One month after US immigration services cleared League of Legends as a professional sport, Danny "Shiphtur" Le has become the first pro gamer to receive a visa acknowledging him as an "internationally recognized" athlete. For Le, a native of Canada, the visa allows him to come to the United States for training ahead of October's world championships; $1 million will be up for grabs in the competition. But last month's decision, which puts e-sports on a level playing field with traditional (and more physical) sports, has been described as a "watershed" moment vital to keeping US teams competitive in gaming contests that span the globe.
Other e-sports players have been granted visas in the past, mostly for one-off events, but Le is the first who will be able to make a salary during his stay. Convincing the visa bureau of gaming's legitimacy as a pro sport wasn't easy. "We had to get endorsements from participants and prove that this is a consistent, viable career path and people can make a living playing games," Riot Games VP Dustin Beck told Polygon last month. And while other e-sports leagues will need to apply for the same recognition, the all important first step has now been taken. Reflecting on his own situation, Le told The Los Angeles Times, "It's kind of so big — actually kind of mind-blowing."