The Visa’s In The Mail

Klaxons, Lily Allen, The Pipettes, M.I.A., New Model Army, Rodrigo y Gabriela, The Happy Mondays … the list of visa victims looks to be extensive this year, but is it?

Some of the above have missed showcases, appearances and U.S. visits because of visa woes while others have shifted entire tours. It looks to be an unwelcome trend and U.S. immigration authorities said as much to the Wall Street Journal.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services requires new artists to submit evidence that they are "internationally recognized" to get a P-1 class visa, sources told the WSJ. Sometimes artists have to resort to blog postings and online ’zines to prove their case.

But is there a change in visa policy that has caused all of this commotion, six years after 9/11? Or is it just something the media has focused on, like one summer a few years back when sharks suddenly took a hankering to swimmers?

"The regulations have not changed in 20 years," RAZco Visas’ Ron Zeelens told Pollstar. "The only thing is, since 9/11, the process of securing your visa at the consulate has changed. But from my years as an agent and a manager, my 30-plus years in this business, immigration has always been used as an excuse because nobody can really prove otherwise."

Zeelens, who secures temporary visas for entertainers to work in the U.S., stressed that visa problems are real and take on many forms. If an artist is doing a worldwide tour and can’t find a consulate when the visa is granted, that can cause a delay. Likewise, the consulate can hold passports for up to a week.

Then there is the artist who learns too late that a blemish on a criminal record from 10 years ago is still pertinent to immigration authorities.

But there’s nothing new under the sun, Zeelens said. Even in the ’70s he would suggest that visiting artists not book any of their first tour dates in a critical market like New York City, just in case a problem arose.

And, overall, Zeelens said he has not seen an upsurge in visa problems this year.

"It’s a good excuse," he said, "and probably better than, ‘The doctor says I can’t sing.’"

Then again, as mentioned there are always legit visa problems. Lily Allen may have had her one-year visa revoked after an altercation with photographers, according to the WSJ. And another artist mentioned in this article may have had visa issues this year because only one band member was granted entry into the U.S. and the rest had to start the visa process all over again, Zeelens said.