‘No one really knows’, New NCAA NIL policy could leave international student athletes in danger of violating student visas


University of Hawaii men’s volleyball team celebrates after winning 2021 NCAA National Championship

While the NCAA’s new name, image and likeness policies took into affect on Thursday, many international student athletes are left without answers regarding their ability to partake in profiting without possibly affecting their student visa status.

While F1 visas allow for international students to work on campus, as well as other limited forms of income with prior approval from immigration officials, it is unclear if revenue stemming from NIL opportunities would fit into the current guidelines.

“The simple answer is that no one really knows. It’s totally uncertain. This is something that was flying under the radar until really just a few days ago. There’s a conflict between what domestic students are now able to get by way of name and likeness with international students who are here on student visas and the federal immigration laws are found to have to be chanted because they prohibit students who are here on student visas from foreign countries from earning a living,” longtime lawyer and former President of the Hawaii State Bar Association, Jeff Portnoy told KHON2 Sports Director Rob DeMello.

“There’s a real uncertainty as to what happens with an athlete from let’s say Australia who is on a student visa, who gets asked to be in a commercial or wants to sell his or her autographs as to whether or not that would be enough to actually be in violation of their visa and maybe have them sent back home and no one really knows right now except some federal legislation is going to be necessary,” said Portnoy.

At the University of Hawaii, some of the athletic department’s biggest stars are not from the United States with a prime example being the Rainbow Warriors volleyball team which captured the national championship in 2021 with Bulgaria’s Rado Parapunov winning national player of the year honors as a senior.

“With Samoan football players and European volleyball players, they’re the ones that probably have the next opportunity right now along with maybe some foreign basketball players to make some money off of this.”

According to Portnoy, with so many unanswered questions, non-domestic student athletes should seek advising before agreeing to any business venture that stems from the NIL rule.

“I think it’s just going to be trial and error. I think people are going to have to maybe talk to their immigration officials locally or they’re going to have to talk to some expert immigration lawyers. So, for the federal government to figure out what to do with immigration, I think it’s going to be quite some time but you never know because there’s going to be a lot of students who are here on student visas who are going to be clamoring to be able to do what their teammates can do,” said Portnoy.

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