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New NIL Laws Leave Noncitizen College Athletes Behind

Despite a Supreme Court ruling that college athletes can receive payment for use of their name image and likeness (NIL), international student athletes should not collect compensation until further guidance is issued by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).

New laws will take effect this month, allowing student athletes to get paid for endorsements, autographs and use of their name. But international college athletes – who make up nearly 13% of Division I athletes – risk going awry of employment limitations in the F-1 student visa program. The program requires that foreign students can only accept payment under the following conditions:

  • On-campus employment
  • Curricular practical training – including work/study, internship, or co-operative education required by an educational program.
  • Optional practical training – work related to and performed at the completion of a degree program.

NIL payment exists in a gray area outside of the work parameters defined by SEVP, and as such, could be viewed as unauthorized work.

Ideally, the USCIS will issue a Memo stating that profiting from the NIL is not considered “employment” for F-1 purposes. Until then, colleges, universities and noncitizen athletes should exercise extreme caution – receiving payment for unauthorized work could jeopardize a student’s F-1 status.

Noncitizen college athletes are distributed across a variety of sports, including tennis, hockey, soccer, basketball, volleyball, and even American football – where Australian-rules football kickers have gained a foothold for their rugged athleticism.

FordMurray offers complimentary consultations to ADs, Foreign Student Office DOs and higher education general counsel with questions about SEVIS compliance.