Senators Pressure DHS to Provide NIL Guidance for International Student-Athletes

May 17, 2024

By Bernard G. Dennis III & Amy L. Peck, of Jackson Lewis

As restrictions lessen on collegiate athletes’ ability to be compensated for their name, image, and likeness (NIL), international student-athletes in F-1 status continue to be at risk if they pursue these economic opportunities. On April 29, 2024, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators penned a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to push the agency to bring international athletes into the fold.

According to Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.), Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.), DHS can provide a simple solution:

While many students have rightfully benefitted from these new [NIL] opportunities, international college athletes and college athletic programs face a credible risk that even the most basic NIL deal could violate the work restrictions of the F-1 visa. DHS could clarify that the F-1 visa program does not prevent a student from engaging in NIL related activities ….

As Jackson Lewis’ Immigration Practice Group previously discussed, NIL deals likely do not qualify as on-campus employment authorized for most foreign students in F-1 visa status. Alternatives to F-1 visas for international student-athletes are difficult to obtain. As a result, while their American teammates cash in, international student-athletes cannot market themselves without risking being removed from competition and the country.

According to the senators, Secretary Mayorkas promised swift action to provide clarity to tens of thousands of international student-athletes during Senate oversight hearings over a year ago; but DHS has failed to deliver. With another academic year coming to a close, the senators seek to spur DHS to act as promised. Should DHS update its regulations, international student-athletes may be able to economically “benefit from the blood, sweat, and tears they put into their sport” come the fall.

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