Border Officials Give 'Song and Dance' to Musicians

Published: 2004-07-20
For a musician to tour outside his own country a great deal of paperwork - work permits, visas, etc. - is required and a lot of luck to go with it. To tour or even play one or two shows in the US requires a signed contract six to eight months in advance and as application to work in the US is required. Even with all of the proper paperwork in order is not guarantee of entry because if a customs official at the border decides he or she doesn't want someone in then no one get in. Customs officials - US and Canadian - can decide on when they don't want someone in and there is nothing to be done.

The problem for many non US and Canadian musicians is that the bulk of a tour is in the US with Canadian dates scattered in and if there is a problem at the US entry point the entire tour can be in jeopardy. Since the US began tightening security at the border people from Africa and the Middle Eastern countries have been scrutinized even more. Issues of musicians not being allowed to cross the border have further crippled an ailing music industry. The result has been the top acts in world music are heading to Europe where there are no major issues for entering a country.

The tighter US security has even hurt Canadian and US musicians. Bands are finding it harder to cross the border. A few months ago three times in one week bands from the US were held up and denied entry into Canada. One case involved a past criminal record, but the others were simply because the customs officials didn't like to way someone looked and assumed a band member would be using drugs while in the country. Border officials and a perceived need for more security have made it increasingly difficult to earn a living in an already volatile industry.

Writer: Sherrill Fulghum



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