Italian Luca Damiani's debut season with the Kenda team is at risk after he was denied a traveler's visa to enter the United States of America by the US Consulate in Milan, Italy on Tuesday. Damiani was expected to arrive in Stateside this month to begin his road racing season with team Kenda Pro Cycling presented by Gear Grinder.
"The problem is the paperwork and now the team wants to have the athletes visa ready in time for the end of February," Damiani said. "This is a problem because it will cost more to have it done quickly. If everything is going OK, I should have my visa in time for the training camp."
Damiani applied for a B1-B2 Visa, a temporary non-immigrant visa used to enter the US on business or pleasure. The US Consulate denied him the visa citing him as a possible immigration risk, according to Kenda Pro Cycling Team owner Chad Thompson.
"Our attorney asked Luca to apply for a B1-B2, since we are not paying him a salary, instead of a P1 Visa that is a corporate," Thomson said. "They denied him because he does not have a stable paycheck or job in Italy nor own a home in Italy. So, the US Consulate officer thought he was an immigration risk. He contacted me right away."
Thompson has hired 'visa specialist' Michael Hoops of Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP Attorneys at Law to complete the paper work for a P1 Visa for athletes and entertainers on Damiani's behalf. Costs of the P1 Visa reach as high as $3000 USD.
"Since he wasn't getting paid he opted to apply for a B1-B2 Visa and now that he's not getting that one he is getting a P1 Visa." Thompson said. "The P1 is in process we are confident it will be ready and he will be at camp on February 26. We've already purchased his flight tickets."
Damiani recently completed his European cyclo-cross season with the Italian National Team at the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships held in Tabor, Czech Republic. He was expected to return to the US in time for his team training camp held in Macon, Georgia on February 26.
Kenda Pro Cycling and MATTEO Studios have designed a 'FREE LUCA' t-shirt for sale on the Kenda Pro Cycling team website for $25 dollars. The proceeds will go toward the cost of Damiani's P1-Visa. The 'FREE LUCA' T-shirts can be purchased at http://www.infernoracing.org/
"I laughed about the t-shirts," said Damiani who has purchased four t-shirts. "It is interesting. Another website in Italy linked the t-shirt sale and so it looks like it's becoming an international case."
Damiani is a long-time member of the Italian National Cyclo-Cross team. In 2008 he joined the US-based team Colavita-Sutter Home in a two-year contract before joining Kenda Pro Cycling in 2010. Damiani is best known for winning the CSC Invitation Criterium in 2008.