We are pleased to announce that our client, UFC Fighter Herbert Burns, has received an O-1A sports visa. The visa adjudication process through the USCIS California Service Center took only two weeks because of the thorough and compelling application we submitted on Mr. Burns’ behalf. His petitioner was South Florida’s Combat Club.
The O-1A visa authorizes Mr. Burns to complete wide-ranging work during the next several years. While other visas might restrict a beneficiary’s work to one single competition or contract, the O-1A will allow Mr. Burns to work outside of his contractual obligations to the Ultimate Fighting Championships, his main promotional partner. Additionally, the O-1A visa category is not dependent on scheduled flights, which helps beneficiaries avoid entry issues when plans change.
Most promoters do not petition for O-1A visas, choosing instead to obtain P-1 visas for their athletes. But the work flexibility of the O-1A visa is critical. Mr. Burns, like most other fighters, needs to be able to pursue other activities to support himself and fully advance his career.
These activities include:
- Completing a 1-year training contract with UFC, in which he will train local fighters on a regular basis
- Planning combat sports competitions
- Providing recommendations for competition requirements (i.e. equipment and other technical aspects)
- Participating in advertising/promotional programs for sponsors, partners, and gyms
- Creating and participating in sports industry podcasts
- Running sports industry seminars
- Running and performing in speaking engagements
- Writing guides and creating training programs
With the O-1A visa, Mr. Burns can complete all the above activities without triggering a work authorization violation, which is what would occur if he only had a P-1 visa.
How We Obtained the Visa
Most fighter petitioners choose the P-1 visa because it is much easier to obtain than the O-1A visa. Due to our extensive experience, however, Oakhurst Immigration Law has had substantial success with O-1A visas.
We were able to prove Mr. Burns’ extraordinary ability in professional jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts using the following evidence and argumentation:
- One-time achievement that is a major, internationally recognized award: International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation Pan No-Gi Bronze Medal in 2018
- Lesser national and international awards: CBJJ Brazilian National No-Gi Champion (2011 & 2012); CBJJ Brazilian National No-Gi Champion (2009 brown belt); North American Grappling Association (NAGA) 77 kg belt (2017); Miami Spring International Open IBJJF Championship (2017); and UFC Performance Bonus 2020 Raleigh
- Rankings: 50th best featherweight fighter in the world and 7th best in the U.S.
- Membership in prestigious organizations: Singapore team of Evolve University (invited by franchise creator Chatri Sityodtong)
- Teaching and evaluation of others: Alexander Gustafsson; coaching with Evolve; self-defense for police staff of Palm Beach City Schools
- Industry contributions: defense against single-leg takedown; side control escape with a double attack
- Display of work in exhibitions and showcases: UFC Fight Pass, ESPN, ESPN+
Proving awards in jiu-jitsu is challenging because the sport involves many divisions, levels, and competitions. As such, we continuously publish information to help clients obtain the visas they need in this industry.
We would also like to extend our gratitude to the renowned athletes who assisted with this petition by submitting expert letters:
- Gilbert “Duriniho” Burns – #1 worldwide contender fighting for the UFC Welterweight Championship in November
- Michael “The Menace” Johnson – One of the world’s most distinguished UFC lightweight fighters
- Linton Vassell – World-class fighter for Bellator Fighting Championships
- Aung Le Sang – World-class fighter and World Champion with One Fighting Championships