International eSports players can now apply for professional athlete visas when entering the United States.
Thanks to the tireless lobbying efforts of Riot Games, the developer behind the internationally acclaimed eSports sensation League of Legends, pro gamers can now be classified as professional athletes when applying for a visa to enter the country.
Riot’s eSports manager Nick Allen detailed the lengthy process Riot went through in order to convince the U.S. Government that professional gaming was indeed a sport and thus made non-U.S. pro gamers eligible for the same visas which professional athletes are eligible for: “It was a lengthy process. We had a lot of people fighting for this."
Allen was naturally very happy with the U.S. Government’s ruling, saying that it will help greatly with streamlining the process of setting up and running international tournaments: “…now we can start looking at international players when they come over. It's a much easier process because they're actually recognized by the government. This is a huge thing."
Naturally there’s been some resistance expressed towards the ruling with many claiming that pro gamers aren’t even in the same league as professional athletes when it comes to training, conditioning, and performing. But who’s to say whether or not one sport is more “appropriate” than another simply because the latter sport requires more mental effort than physical? Pro gamers may not have to run laps or alter their diets in order to stay competitive but that doesn’t mean that becoming a pro gamer isn’t a grueling affair (it is).
Either way, this comes as great news for eSports fans and players worldwide, the latter of whom can now come and play on U.S. soil with drastically less hassle.