The U.S. government has turned down visa applications from TNC Pro Team and Execration, and has asked both teams to reapply for an athletic visa instead, according to tweets from the teams. Faced with several more months of applications processing, the teams may miss out on The International 6.
According to Esports Inquirer, Valve advised both Execration and TNC to apply for B-1/B-2 temporary business visas to attend TI6, as teams have used these visas to attend the event in the past. Both teams were told by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that they need to apply for a P-1 athletic visa.
Unfortunately, a new visa application could take two to three months for the USCIS to approve, and since The International 6 begins in less than three weeks, that would mean both teams would be unable to attend the event. TNC qualified for TI6 by winning the playoff bracket of the SEA Regional Qualifier, while Execration earned a spot at the Wild Card Tournament by placing second in the playoff bracket.
The owners of both teams gave statements to Esports Inquirer about their visa issues. "It has been an emotional roller coaster ride for us, this is actually turning out to be harder than the qualifiers," Execration owner and manager Arvin Risos said. "It has been the dream of our team to Qualify to The International 6 since TI1 and now that it finally happened, we’re facing this visa issues and it’s emotionally exhausting to be honest."
TNC Manager Paulo Sy was more optimistic, saying that while this may be bad for the teams in the short-term, the fact that the U.S. is granting athletic visas to pro players is good for esports as a whole.
"This is the dream of every Dota 2 player, not just for our players but for everyone. Especially sa Filipino community," Sy said. "This is not a negative thing to look at. This clearly means that eSports is growing big. Now, they are considering the players as real athletes, that’s why they are requiring P1 Visas."
In June, the White House responded to a WhiteHouse.gov petition signed by more than 100,000 Americans, asking that esports athletes to be considered for P-1 visas. The statement said that the USCIS does not have any policy precluding esports from being recognized as a qualifying athletic competition, and pointed out that P-1 visas had been granted to pro players in the past, such as compLexity Gaming player Rasmus "Chessie" Blomdin. The fact that TNC and Execration were directed to apply for P-1s visas may mark further progress towards general acceptance of esports by the USCIS.
Valve has helped players and teams who encountered visa issues at previous TI's. Prior to TI5, Natus Vincere support Akbar "SoNNeikO" Butaev and Vega Squadron's support Semion "CemaTheSlayer" Krivulya both encountered visa issues. After Valve approached the US government to help expedite the process, both players secured their visas and were able to participate.
The International 6 main event will be held in Seattle from August 8-13.
Preston Dozsa is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.