MotoAmerica Westby Racing Team Rider Mathew Scholtz

Racing the right way, the wrong way, and the Westby way (Part 1).

Laguna Seca, Westby Racing
Mathew Scholtz at Laguna in 2016.Photo: Brian J. Nelson

First in a series of observations written by Yamalube/Westby Racing’s team manager, Chuck Giacchetto.

When you see something unusual out of the corner of your eye, you look with more interest. That's what happened last year when I saw Mathew Scholtz at Road America. The 23-year-old South African joined Westby Racing later in the season at Utah Motorsports Campus and finished the MotoAmerica Superstock 1000 Series with five podiums.

When “The Scholtz Kid” arrived in this country, he did so on a B-1 visa, which did not permit him to earn wages. So we got him for free, right? Guess again. This season, we applied for a P-1 visa, which is intended for professional athletes. One would think that a legitimate rider with no legal issues would fly through the process. Not so fast, pal.

Mathew Scholtz and the Yamalube Westby Racing Yamaha
Mathew Scholtz and the Yamalube Westby Racing YamahaPhoto: Westby Racing

The immigration situation in this country is bizarre. As proof, allow me to take you on a frustrating yet rewarding trip down memory lane, an excursion that should interest anyone who has ever thought of employing a non-US citizen.

We applied for a P-1 and got it processed before Matt arrived in Atlanta only to have immigration sequester him while he was picking up his luggage. Matt understandably freaked out, which led to a phone call to me at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning. As soon as Matt entered the interview room, he was asked to surrender his B-1 visa.

Apparently, once you apply for a P-1, your B-1 is rendered useless. The immigration officer said, “Well, sir, I see you have a P-1 application and it looks like it’s approved.” Matt assumed he was all set. No, not at all, the officer informed him. “Because I can see that the paperwork is filed, we will give you 15 days to get your visa in hand.”

After leaving the airport, I called the lawyer that we had hired to handle the visa process. He said there was nothing to worry about and the time limit didn’t mean anything. Wrong answer. We had airline tickets booked for two preseason tests but Matt couldn’t go anywhere because, by this point, he was already four days past the 15-day window. Now, we were both freaking out.

We spent all night on the phone with the State Department, USCIS, and US embassy in Durban, South Africa, and guess what? Since Matt applied for the P-1 visa in South Africa, he had to turn around and fly home to get his new visa. First, though, he had to go to yet another immigration interview.

Good part is that the visa application was approved, but the whole thing could have been avoided if we knew that Matt just needed to stay in South Africa for four more days. Instead, we had to spend even more money and Matt had to endure two more 30-hour flights.

Yamalube racebike
The Yamalube Westby Racing Yamaha racebike.Photo: Brian J. Nelson

Bottom line is, when dealing with international riders, do everything right the first time. People wonder why we have issues all the time with immigration. We thought we had done everything correctly, only to learn that we were at least two weeks behind in the process. Even the good guys get the shaft sometimes.

Yes, Matt is fine and we are moving on together, but I hope this helps others avoid making the same mistakes that we did when attempting to hire a non-US citizen. After all, not everyone tries to jump a wall or swim across a river in the still of the night to get into this country.