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One way to get a US visa: Be really, really good at Starcraft

Tim Fernholz
By Tim Fernholz

Senior reporter

The above video shows  a quarter-final match of the Intel-sponsored 2013 Extreme Masters Starcraft II World Championships between top players “viOlet” and “First” (skip to 1 hour, 3 minutes in for some compelling battle footage).While viOlet—real name, Kim Dong-hwan—loses the match, he has earned $95,000 in prizes in the last three years of competition in the space warfare video game. And now the South Korean has earned something more valuable: A visa to enter the United States awarded in the category for “internationally recognized athletes.”

Kim is the second videogamer to be awarded such a visa; the first was given to a Canadian citizen earlier this year, and more are apparently in process, according to Blizzard Entertainment, the maker of the Starcraft games.

The US willingness to reward talented international athletes with entry to the country has helped make its baseball and basketball leagues the envy of the world, and immigration experts say it is easier to get a world-class athlete into the US legally than a brilliant computer scientist. That kind of imbalance is just one reason to mourn the apparent death—or, if you’re optimistic, suspended animation—of plans to reform US immigration law at the hands of political gridlock and cultural fears.

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