Charlotte, NC — The Law Offices of Sherrod Seward PLLC, dba Sherrod Sports Visas, today announced that after the filing of a complaint against officials of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and Department of Homeland Security for denying a P-1 visa to a professional combat sports athlete, the USCIS and DOH reopened the case and immediately reversed its decision, approving the visa.
“After years of contending with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ inconsistent practice to deny or approve visas to sports agencies attempting to serve as a P-1 visa sponsor of professional athletes seeking top competition in the U.S., I finally came across the perfect client and the perfect case to hold the USCIS accountable,” said Seward. “The USCIS decision to reopen this case and approve this visa is a big win for international athletes and, as a public record, is a valuable resource for the sports management industry.”
Attorney Seward is one of the national leaders in visa applications for athletes that compete in combat sports. In the last few years, he has observed the USCIS steadily growing more inconsistent in adjudicating the P-1 visa itinerary portion, which is a section where the athlete must prove that he or she will be competing in events that require the participation of internationally -recognized athletes.
Among the inconsistencies was a USCIS request for names of the athlete’s opponents, along with a complete list of event dates and locations for the full validity date of the P-1 visa, which can be up to five years. This is not a feasible request of any major sports organizations in the U.S., including the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, UFC, etc.
Despite Seward’s effort to adjust application templates, arguments, and supporting evidence to educate the USCIS and DOH in how the combat sports industry operates, USCIS officers continued to ask for evidence that is impossible to provide or that is not requested of athletes in other sports.
“For the USCIS to ask a fighter to list the names of his or her opponents for the next three to five years is not possible, said Seward. “Furthermore, the USCIS does not ask athletes in other sports categories to provide this evidence.”
On March 22, 2022, The USCIS denied a petition for a P-1 visa that Seward had filed a month previously for a client, due to insufficient evidence of standard of proof that the athlete would be participating in events. Therefore the USCIS labeled the proposed employment as “speculative”.
On May 25, 2022, Seward filed a Complaint for Indeclaratory and Injunctive Relief against the USCIS and DOH. His client and the Plaintiff, a full-service Miami-based athlete management company, First Round Management (FRM), named in the petition as “U.S. Agent” had filed the visa with the USCIS to request classification of the Russian fighter, Viktoriia Dudakova, the “Beneficiary,” as an internationally recognized mixed martial arts (MMA) athlete.
Less than two weeks later, on June 6, 2022, the USCIS and DOH reopened the case and approved Dudakova’s P-1 visa. As a result, Seward filed a voluntary dismissal on behalf of the Plaintiff, and on the 24th of June, the United States District Judge ordered the case dismissed.
In this case, as with many other previous cases, this P-1 visa status allows Dudakova entrance into the U.S. and enables First Round Management to serve as “U.S. Agent,” directing the career navigation of “Beneficiary” through the country’s many promotional opportunities.
First Round Management is the oldest and most respected agency in combat sports. CEO and Founder, Malki Kawa, along with his European director, Lucasz Orzel, worked with Sherrod Sports Visas on Dudakova’s case.
“I’ve known Sherrod Seward for more than 10 years, so we’ve been doing business together for a very long time,” said Kawa, “I am proud of the fact we sued the government and won, and now we are allowed to help a lot of fighters realize their dreams.”
P-1 visa status also allows athletes to: perform for payment or prize money; travel unrestricted; engage in part-time study; compete in multiple promotional organizations utilizing the same approved visa; and, to apply for visas for accompanying essential support personnel and dependents.
Seward routinely submits evidence that establishes an athlete’s eligibility for P-1 visa classification. In the case of Dudakova, this evidence included:
● Evidence of her management company, FRM, obtaining P-1A approvals in other cases for athletes that go on to compete for major professional promotions.
● A supremely impressive array of career achievements as a world class martial artist.
● Her involvement in competition at a very young age.
● Her rank according to published industry sources.
● Multiple awards recognizing her extraordinary talent and skills.
● Write-ups in several international and national media outlets establishing her expertise as a professional athlete.
● Her status as a respected female athlete in MMA’s flyweight and strawweight divisions.
As a matter of public record, this case now makes it more likely for sports management organizations, or an individual sports agent, to obtain a P-1 visa for an unsigned athlete.
“To the great benefit of the athlete, this format results in a visa that is not only valid for years, but allows the athlete to be immediately available to compete for any one of a number of professional teams or organizations across the U.S.,” said Seward.
NFL player Tevaughn Campbell is the first professional athlete to benefit from the Dudakova case. Seward filed a P-1 visa application for the Canadian-born player with his agent, Paul Sheehy, President and General Counsel of ProStar Sports, as his sponsor. Dudakova’s case was included as evidence. The visa was approved and, as a result, Campbell played on the field on November 27, taking down DeSean Jackson in his first tackle as a defensive back for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The case number for First Round Management v United States Citizen and Immigration Services et al is 1:22-cv-21609-RNS and available through PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) at https://pacer.uscourts.gov/.