Million Dollar Arm is in theaters around the United States. The film is based on the true story of two young men from India and their introduction to American baseball through a struggling sports agent looking for a way to survive, as clients were slipping away. The agent traveled to India and located Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel—two javelin throwers from the small village of Lucknow, India. Rinku and Dinesh knew nothing of baseball. They did not venture outside of their village and they certainly had not traveled to the United States. Despite their lack of experience and training, as well as their lack of exposure to American culture, Rinku and Dinesh were confronted with a unique opportunity – to enter the United States and pursue job opportunities as professional baseball pitchers.
The film serves as an inspirational underdog story of social mobility, global integration, and seized opportunities. It also reflects the expanding globalization of American sports and the corresponding impact on foreign countries. Despite the film’s inspirational success, it provides little insight into a separate challenge which would have been faced by Rinku, Dinesh, and eventually, by the professional teams which signed them. That is the challenge of obtaining a visa, which would allow Rinku and Dinesh to enter the United States and play professional baseball.
The film instantaneously transitions from a plot rooted in India to the arena of professional sports in the United States. The time restraints of film suggest that the only obstacle between entering the United States from a foreign country is the plane ride here. In fact, the transition faced by athletes of foreign countries generally is accompanied by a complicated immigration process which involves a variety of government agencies and multiple hurdles.
To obtain a temporary visa, an athlete must first fit within one of the statutorily-defined, non-immigrant visa categories. These categories include both the O-1 visa and the P-1 Athlete visa. To obtain an O-1 visa, an applicant must demonstrate extraordinary ability in the form of sustained national or international acclaim. The applicant must constitute one of a small percentage of individuals who have risen to the very top of the field. If an athlete is unable to secure an O-1 visa, he may qualify for a P-1 Athlete visa. To obtain a P-1 Athlete visa, an applicant must have attained international recognition as demonstrated by a distinguished international reputation for athletics. Under the strict eligibility requirements for these and other visass, Rinku and Dinesh likely faced important immigration challenges as they attempted to enter the United States.
Million Dollar Arm is an inspirational baseball story. It is also an inspirational immigration story. It shows the possibility to travel unprecedented lengths to discover unknown talent and to provide opportunities which previously were unavailable. Talent and training is not sufficient – but rather the ability to navigate a complicated system of immigration laws is required. For any questions about extraordinary ability visas or other immigration issues, you can contact the attorneys at Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal, P.C.