Hey all! I got pinged by a bunch of people about yesterday's post on Riot's new residency rules. I found the post interesting, but thought it missed some crucial points so I asked the head of our immigration practice to write up some thoughts on the subject. She's new to Reddit so I'm positing for her, but she created an account (/u/PureGenie_us) and will check in on this thread to respond to comments/questions (though she's traveling today so she'll be online sporadically). Hope you all find this interesting and that it helps further inform the discussion on the residency rules and the implications of US immigration law on League of Legends esports.
TL;DR: Green cards are an extremely good thing for players and incentivizing teams/players to pursue them can have life-long, positive consequences for the players we all want to support.
I'm pretty new to Reddit and this is my first post, so allow me to introduce myself. My name is Genie Doi, and I am an esports immigration lawyer with ESG Law (the firm founded by /u/esportslaw). I've filed dozens of visa applications for teams, players, coaches, and other support staff in the industry across multiple titles (including the LCS). Esports and immigration are both ever-changing landscapes, so while I won't say I'm an expert, I do have substantial, contemporary experience on the issue at hand.
As I was reading yesterday's post, I found myself wanting to specifically address some of the points OP raised about negative externalities for players getting green cards in the US as I have ample experience on this topic and view green cards as an extremely positive outcome for players. I know that much of the post addresses the competitive integrity issues associated with having different practical applications for achieving residency in the different regions, and while I think OP made fair points on that issue, it is beyond the scope of my expertise so I don't want to comment on that specifically. That being said, I want to make sure this subreddit doesn't have a bias against players getting a green card – if anything, it should be the opposite! The author from yesterday's post is correct in that getting a green card means an individual is now subject to US taxation of their global income. However, there is no meaningful threat that a player would be subject to double taxation if they decide to return to China or Korea or Europe at the end of their NA career. If they no longer want to reside in the US, it is really easy for them to simply give up their green card to avoid this very issue. You literally sign a form at the airport and give your green card to the officer–then POOF! Say goodbye to your US tax burden.
On the flip side, a green card comes with its benefits–the freedom to live in the United States long term, sponsor family members for permanent residency, obtain in-state tuition at universities, and literally be a "free agent" (e.g. you no longer need a corporation to sponsor your legal status and subject yourself to almost annual inspection of your personal data via visa applications and interviews). Green cards also give players the freedom to explore other career paths–like coaching, casting, higher education, basketweaving, or full-time streaming–activities they would otherwise be unable to take up in the United States without a proper sponsor in each instance. It's also worth noting that the majority of a player's income will be subject to US taxation/withholding anyway while they compete in the US irrespective of whether or not they have a green card, as their income will originate in the United States and therefore be subject to both CA and Federal tax regimes.
With respect to the minimum time investment required to obtain a green card in the US, the problem raised yesterday is somewhat overblown in light of current US immigration policy (e.g. 1 year is an extremely optimistic prediction for how long it take to get a green card). Most esports players qualify for a green card in the "extraordinary ability" category which is currently experiencing major backlogs due to a spike in demand and the Trump Administration's imposition of an "extreme vetting" policy that requires even employment-based applicants to appear for a green card interview where previously, interviews were only required for certain marriage-based cases. Practically speaking, the roll out of this new policy was like creating an administrative traffic jam; today, EB-1 green cards are taking at least 18-24 months and up to 3+ years.
But even if a player has to wait several years to get a green card, the end result is absolutely worth the wait–esports players have a once in a lifetime opportunity to secure permanent residency through a sponsor who will not only pay for all of the costs, but facilitate and support the process by finding the best attorneys, supplying key information, and cooperating every step of the way. Even highly skilled workers like physicians and astrophysicists couldn't ask for a better deal–it's normally difficult to even find an employer willing to sponsor a green card, let alone one who will pay for it.
Last but certainly not least, incentivizing the pursuit of permanent residency also benefits the entire ecosystem by providing some semblance of stability in the current political climate, where renewal of nonimmigrant visas is never guaranteed. I know from personal experience that USCIS can most definitely botch a routine extension and leave orgs scrambling in the wake of a bad decision, which can in turn affect competitive integrity as teams are unable to field their planned rosters.
Well, that's my more than two-cents on this topic! Hope you found it interesting, and I'll check back in periodically to respond to comments/questions (though my replies may be a bit delayed since I'll be hopping on a 11+ hour flight shortly). In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter more esports immigration related info. Cheers!
© Post "An immigration lawyer’s take on Riot’s residency requirements and the value of green cards for players" for game League of Legends.
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