League of Legends has become a professional sport according to the US visa bureau, which is going to start granting sport visas to high-level players.
Professional League of Legends players can now receive the same visas for entering the United States as traditional pro-athletes, reports the game’s developer, Riot. A few days ago, Riot’s e-sports manager, Nick Allen, told Gamespot that he had reached an agreement with the US immigration services to officially recognize League of Legend (LoL) as a sport, thereby simplifying the visa application process for players traveling to the United States for competitions.
“This is a watershed moment,” said Dustin Beck, vice president of E-sports, “It validates e-sports as a sport. Now we have the same designation as the NBA or NHL or other professional sports leagues.” Practically, this now means that foreign players can travel to the US in order to join American gaming teams, something which has been problematic in the past: Danny “Shiphtur” Lee, a Canadian and the first person to make use of the new visa, was unable to compete in the US this spring because of complications with his work visa.
Beck explained that convincing the US government to recognize LoL as a sport was a long process, and hinged on whether it could be established that E-sports was a profession through which one can earn a living. “A lot of people have been dismissive of it because they don’t understand the scope of this,” he explained, “Our viewership numbers are stronger than 80 or 90 percent of the sports covered on ESPN.”
The visa will allow foreign players to live in the United States for up to five years. This isn’t the first time a non-athletic sport has been considered for such a visa, a well-known other example being chess. An important consequence of LoL being branded as a sport is that it opens the doors for other e-sports in the future.