The first TI6 visas complications have surfaced in Southeast Asia. Two weeks before The International 6 and less than that before the teams actually need to arrive in Seattle for the Wild Card and group stage series, the two Filipino teams TnC Gaming and Execration are on very thin ice, after having their US visas rejected.
The managers of the two Southeast Asian teams have told Esports Inquirer that they were advised by the US Embassy to apply for P1 Athletes visas instead of B1/B2 visas (Business-Tourist). Reportedly, Execration had applied for US TI6 visas on July 8th, while TnC started the visa application procedures a couple of days ago, on July 15th. According to the two teams, they initially applied for B1/B2 visas under Valve’s advisement.
The two teams are currently receiving guidance from Valve and Senator Bam Aquino (the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce, and Entrepreneurship and the Senate Committee on Youth, in the Philippines), a self admitted Dota 2 fan, who helped Team Rave with their visa complications on several occasions, last year.
Arvin Risos, the manager and owner of Execration, has told Esports Inquirer:
It has been an emotional roller-coaster ride for us, this is actually turning out to be harder than the qualifiers. It has been the dream of our team to qualify for The International 6 since TI1 and now that it finally happened, we’re facing these visa issues and it’s emotionally exhausting, to be honest. We are thankful to Senator Bam and Valve for helping us out throughout this process. Hopefully, somehow, someway we will get our visas in time for the event.
Their situation is not final, and there is still some hope left, although obtaining United States P1 Athletes visas is usually a lengthy process.
A precedent was set on July 7th, when compLexity Gaming managed to secure the first Dota 2 P1 Athletes visas for their three Swedish players – Rasmus “Chessie” Blomdin, Linus “Limmp” Blomdin and Simon “Handsken” Haag.
TI6 visas: P-1A Internationally Recognized Athlete
The P1 Athletes visas gained much attention, recently. In May, an official petition was filed with the US White House, requesting a policy change allowing international competitors ease in obtaining visas.
The required 100,000 signatures were obtained and submitted, asking that the White House review and revise P1 Athletes visas to include the recognition of esports competitors.
P1 Athletes visas apply to athletes who “are coming to the US temporarily to perform at a specific athletic competition as an athlete, individually or as part of a group or team, at an internationally recognized level of performance”.
However, according to the proponents of the petition, “esports players are often denied these visas because they’re deemed to not meet P1 Athletes standards. Adding esports to the category would make it much easier for a foreign competitor to meet the standards of the visa”.
In June, The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) declined to make any changes to the process.
The White House’s official response stated that the current policy and process did not prohibit players from receiving P1 Athletes visas:
According to USCIS, the agency responsible for processing P-1 visa applications, there is no current policy categorically precluding esports from being recognized as a qualifying athletic competition. In fact, USCIS has approved P1 visa petitions for athletes seeking to enter the United States to compete in esports events.
Dota 2 visa issues over the years
The visa application process and its outcome weighs heavily on teams traveling to Seattle, for The International. The lack of legal sanctioning can definitely end up taking its toll on players and fans alike.
TnC Gaming and Execration are the first – and hopefully only – teams to experience issues with their TI6 visas. Last year, after an onslaught of visa denials right before The International 5, Valve reached out to US Senator Maria Cantwell and asked for help providing assistance to struggling teams.
Akbar “Sonneiko” Butaev’s US visa was denied for three times, last year, right before The International 5. The support player managed to get approval during his fourth appointment at the US Embassy.
Chinese team EHOME faced the same situation, last year, when Chen “Cty” Tianyu got his US visa request denied before The International 5. At that time, LGD’s Business Development Consultant, Orrin Xu, reported that the US Embassy “completely disregarded Valve’s invitation letter”.
TI5 Wild Card contenders, Vega Squadron, went through the same struggles, when Semion “CemaTheSlayeR” Krivulya’s visa application was denied twice. CemaTheSlayeR faced the same situation once again, when he was forced to stay behind in Moscow and arrive later in Frankfurt for the first Dota 2 Major, due to visa complications.
Before The International 5, Team Empire managed to secure a US visa for Maxim “yoky” Kim after two failed attempts. According to the organization, Yoky’s visa application was successful thanks to supporting documentation from an article written by US sports broadcasting giant ESPN, referring to the team’s situation of playing without one of their members due to visa issues. The road to approval was long and arduous for the CIS team. Throughout 2015, they faced obstacles and challenges one after another in relation to obtaining visas. They were forced to enlist the help of Gleb “Funn1k” Lipatnikov to stand in at the MLG Pro League Championships, when Maxim “Yoky” Kim had his US visa denied for a second time. Team Empire’s success as MLG Columbus Pro League Champions had earned them a direct invite to the MLG Pro League held in partnership with ESPN X-Games in June, but the team was forced to withdraw due to visa issues.
In 2015, Ilya “lil-_-HarRDy” Ilyuk – who was on Virtus.Pro at the time – was unable to obtain a visa for the Dota 2 League Season 5 LAN finals in Las Vegas.
The same year, Jio “Jeyo” Madayag stood in for Mineski at The Summit 4, in Los Angeles. Jeyo replaced Ryan Jay “Bimbo” Qui, who was unable to secure his US visa.
Southeast Asian team Rave had a string of unfortunate visa issues, last year. The Filipino team was forced to withdraw from StarSeries Season XII, in order to secure their visas for MLG Columbus. Ironically, they could not obtain the visas on time and were forced to withdraw from that tournament as well. After additional issues regarding their “employment” in South Korea, the team received national media attention and the backing of a senator. Their story had a happy ending, as they eventually managed to get visas for The Summit 3 in LA.
Invictus Gaming’s arrival to Bucharest, Romania, for the StarSeries XII DreamHack Bucharest 2015 LAN finals was delayed after the team was held up at the Frankfurt Airport due to Schengen visa issues. Frankurt airport police had detained Wong “ChuaN” Hock Chuan for twelve hours. The team was delayed and arrived in Romania minutes before they had to compete.
HellRaisers had to seek a stand-in for the Red Bull Battle Grounds in Santa Monica, California, after Artyom “Artes” Gorobey’s visa was denied. This unfortunate event was even more painful, as HR had already withdrawn from the D2CL playoffs, in order to have time to work on their visas for Red Bull Battle Grounds 2015.
Vega Squadron earned the third and last European spot for the MLG Pro League Season 2 LAN finals on May 19th, 2015, when they took down London Conspiracy, 2:0, in the qualifier finals. However, the CIS squad was left with too little time to secure their US visas and were therefore forced to withdraw from the event.
In 2014, Armand “bOne7” Pittner was denied his US visa for the Monster Energy Invitational in Austin, Texas. Cloud 9 hired an immigration lawyer to secure his visa for The International 4.
Four out of five players from the SEA team Arrow Gaming were denied their visas to attend TI4. The team benefited from additional supporting documents provided by Valve and backing from Malaysia’s Minister of Youth and Sports, and managed to get their visas in the end.
The entire Chinese team CIS, except for Dominik “Black^” Reitmeier who holds a German passport, were denied their visa applications during an interview with the US embassy, in 2014. They later appealed the decision and gained approval.
While on the Mousesports roster, Alexandru “ComeWithMe” Crăciunescu was denied his US visa and replaced by Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi for The International 2012.