NIL for
International
Athletes

From passive income to the pursuit of O-1 visas, more NIL avenues are opening for international student athletes.

Below you will find guidance from immigration attorneys and the latest news involving international athletes maximizing their NIL opportunities.

Disclaimer: This information is made available for educational purposes.  It provides general information and is not intended to provide specific legal advice. This information should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.

NIL Guidance for International Student Athletes in 2023

Immigration attorneys share more about alternative visas for international student athletes so they can participate in NIL, workarounds that have been attempted by international student athletes that don’t work and more.

Headshots of Ksenia Maiorova, Amy Maldonado and Kristi Dosh for NACDA webinar on international student athletes
Kentucky Wildcats forward Oscar Tshiebwe

How Can International Athletes Get NIL Deals? Here’s How to Do It Safely

From passive income to the pursuit of O-1 visas, more NIL avenues are opening for international student athletes. Two immigration attorneys weigh in.

Must-Listen Podcast on NIL for International Student Athletes

Immigration attorneys Ksenia Maiorova and Amy Maldonado join the Business of College Sports podcast to discuss how NIL is evolving for international student athletes.

FAQs on NIL for International Student Athletes

Disclaimer: This information is made available for educational purposes.  It provides general information and is not intended to provide specific legal advice. This information should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.

Does the NCAA allow international athletes to do NIL deals?

Yes, the NCAA does allow international athletes to do NIL deals. However, most international athletes are restricted heavily by the terms of their student visa. The federal government would have to make changes to the terms of student visas in order for international athletes to be able to do the same NIL activities as other college athletes.

What kind of NIL deals can international student athletes get?

International student athletes can get NIL deals under very limited circumstances. Immigration attorneys generally agree that international student athletes can do NIL deals while in their home country (although not necessarily other countries). While in the US, they can only undertake passive income opportunities. What qualifies as “passive” is open to some interpretation, but a mistake can cost the athlete their visa. Some examples are discussed by two immigration attorneys on our podcast. We also have a good breakdown of the podcast here.

Can international athletes apply for a different type of visa to do NIL deals?

Yes, under certain circumstances, international student athletes can attempt to get an O-1  “extraordinary ability” visa. Priority is given to those with extraordinary talent and can be easier for athletes in some sports over other sports. Northwestern State’s Hansel Enmanuel successfully secured this visa, and his attorney joined our podcast to discuss.

Can international student athletes do NIL deals if they get paid outside of the US?

No, multiple immigration attorneys we consulted (including on our podcast) said getting paid outside the U.S. isn’t enough to avoid visa issues. If services are rendered while in the US, there’s still a problem. The athlete can safely do deals while physically in their home country, but even in third countries (not the US or their home country), an athlete would need to consult local laws to be safe. This issue has come up as some international athletes have attempted to do NIL deals while in other countries for games or tournaments.

Can international athletes donate NIL revenue to charity to avoid issues?

The two immigration attorneys we spoke to on our podcast said no—donating NIL proceeds to charity doesn’t overcome the issue. An athlete would have to first earn that money to be able to donate it, and it’s the earning part that would create an issue with the restrictions on student visas.

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Check out our latest episode with two immigration attorneys helping international athletes successfully navigate NIL.