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U.S. Senators Introduce NIL Bill for NCAA International Athletes
On behalf of Margules Law Group, P.A. | 10/24/2023 | Firm News

On October 17, 2023, U.S. Senators Pete Ricketts (R-NE) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced the Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) for International Collegiate Athletes Act which would grant college athletes the ability to engage in NIL opportunities.

International athletes have struggled with engaging in NIL activities because of the current F-1 visa rules. These athletes may only enter into NIL activities in the United States that generate passive income, meaning that international athletes can not actively participate. If the international athlete is required to perform some service, within the United States, and receives compensation from the company, that constitutes active income. Examples of such prohibited activities would be autograph appearances and evening promoting products on their personal social media accounts.

Penalties for violating immigration and laws and regulations for unauthorized employment include immediate termination of student visa status, removal/deportation, and the inability to obtain future visa statues or permanent legal status in the U.S. – including P-1 status for professional athletes (8 U.S.C. §1182). Universities and companies engaging in these impermissible activities can also face penalties under 8 U.S.C. §1324(a).

However, there is a loophole under the F-1 rules that allow international athletes to engage in NIL activities and receive compensation. International athletes are permitted to participate in NIL activities outside of the United States without violating their U.S. visa rules.

The proposed NIL bill submitted last week creates a sub-category visa class of the F-1 visa providing work authorization for NIL activity. The proposed language reads that international athletes , “shall be eligible for employment authorization for the purpose of engaging in activities pursuant to an endorsement contract for the commercial use of the nonimmigrant’s name, image, or likeness.”

Nebraska Athletic Director Trev Alberts released a statement supporting the bill’s introduction. “I applaud the efforts of Sen. Ricketts and Sen. Blumenthal to bring forward a bipartisan NIL bill on behalf of international student-athletes,” Alberts said. “Nebraska Athletics has a long history of successful student-athletes from around the globe in many of our sports programs, and we support any efforts to enhance the student-athlete experience. This bill would provide our international student-athletes with the same opportunities to monetize their name, image, and likeness as other student-athletes.”

Coincidentally, this bill was introduced on the same day that the Senate Judiciary Committee had a hearing on Name, Image and Likeness and the Future of College Sports.

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