Riot's current residency rules allow imports to realistically become NA residents within 1 to 2

LoL /r/leagueoflegends /u/Muckarat93 1,563 comments

Zven recently commented this in an interview:

"Even if NA wins worlds, I don't think NA will be the best region because if that happens, that team would most likely have two Koreans, two Europeans and one American, because soon a lot of players will have residency."

Regardless of what you think of the quote, it got me thinking about why players gain residency in NA so quickly while it takes them so long in other regions. There are already several NA teams with a majority of imports, teams like TL might soon even field only 1 NA player, while there is almost no team in other regions with more than 2 imports. Turns out the reason is Riot's own rules.

The following information is compiled from various sources (which I will link) as well as posts and comments made about this before, notably from/u/LordLex44/u/VoiceOfRaeson/u/esportslaw/u/-Basileus/u/scorgie/u/locodoco, and various others.

The Rules

Which you can find [here](https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/cdn.eu.lolesports.com/LEC+Rulebook+2019+(Updated+29.05.2019).pdf) for EU and here for NA.

For imports after 2016, the relevant rule is this (taken from the LEC rulebook page 5 but it boils down to the same for LCS, see page 3 of the LCS ruleset):

A New Non-Resident [is] unable to obtain residency only by staying within the region for 8 out of the last 12 splits.

A New Non-Resident Player must obtain lawful permanent resident status in the region the Player participates in.

So, previously it took imports across all regions 4 out of the past 6 years to gain residency in another region. Regardless of where you came from and in which league you wanted to play in. Now, it is drastically different:

Gaining "permanent residency"


  • Employment Based Green Cards processing could be from 1 year for visas that have a low demand to 4 or 6 years for visas with very high demand.

As an example, /u/locodoco has said that it took him 2 years to get his green card and that he could have gotten it even quicker if he went through the process more tightly, which means players will be able to "cheat" (his words) the 4 years that were the previous requirement.


A long-term resident in the European Union is a person who is not a citizen of an EU country but has resided legally and continuously within its territory for five years with a means of support (i.e. without recourse to the social assistance system of the host country) and fulfills some further requirements, as defined in Directive 2003/109/EC.

That means a minimum of 5 years. 1 year longer than the previous rules based on amount of splits played, and 5 times longer than the minimum in NA under current rules.

South Korea

  • Those who are adults by Korea's civil law and have stayed in Korea with F-2 Status for more than five years, and have financial capacity to support themselves and their family, have attainments such as being well-behaved and understanding Korean traditions enough to stay permanently in Korea, or

  • Those who have invested more than 500,000 USD in Korea and have stayed in Korea with D-8 Status for more than three years, while contributing to creating employment opportunities for Korean nationals (more than 5 Koreans), or Irrelevant for LoL imports.

  • Those who have invested more than 5,000,000 USD in Korea and whose acquisition of Permanent Residency is deemed proper by the Justice Minister, or Irrelevant for LoL imports.

  • Those who have special contributions to Korea and whose special contributions are recognized by the Justice Minister Irrelevant for LoL imports.

Just like EU, that essentially means a minimum of 5 years because the other scenarios don't apply to a normal import in LoL.


  1. The applicants have invested in China directly, have with steady investment condition and good revenue record for more than 3 years. Irrelevant for LoL imports.

2. The applicants take the job continually as or above assistant general managers or factory directors, have the high title of or above the associate professor or assistant researcher, or have enjoy the equal treatment in China for more than four years, during which the applicants have been living in China continuously for more no less than three years and have good revenue records. Irrelevant for LoL imports.

3. The applicants have great and outstanding contributions to China or meet special requirements of the Chinese government.

4. The spouse of Chinese citizens or the foreigners who have got the qualification of permanent resident in China, with the marriage lasted for more than five years and living in China for more than nine months every year and have steady living guarantee and residence. Irrelevant for LoL imports.

6. The unmarried children under the age of 18 who come and seek refuge with parents. Irrelevant for LoL imports.

7. The applicants who have no direct relatives abroad, come and seek refuge with the domestic direct relatives, are over sixty years old, and lived in China for no less than nine months every year and have steady living guarantee and residence. Irrelevant for LoL imports.

So unless you get personal approval from the Chinese government for having made "outstanding contributions to China", I think we can all agree that simply being a import, it's damn near impossible to gain permanent legal residency unless you specifically marry a Chinese person (which I don't think should be encouraged just to circumvent Riot's rules).

The consequences

  1. First off, this obviously creates a competitive imbalance. Regardless of one's opinion on imports, organisations across all regions should be afforded the same opportunity to field foreign players.

  2. It's unfair to the players. If a Korean wants to go play in EU or China, why should they need to wait a minimum of 5 years to count as a resident, while it takes a Korean who goes to NA just 1-2 years? Why should a player like Rookie have such a hard time to count as a resident even though he learned Chinese and completely immersed himself in Chinese culture for years, while players who put less effort into it may count as residents in other regions much sooner?

  3. It incentivises immigration fraud. Even though I'm sure there are plenty of players who would like to become legal permanent residents in Europe, NA, China or wherever, there are plenty of others who don't. Tying their status as a LoL import to their immigration status means that organisations have an incentive to push every import towards legal permanent residency because this drives up the value of the player by freeing up yet another import slot. However, applying for legal permanent residency and lying about the reason why is considered fraud just like a sham marriage would be.

A solution

Frankly, the previous system seemed far superior. Tying import status to having played X amount of the past Y splits in a region to be counted as a resident creates equal opportunities for players and organisations across all regions and doesn't create dubious incentives for trying to become legal permanent resident for the sole sake of increasing your value as a LoL import.

As a final word, please keep the discussion about the rules and how they could be made fairer to all players, organisations, and regions alike. This is not a discussion about the value of imports, regional cultures, team cultures, etc. We all know that countries such as China have a stricter view on immigration than places like Europe, but that doesn't mean it has to be the same way in LoL or that teams should be disadvantaged for playing there.

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