‘The Olivia Dunne of the Pool’ Can’t Profit From Her Likeness Due to F-1 Visa Guidelines

Despite earning the nickname “The Olivia Dunne of the Pool,” swimmer Andreea Dragoi is still unable to profit from her name, image, or likeness (NIL) due to visa laws.

The Romanian native is one of the most-followed NCAA swimmers on Instagram, despite only competing in a small San Jose State program. She also recently appeared at New York Swim Week, and will be walking next month in the city’s Fashion Week.

Yet Dragoi is still unable to take on endorsements due to F-1 visa guidelines. The laws don’t allow international students to profit from their likeness while living in America. International athletes can take part in group marketing efforts in which a third party handles those responsibilities, but if they independently promote products on social media they risk having their visa revoked.

Students can participate in campaigns in other countries. However, they’re not allowed to sign with a talent agency. This means it falls on Dragoi alone to organize any endorsements outside of the U.S.

“I’m doing it all on my own,” the 20-year-old told SwimSwam. “It made me learn a lot from the process and how to manage everything. Everyone thinks I have a [management] team behind me at this point, and I’m like, ‘Nope.’”

To support herself, Dragoi works 20 hours each week as a lifeguard at San Jose State. (International students can hold on-campus jobs which benefit other students.) Yet she’s still unable to afford even a plane ticket to fly her mother out from Europe. “Everyone’s like, ‘Oh my god, she’s a lifeguard.’ But the thing is, I have no other choice. It’s the only job that I can do, being on campus, because of my visa.

“It’s hustle after hustle after hustle that would be made a lot easier if we could monetize our NIL. Life here is so expensive,” Dragoi reflected.

Connecticut senator Chris Murphy has advocated for federal laws which would allow international student athletes to profit from their NIL, but there's been little advancement. "There is something flat-out wrong with an industry that makes billions of dollars a year while many of its athletes can’t afford to put food on the table or buy a plane ticket for their parents to see them perform," he said in 2021.

“It’s really frustrating,” Dragoi agrees. “I wish there would be another loophole or another new rule that would allow international student athletes to be able to earn from NIL deals. After all, we’re all athletes, right? We all follow our dreams, we chase our goals, and we want to monetize our name as well.”