The history of a community organization that brings hope to international players wishing to compete in the US.

While the online age of gaming has given visibility to players from around the world, they might still need help to make their mark in major offline events, especially in the United States, where visa acquisition can be challenging. That’s where eFight Pass comes in. eFight Pass strives to support players with exceptional skills who experience barriers like travel costs and visa acquisition so they can attend at least one North American tournament. Players like Evo Champion Arslan Ash, Queen Arrow, Rohit Jain, Anya, and El Tigre are just a few of the talented individuals who participated in the program and received a more significant platform through their achievements at major offline tournaments. We spoke with the founder of eFight Pass, Sherry "Sherryjenix" Nhan, about the program, its history, and where it hopes to go next.

For Sherryjenix, the foundation of eFight Pass came from three specific moments in her FGC career while traveling internationally. Moment #1 was when she traveled to Monterrey, Mexico, to compete at Thunderstruck 2018. There, she met El Tigre, a player she was previously only familiar with through his performance in online events.

El Tigre vs. Sherryjenix at Thunderstruck 2018

“El Tigre was an online gamer tag that I've always heard of because he gets matched with West Coast players all the time, and he was an online Laura player [in Street Fighter V],” said Sherryjenix. “So when I went to this tournament, I remember it was casual play, and it was Winner Stays On. There was a huge crowd around this one person, and this guy just was not getting off the setup. So, of course, I lined up to play him. He beat me, and I was like, ‘You're really good! What's your name again?’ He said, ‘Oh, I'm El Tigre. Nice to meet you.’ And I said, ‘Oh wait, I know who you are! I hear about you all the time. Why don't you ever come to the US to compete? I'm sure you do pretty well at the tournaments. Then he told me about the US Visa fee.”

When they met, visa fees to enter the United States were $160. The fee was nonrefundable, and there were no guarantees of approval either. The thought of applying for a visa and being denied kept El Tigre from attempting to make the trip to the US to compete. Sherryjenix knew that El Tigre could become a more renowned name if he could compete in US tournaments.

“That kind of gave me the idea,” said Sherryjenix. “I would love to see him here. So, I was thinking about personally sponsoring his visa to make it to the US. That was an idea in the back of my mind.”

Sherryjenix vs. CrossoverRD at Fighting Fest 2018

Later, Sherryjenix traveled to the Dominican Republic to compete at the Game Over Tournament. She met CrossoverRD at the event, another talented player who experienced the same issue as El Tigre. The US visa was too much of an expense to risk. That year, CrossoverRD Qualified for Capcom Cup by winning Latin America's Regional Finals, but he couldn't travel to the tournament due to difficulties securing a visa. His application was rejected, even with two months’ notice and an official letter from Capcom. Unfortunately, CrossoverRD had to forfeit his position.

CrossoverRD vs. Pikoro at Fighting Fest 2018

While at Fighting Fest 2018, Sherryjenix met Pikoro, a Peruvian player who performed exceptionally well. After playing together, Sherryjennix asked Pikoro what kept him from competing in the United States. Sherryjenix heard a familiar story from Pikoro, “It is very hard to get a visa to travel to the USA.”

“I thought to myself, I want to help these players,” said Sherryjenix. “I want to help them get their visas. And then the idea just kind of spiraled in my mind. These are just the players that I've met, and I know there are so many more players in this world that I haven't met yet who are in the same scenario.”

In 2019, Sherryjenix took her ideas of supporting other players abroad and founded eFight Pass. It began with sponsoring four players and their journeys to Evo 2019. These players included El Tigre and Anya from Mexico, Zenith from Brazil, and Arslan Ash from Pakistan. Thanks to the combined efforts of Sherryjenix, her close friend and Evo Champion Justin Wong, and the FGC’s support, they could pay for players’ flights and accommodations on top of acquiring their visas.

“Justin Wong was doing a really cool program where he was also sponsoring players around the US to go to Evo,” said Sherryjenix. ”He's a close friend of mine, and he told me how he couldn't figure out who to sponsor for Evo 2019. I was like, ‘Well, what's your budget? What if I could go below that budget to get all of my players from eFight Pass there so they can compete at Evo?’ He's like, ‘If you can do that, let's do it.’ That was the first year of eFight Pass, and it is cool to see how we've grown from there.”

Pictured from left to right: Zenith, El Tigre, Arslan Ash, Anya, and Sherryjenix.

For as much success as Sherryjenix has found, sponsoring players seeking to obtain their visas is not without its challenges. One hurdle when working with international players is the language barrier. The application process can take between a couple of hours to full days. The length of time often depends on the combined familiarity of English and the applicant’s primary language. Of course, having access to translators helps streamline the process, but the number of questions and information needed can add to the complexity of the application.

Another level of complexity compounds when it comes to confirming players’ backgrounds. Many may take these things for granted in the United States, but having a record of address, education, and employment isn’t as easy to obtain in other countries. Even though players have gone to school and held jobs for extended periods, there’s not always enough evidence deemed necessary by some interviewers.

“That's a huge hurdle because for a lot of these people, the jobs they work, there's no record of it,” said Sherryjenix. “So when I asked them to list their previous education or work, they're like, ‘I used to work for my dad, but that store no longer exists.’ There's no address, there's no name. It is the same thing for the school. Schools close down there all the time. They're like, ‘I remember the name of my school, but when I Google it, it doesn't exist anymore.’ That takes a really long time because we have to try to figure out a fix for that. Once we figure that out, if the interviewer is to look at that portion of the application, it's almost an immediate rejection if they don't have at least a college education.”

While these roadblocks are legitimate, Sherryjenix hopes these situations don’t keep players from trying to obtain their visas. There is still a chance they can find success and travel to compete in tournaments internationally. After aiding players since 2019, Sherryjenix has learned strategies that make a difference in approval rates. A key element to many approvals is a personally drafted letter from Sherryjenix to the interviewer on the player’s behalf.

“There are a lot of things we've tried, and most of them worked out,” says Sherryjenix. “Granted, I always tell the player, ‘At the end of the day, it is up to the interviewer.’ It's like a 50-50 chance on whether or not they're having a good or bad day. So I write letters for these players. If the interviewer is to read the letter, it's usually a yes. They'll get the approval. I just tell the player, ‘When you go into the interview, tell them they really need to read the letter.’”

When asked if she had plans to expand eFight Pass, Sherryjenix shared a surprising development. Video game publishers now work with Sherryjenix directly to assist qualifying players in acquiring visas to compete in their tournaments. Most recently, Sherryjenix has worked with BANDAI NAMCO ENTERTAINMENT and SNK, aiding players with more support than ever. 

Atif Butt from Pakistan received the support he needed to travel and become the 2022 TEKKEN World Tour Champion. TheGio and Toshi from Peru and Koopa from Mexico all had their chance to compete in THE KING OF FIGHTERS XV abroad. CrossoverRD, one of Sherryjenix’s original inspirations for starting eFight Pass from the Dominican Republic, and Namikaze from Brazil both were able to compete in the Capcom Cup.

“This is the first year that I've had contracts because everything I've been doing is just, you know, just for the players, anybody who hits me up, I'll help them out free of charge, of course,” said Sherryjenix. “When Bandai hit me up, I said to myself, ‘Okay, I need to figure out the plan on how to move forward with this business, but not lose sight of the fact that I'd still help out players who need me.’”

What started as an idea to help a handful of players is now a livelihood that has made a difference for fighters around the globe. Without Sherryjenix’s dedication to her fellow players and community, the greater FGC might not be how it is today, with more visibility and opportunities for players who didn’t have that chance. eFight Pass has opened doors, and Sherryjenix isn’t stopping anytime soon. At the end of the day, Sherryjenix is a player first. She’s just as excited as those she supports because it allows her to meet new people and become a better player as well.

“I'm excited to see where eFight Pass takes me, but I think I kind of piggyback off of it because I love playing people,” said Sherryjenix. “So I think I kind of use that as an excuse to travel around the world. It kind of just goes hand in hand with each other, like meeting people all over the world, but also getting to play against them. I get to learn from them because they're all really good players. So I'm like, well, how about you give me some matchup experience, and I'm going to get you your visa.

If you are an international player who dreams of showing off their skill in an international tournament, visit the eFight Pass website to learn more about the program and the visa application process.