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The Unexpected Results of the College Athlete Employment Fight for F-1 Student Visa Holders

Posted by Hugo R. Valverde, Managing Attorney, and Anna D. Colby, Attorney Social Media Marketing Manager | Apr 01, 2024 | 0 Comments

Photo by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash

It's hard to think about every possible consequence when you're in the middle of a long and hard-fought struggle for rights, but often when there are many people involved, some things can still get overlooked. 

It's no secret that in the United States college sports, especially football and basketball, are almost as popular as the professional sports they lead to. College athletes often end up becoming their own kind of celebrities - with their image and likeness being publicized all over national television, advertisements for the universities they play for, officially licensed jerseys with their names, and even inclusion in video games! 

Because of the massive amount of advertising that their playing does for their universities, college athletes feel like they should be able to benefit economically. Currently college athletes are not paid by universities, and it was only a couple years ago that a Supreme Court case paved the way for college athletes to make money through obtaining agents, company endorsements, and other publicizing avenues. 

A few days ago the Dartmouth College basketball team voted to become the first union in college sports, and now the possibility of college athletes being considered employees of their universities may become the new reality. 

While being considered a unionized employee could provide a lot of protections for college athletes, about 20,000 college athletes in the U.S. are international students, and the majority of them are on an F-1 student visa, which severely limits employment. Unless the laws governing USCIS change, if college athletes become employees of their universities, international players will be ineligible for F-1 visas. 

Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Representative Lori Trahan (D-Mass.) have introduced legislation that would allow international students to sign the same deals as American college athletes and not have their F-1 student visa affected, even if college athletes are classified as university employees, but so far the proposed legislation has not moved forward in Congress. 

Although nothing so far has been announced to assist international college athletes during this anticipated transition, USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) is aware of the situation and states that the agency is “actively engaged in discussions on this topic.” 

What do you think about the possibility of college athletes becoming employees? Do you know any international students that this would affect? Let us know in the comments below!

If you have questions about obtaining immigration assistance please reach out to us at (757) 422-8472, or send us a message on our website. You can also schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys by clicking on this link.

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