Visa Waiver Ban
I play pool for a living and have won many national and international tournaments, mainly in the U.S. I have also been on ESPN playing in a televised pool match. I have an apartment with my girlfriend in Brooklyn.
"I was recently refused entry into New York under the program. Officials said I have been using it too many years and spending too much time living in New York and playing in pool tournaments without the proper visa.
"I spent eight hours in the immigration room at Kennedy Airport, then five hours in a cell there. I then was sent home on a flight the next day. I'm now in London staying with my parents trying to figure out what to do to get back to New York and my girlfriend.
"I have been getting letters from tournament organizers and companies like ESPN supporting my case, stating that I am a world class player and that I am needed back in the U.S. for future tournaments. I don't know if I should go the sports visa route or the marriage/fianc visa route. Any advice would be appreciated."
THE first and by far the most important piece of advice is this - you're going to need the assistance of an attorney who practices U.S. immigration law. What follows in this column is a general overview of your situation, but you'll need to discuss specifics with an attorney in order to figure out the best way to proceed.
Of course, as you likely know, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officer you encountered at Kennedy was correct in detaining you for continuous, long-term travel to the U.S. using the visa waiver program. As you've been using the waiver for 10 years, it's surprising that you've only been detained now.
The visa waiver program allows for short-term (up to 90-day) visits to the U.S. without having to first obtain a tourist/business visa. Those using the waiver must depart the U.S. prior to the 90 days.
Waiver holders can engage in limited business activity provided that no income, save for expenses, is received from a U.S. source. From the information you've provided it seems as if your primary source of income comes from pool events in the U.S. This is definitely not permissible under the waiver program.