[Photo by: Lord Of The Lost/Facebook]
The trend of foreign bands denied entry into the United States continued when Lord Of The Lost had to cancel their tour with KMFDM after failing to receive a work visa from the United States after working with the State Department for over eight months.
“It is with shock, anger, sadness and most of all lack of understanding that we learned that our entry into the USA and thus our tour with KMFDM has been rendered impossible by the U.S. authorities, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services,” the band writes in their official statement.
The band continues in their statement that they filed their first application for work visa as early as January 2017, “early enough for a tour scheduled for October and way earlier than usually necessary.”
This is exactly what State Department spokesman Ashley Garrgius recommended for anyone applying for a work visa in the United States, saying, “We always say [they should apply] as soon as possible, they’ll have to come in for an appointment, so sometimes appointment times can be vary.”
She also recommended that “that they don’t book their travel before they have their visa,” but went onto say that she understood that it was hard for bands to do that due to their tours.
A majority of bands coming to the United States would require a P-1B visa, which the State Department website writes “applies to you if you are coming to the United States temporarily to perform as a member of an entertainment group that has been recognized internationally as outstanding in the discipline for a sustained and substantial period of time.”
Some of the requirements of this visa include that “at least 75 percent of the members of your group must have had a substantial and sustained relationship with the group for at least one year” and “your entertainment group must be internationally recognized, having a high level of achievement in a field evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered.”
Lord Of The Lost opened up on the process they faced themselves, writing, “We've met every demand and submitted countless translated interviews, newspaper articles, concert contracts, time schedules, endorsement contracts, label contracts, booking agency contracts, plane tickets and travel receipts, invoices from and to us, sales figures, bank account statements, revenues, expenses, tax assessments, medical data, criminal records, private background, family trees, employment agreements, credentials, booklet scans, production schedules, royalty statements, any proof of our existence as actual and not entirely unknown musicians, showing that our only interest in temporarily staying in the USA was merely about playing a tour.”
This goes along with the requirements for Form-129, which is required for a P-1B visa. The State Department websites lists the requirements for this form, which includes evidence that “your group has performed and will perform as a starring or leading entertainment group in production or events which have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts or endorsements,” along with a “statement from the petitioner listing each member of the group and the exact dates for which each member has been employed on a regular basis by the group.”
Instead of receiving an appointment with a U.S. Embassy, Lord Of The Lost found themselves asked for more and more paperwork, even after spending “another $1,200 for a so-called ‘Premium Upgrade,’ which was supposed to grant a preferential and thus quicker treatment.” The band worked with TCG World, which is staffed by immigration attorneys and their website even assures clients that “every case filed by [their] New York office is organized and thoroughly reviewed by [their] legal staff prior to submission to U.S. immigration.”
So after eight months of complying with the State Department, the band had to cancel their tour. TCG World has replied by filing a complaint against the United States, according to Lord Of The Lost’s statement.
When asked about how long the application process, Garrigus replied, “It varies on each case. For this type of visa, it wouldn’t typically take [a year]. I don’t have an example for how long one could take, but if they needed more information about sponsors or anything like that, it could take longer.”
Bands denied entry into the United States seemingly has become a trend, with stories like Peter Bywater, lead singer of punk band Peter And The Test Tube Babies, denied entry for reportedly previously mocking President Donald Trump.
SXSW had a long list of artists who were denied entry into the United States, such as Massive Scar Era, who tried entering the country with a B-1 visa, or Soviet Soviet, who tried entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program.
The B-1 visa allows people to come into the country “if the purpose of the planned travel is business related, for example, to consult with business associates, attend a scientific, educational, professional or business conference, settle an estate or negotiate a contract.”
It appears that many artists believe “attending a professional or business conference” applies under the same rules as performing at SXSW, but Brian Taylor Goldstein, an entertainment attorney, explained in an article for HelloStage why that’s not the case.
“Artists cannot perform on visitor visas (B-1/B-2) or through the Visa Waiver Program (“ESTA”) regardless of whether or not they are being paid and regarding of whether or not tickets are sold. Except in the most narrowly defined circumstances, U.S. immigration law always has defined ‘work’ as it pertains to artists, as any kind of performance. Artists denied entry on the basis of fraud, will have a denied entry on their record, impeding future visas and travel… Some presenters and venues in the U.S.—particularly festivals and academic institutions—continue to advise artists that O and P visas are not required if an artist is not being paid and/or if the performance is part of a training program. This is incorrect and always has been.”
In the case of Bywater, it appears that he wasn’t denied entry into the country because he criticized President Trump. Instead, he, like so many other artists, was denied entry into the United States because he tried entering the country under the Visa Waiver Program.
However, what makes this story even stranger is that it appears that Lord Of The Lost did everything correctly. They applied for a P-1B visa early, they provided the United States government with all of the documents needed, yet they still didn’t receive their visa.
Lord Of The Lost end their statement with this:
“At the end of the day this might be the most bitter disappointment in our career so far and a financial disaster after thousands of dollars spent. Not to mention plane tickets, merchandise orders and loss of earnings in a month that is now hardly utilizable work-wise on such short notice. We have spent a five-figure amount of Euros only for the experience of being treated like felons, despite the fact that the only thing we wanted to do in the USA was this: Making people who love our music happy by doing what we love most!”
Bands looking to tour the United States need to be sure to begin the application process as early as possible, as Garrigus recommended, along with doing the proper research on what visa is required for your band’s business in the United States. Goldstein notes in his essay that being refused entry will remain on an artist’s record, which can possibly make getting into the United States even harder next time.
Applying for a visa can be a very difficult and time-consuming process which is why working with a group like TCG World or working with an entertainment or immigration attorney is never a bad idea.