Leffen to miss Evo, will not play or stream Melee until visa issues are resolved
William “Leffen” Hjelte’s long-awaited return to the United States will now be even longer.
Team SoloMid announced on Wednesday that the Swedish Super Smash Bros. Melee star will not compete at Evo this weekend due to delays in the visa approval process. Leffen, who is also sponsored by Red Bull, announced later in the day that he would not compete or stream Melee until his visa issues are completely resolved.
"This is extremely unfortunate," TSM said in a statement, "as Leffen has been training hard all year long to win Evo and follow up on his success on [Get On My Level] and make his fans proud."
Leffen discussed the matter during a brief stream on Wednesday night. During the stream he stated that he would not play, stream, or watch Melee until the visa process concluded. He added that this would be the only time he would publicly address the situation.
"I do not want to play this fucking game if I can not compete and do it properly [...] because I'm an all-or-nothing kind of guy," Leffen said.
Leffen has not made an archive of the stream publicly available.
TSM announced in May that Leffen had been approved for a short-term visa which would let him compete in the United States through July. Two weeks ago, team founder Andy "Reginald" Dinh tweeted that Leffen had been approved for an extension which would allow him to enter the U.S. for two years.
It now appears that those announcements were made with the assumption that final approval from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services would come quickly. Approval can be delayed for up to 60 days if an application is subject to additional administrative processing. TSM said that the two-year extension would still be in place once the visa is finally approved.
Leffen has not been in the United States since he competed at HTC Showdown in September of last year. He was initially denied re-entry in October when he tried to compete at The Big House 5. But U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents determined he was entering the country as an employee of TSM, which was not allowed under the type of visa he had.
TSM believes that this deportation is why Leffen's current application is subject to additional processing.
This application is Leffen's second attempt at gaining entry into the U.S. since then. His first application for a P-1A visa—often called the "athlete" visa—was denied in April. News of this led fans to create the #FreeLeffen campaign, which called for USCIS to officially recognize esports competitors as athletes, which would make it easier to obtain a P-1A visa. USCIS announced late last month that the agency would make no changes in how it handles visa applications from esports competitors.
In late June, Leffen withdrew from CEO in Orlando, Florida, just days before that event began. CEO, which he won in 2015, was slated to be his first appearance in the U.S. since September. He only cited "personal reasons" at the time of his withdrawal.
Leffen is the second high-profile Melee player to withdraw from Evo. Kevin "PPMD" Nanney announced last week that he would skip Evo due to ongoing health concerns.
Evo begins on Friday at 11am ET/8am PT and will run through Sunday. Melee’s finals are scheduled to take place on Sunday at 6pm ET/3pm PT.