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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Nika Mühl Finally Set to Play in WNBA After Immigration Red Tape Kept Her Out

  • She has missed four Seattle Storm games waiting for her work visa approval.
  • If the former UConn point guard plays Wednesday, she’ll once again face Caitlin Clark.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle Storm guard Nika Mühl, who is Croatian, spent the last four years playing basketball in the United States at UConn. But when her sport became an actual paying job instead of the gray area pseudo-employment of college sports, she ran into a surprising legal issue. Despite the fact that the WNBA draft was more than a month ago, Mühl was still not able to get a work visa until this week. The visa delay meant she missed the Storm’s first four regular-season games.

She’s finally set to debut as early as Wednesday night, the women’s basketball publication The Next reported, after finally getting her P-1 athlete visa approved.

Should Mühl play Wednesday, her first assignment will be the same as her last one: Caitlin Clark. Not two months ago, the former Hawkeye and Husky faced off in the Final Four, with Clark’s team winning by two points. Mühl’s lockdown defense helped solidify her as the No. 14 pick in the draft in April.

Mühl played in one of the Storm’s two preseason games. She was kept out of the first one because her pending visa status forbade her from leaving the country for the WNBA Canada game. In the second game, the rookie scored six points, grabbed three rebounds, dished two assists, and had two turnovers in 20 minutes.

Getting a P-1 visa can take up to three to six months, so the league likely tried to expedite the process. It’s yet another symptom of the quick turnaround time between the end of the women’s college basketball season and the start of WNBA play, which has kept players sidelined with injuries and out of their college graduation ceremonies.

But athletes in other sports have also encountered challenges obtaining P-1 visas. Getting cut or signed by a team has forced athletes to quickly return to their home country, although one sports immigration attorney sued the federal government to set a precedent tying athletes’ status to an agency instead of a team. International athletes have also faced different rules in the name, image, and likeness era, because student visas don’t allow for making money within the U.S. Stars like Mühl, Zach Edey, and Kamilla Cardoso have all sat on the sidelines as their teammates raked in thousands of dollars in deals.

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