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October 11, 2021

What Does NIL Mean for International Athletes?

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Out of roughly 460,000 college athletes, the NCAA onboards 20,000 from all over the world. And while 20,000 may not seem like that much, many of those athletes tend to be the stars of their team or social media influencers. That’s why when Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) passed and only citizen athletes were eligible, not every athlete was celebrating. 

Take The University of Massachusetts, Amherst hockey team for example. They became the National Champs just in time to make some great endorsement deals. But a handful of them are from Canada, making them ineligible for NIL deals.


The F-1 Visa

The F-1 student visa is the primary visa that international athletes are given in order to attend school in the U.S. This visa prohibits and mandates what athletes can do to maintain their eligibility status: 

  1. The student must take a full-course load (12 credits) each semester
  2. The student may only work a 20-hour on-campus work week
  3. The student is only permitted to work off-campus in an internship related to their field of study

The last two regulations prohibit the athlete from engaging in NIL deals. 

Loophole: Technically, during the summer athletes who return to their home countries can earn money during a summer job. This would include NIL endorsements and regular summer work. 

Related: What It Means for Athletes to Profit off of NIL as of July 1st and What’s Next

What’s Being Done?

As of right now, many are aware that international athletes are being left behind. School’s hands are tied because this is a federal law that would require an exemption or amendment to the F-1 visa. 

With Senators and Representatives still working to find a bipartisan NIL federal law, there has yet to be proposals to change the status of NIL for international athletes.