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Why do baseball players constantly have “Visa Issues?”


Why do foriegn players constantly have Visa issues? Photo Elsa/Getty Images via

(Editor’s note: I thought I published this when Soriano’s Visa issues came out before)

Welcome to spring training!  And along with a slew of “he’s in the best shape of his life” comments around the game, there’s the inevitable “Delayed by Visa Issue” stories.  Including, as it turns out our own Rafael Soriano.

Ok, here’s what I don’t get.  It isn’t as if the Report Date to spring training is a surprise to these guys.  It’s pretty well publicized months in advance.  How is it that every year, year after year, there’s Visa issues??  Why can’t these guys get their acts together and get these things handled in a timely manner?

A bit of googling finds this 2011 New  York Times reporter (Dave Seminara) who asked and answered some of the same questions I have.   But in nearly every case of a delay, the conclusion seems to either be ethical issues (delays due to brushes with the law) or paper work issues (badly filled out paperwork).  Neither looks good for the player frankly.  If you know you’re going to be delayed, then why not start the process early?

More reading apparently shows that getting paperwork done in a timely manner in the Dominican Republic (where the large majority of foreign-born players reside) is impossible, and that most of these delay issues are not necessarily the fault of the player.  Fair enough.

(side note: read this NY Times article; did you know that Rangers hurler Alexi Ogando was banned from entering the US for 5 years as part of a Human Trafficking charge?  I didn’t.  That’ll explain some serious Visa delays)

Written by Todd Boss

February 18th, 2013 at 10:03 am

5 Responses to 'Why do baseball players constantly have “Visa Issues?”'

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  1. While not having been involved in human trafficking, like President Jefferson, my own personal experience suggests that American visa problems are primarily the result of the bureaucratic shuffle.

    Brandon Davis

    18 Feb 13 at 11:27 am

  2. What it really boils down to is the paperwork is controlled by a foreign government (US) which in countries like the DR is barraged with tens of thousands of visa requests every year, a large percentage of which are NOT legitimate, and they have to process them all with a relatively small staff.

    Yeah, the athletes should make sure all of their paperwork is in order and delivered to the embassy/consulate in a timely manner (which is still no guarantee of a timely visa issuance), but if you are one of these poor, uneducated dirt farmer kids with the “million dollar arm,” it takes an incredible effort to be able to advance educationally beyond making an “X” on documents instead of your signature, let alone commanding the written language well enough to complete a complex visa form.

    Someone who has Soriano’s cash ought to be able to afford assistants who can help him with that stuff, of course, but as an athlete when you become too reliant on assistants that’s when that muti-million dollar fortune you’ve made is likely to dwindle back down to nothing before you are forty (Soriano was VERY smart to defer some of his Nats’ salary, BTW. Maybe he’ll be the lucky one who won’t end up back on the dirt patch after retirement).


    18 Feb 13 at 12:07 pm

  3. I took out a line from the original post (which I meant to publish last thursday) that said something along the lines of, “If i’m the Washington Nationals and I just paid $28M to this guy, I’d be pissed that he couldn’t get his act in order to get to work on time.” But, now that I more understand what these guys go through I was less harsh in the final version.

    Agree on the deferrment. I mean, really, $2M is an incredible amount of money on an annual basis, and now he gets it for 7 years after he’s retired, meaning he’s guaranteed a long period of financial stability. I said this before; if a player could just stick $10M of his career earnings into a trust, just living off of the interest (assuming you could get a 4% annual return, which should be pretty easy in today’s market) guarantees a $400k annual salary. Who wouldn’t take that? That’s 7-8 times the median income in this country and it’d be in perpetuity.

    Todd Boss

    18 Feb 13 at 12:37 pm

  4. Human Trafficking is a lot like DC Trafficking; difficult, requires patience, you run the risk of police involvement, but a decent payoff at the end :-)

    Todd Boss

    18 Feb 13 at 12:42 pm

  5. Why do baseball players constantly have visa issues? Simple. They are foreign nationals, non-citizens who want to work in the US. The US government does not make it easy for them. The paperwork process is a moving target, it changes from year to year in an unpredictable manner. It has gotten a lot worse since 9/11. Once a player has a visa, it is only good for one employer. Soriano maintained his occupation, but changed his employer from NYY to WAS. That turned his visa renewal application this year into a non-trivial event. Paperwork problems were inevitable.

    Feel Wood

    18 Feb 13 at 1:41 pm

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