extraordinarily troublesome for many adjudicators because an applicant's extraordinary credentials as an athlete do not necessarily establish that he/she is an extraordinary coach, or that one's area of expertise can properly encompass both competition and coaching. In the case at hand, the applicant was an Olympic Judo athlete who last competed in 2013 and subsequently began training younger athletes and intended to open a judo academy.

The AAU, citing the Adjudicator's Field Manual ("AFM"), found that he did demonstrate coaching to be within his area of expertise. It based its decision on the notion that "coaching is within an athlete's area of expertise under section 203(b)(1)(A)(ii) of the Act if 1) the individual's national or international athletic acclaim was recent, and 2) he or she sustained that acclaim upon transition to coaching at a national level."

Again, while not binding, this decision is nevertheless instructive in how the AAU views these particular cases. It is especially relevant to those individual athletes in Mixed Martial Arts and traditional arts with sportive aspects such as Judo or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. For more information on how to qualify for permanent residence as an extraordinary athlete in MMA or Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, contact our office to schedule a consultation with Attorney Paris Lee. Mr. Lee has over 17 years experience as an immigration attorney, and equally as important, holds a Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu under Renzo and Rolles Gracie. As such, he is intimately acquainted with the art like few others and uniquely qualified to spot and handle complicated issues that ordinarily arise with these types of cases.

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    • Client Distinction Award | 2016 Martindale-Hubbell Client Distinction Award
    • New Jersey State Bar Association | Paris Lee Chair - Immigration Section 2015-2016
    • Nationally Recognized | Newsweek Nationwide Showcase | Top Attorneys 2013
    • New Jersey Chapter | American Immigration Lawyers Association | Angie Garasia | Chapter Chair 2015-2016
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Lee & Garasia, LLC
190 State Route 27
Edison, NJ 08820

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