eSports Player Denied Visa as “Super Smash Bros. Melee is Not a Legitimate Sport”

William Hjelte, a Swedish world class competitive Super Smash Bros. Melee player who is more commonly known as “Leffen” in the eSports community, has had his US athletes visa denied because SSBM is “not considered a legitimate sport” by the government.

Leffen, who has been named the #3 Super Smash Bros. Melee player in the world by Melee It On Me’s 2015 Top 100 rankings, has been forced to limit his competitive play to European tournaments following visa issues in the US. Leffen revealed the letter he had received from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services in a video for Red Bull eSports, in which he notes how one of the organization’s reasons for denying him a working visa was because of SSBM not being deemed a “legitimate sport” by USCIS. 

Red Bull notes how although Leffen has previously proven himself to be among the world’s best SSBM players, these visa issues have led to him being excluded from a number of major American tournaments. With most of the best talent in the competitive SSBM community participating in these events, Leffen has therefore been unable to train against opponents that match his skill level.

Now a petition has been set up that will be brought to the attention of the White House if it receives enough signatures, demanding that the USCIS recognize Super Smash Bros. Melee as a legitimate sport in order to allow Leffen to compete in the US. 

The petition, which requires 100,000 signatures in order to get a response from the White House, reads: “This petition arises from an ongoing situation regarding one of the best Super Smash Bros. Melee players in the world, William “Leffen” Hjelte. In 2015, Mr. Hjelte was deported from the United States because he was sponsored by an American company while using a tourist visa when he needed a work visa. After applying for a P1 Visa, which is what professional athletes use to come to the US, he was denied due to Super Smash Bros. Melee not being recognized as a “legitimate” sport.

“Competitors in other eSports, such as League of Legends, have been approved for P1 Visas in order to travel to the US and compete. Given the precedent set with League of Legends, other eSports should be considered “legitimate” sports in order to let players come and compete in the United States.”

An online campaign has also been started on Twitter, requesting the USCIS “#FreeLeffen” by allowing him entry into the US in order to compete in the region’s SSBM tournaments.