It's been months now since COVID-19 has turned the world on its head, and forced the esports industry into online-only competition. Even now, months after patient zero was identified in China, some of 2020's marquee events remain in flux.
That picture has only been further blurred in the past few weeks, with President Donald Trump announcing new visa restrictions on foreign nationals and the European Union announcing travel bans for anyone arriving from the United States.
On June 22nd Donald Trump issued Proclamation 10014, which placed new restrictions on H-1B, H-2B, J, and L type visa programs. None of these should directly affect any esports players, as they are mostly offered for specialized workers of some kind. However, with all of the new issues that people from other industries will have to sort through, it stands to reason that visa processing will be backed up and it will require more time for organizations looking to secure entry to and exit from the United States when events do eventually return to LAN.
Changes to look out for that would be related directly to esports athletes would be those made to the P-1 or F-1 visa programs.
Of the two, P-1 visas are the most common in esports, as they simply require the applicant to provide proof of international competition in an established esports scene. The visa was originally designed for traditional athletes that come to the United States with their talents, but there is a strong precedent for athletes succeeding in securing one for well-established esports scenes with high profile LANs, large prize pools, and well defined world competitions. If you're looking for a resource to learn a bit more, check out this article.
Finally, F-1 visas are for students studying in the United States. A good example of someone who could be effected by these changes if the timing were correct could be Maxim "wippie" Shepelev. He is stateside for his education first and just so happens to be good enough at CS:GO to be playing competitively on the side while he's here.
However, the immediate issue for the near future is the EU travel ban. As of July 1st the European Union is restricting travel from the United States to their member countries as a result of the recent resurgence of COVID-19 cases. Other countries that are currently still restricted from traveling to Europe are Brazil, India, and Russia.
One team in particular that could be significantly impacted by these renewed restrictions is Complexity. Will "RUSH" Wierzba and Owen "oBo" Schlatter both recently returned home from an extended stay in Europe that began when the team received a surprise invite to the ESL One: Rio Closed Qualifier to replace MAD Lions.
Their deserved break could create unique obstacles to reuniting the team upon the conclusion of the player break as an NA/EU hybrid squad. As of right now, the duo could theoretically go to Ireland or Britain and self-quarantine there for fourteen days to work around the EU ban. Then their ping issues would at least be lessened to the point that practicing with their teammates would be feasible. The rest of the team could also join them there to bootcamp if they wished. Complexity declined to comment on their current situation.
But beyond strains on rosters, the even bigger issue is that even if ESL One: Cologne were to be a LAN with no audience as was the intention, right now Liquid, Evil Geniuses, 100 Thieves, FURIA, Cloud 9, and presumably three of the six remaining teams based on world ranking (Complexity, Gen.G and MiBR) would all be unable to gain entry into Germany to play the event.
The EU ban will be reevaluated every 14 days, meaning that the level of COVID control on July 15th, July 29th, and August 12th prior to the scheduled August 21st start date will determine if teams could even attend a LAN. This complication is one of the many factors playing into the possibility that CS:GO's most prestigious non-Major event is probably being shifted to an online-only format, as reported yesterday by DeKay.