Saturday, December 12, 2015

Oh My Girl couldn't enter the USA and neither can you - a quick primer about performing visas

It's rare that an opportunity for me to drop a post about something extremely topical comes up, but occasionally k-pop will throw me a jewel like that and here one is.  K-pop girl group Oh My Girl had some visa issues recently when attempting to enter the USA and since touring headfucks is an area in which I'm uniquely qualified having managed many of them personally, here is now a quick, helpful trufaxual post for your entertainment and education!

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So, what actually happened?

Oh My Girl tried to get into the USA to do some shows or promotions or whatever, but without the required paperwork (a performing visa for each traveller).  When quizzed by US Customs, the girls and their entourage lied and said that they were "sisters" presumably to keep their "we're not k-pop performers, honest" cover intact.  Customs thought that maybe eight mostly-above-school-age girls with different surnames plus entourage carrying a metric ton of frilly dresses, school uniforms and short skirts in their luggage looked a bit more like a fly-in brothel than a family get-together (because while k-pop fans think all that shit is "innocent concept wear", people who live in the real world know what a fetish is), so naturally Oh My Girl were detained while everyone tried to work out what was actually going on.  Eventually it was decided that nobody could be fucked waiting around forever so the girls hopped on a plane back to Korea.  The agency later confirmed that this is what happened, so there's no dispute about the facts.

Was the US Customs response reasonable or just racist?

It's the job of customs officers in many countries to check whether people are legally allowed to enter a country or not and to investigate matters that may be classed as suspicious, and Oh My Girl in this instance would have looked suspicious as hell, regardless of where they were from and where they were going.  Of course if it was me I would have recognised the girls straight away and waved them through into the special caonima express baggage check but you can't expect some random American to recognise a group only a few thousand people outside of Korea even know about.  The prostitute theory was obviously wrong (unless Oh My Girl do a little Tenpro agency work on the side) but it's easy to see why they would have felt the need to consider that possibility, as a customs officer erring on the side of caution in the face of oddities is part of doing your job properly... and k-pop groups look pretty fucking odd to most people who aren't embroiled in the world of k-pop fandoms and media.

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So why did their agency do this then?  Are they just dumb?

To enter the USA legally as performers, the agency would need to, on behalf of each of the girls in Oh My Girl, plus all support staff travelling with them:
So the agency are being cheap?

The difference in cost between performance and tourist visas has been pointed out, but if Oh My Girl were genuine tourists staying less than 90 days they wouldn't have even needed a visa at all, because South Korea is a participant in the USA's visa waiver program, they would have just had to make an electronic application and wait for approval.  However as performers they would require a performance visa (performance doesn't come under the visa waiver program's business exemptions).  So ultimately the entire cost of the performance visa could be dodged by Oh My Girl being passed off as "tourists".  However, the cost saving is just an incidental (tiny) benefit to the agency (or would be, if they got away with it), and is highly unlikely to be the real reason for trying to pass the girls off as tourists.

How do you know this?

Let's have a look at the two music videos that Oh My Girl have released so far.





Both are very high budget productions, featuring multiple elaborate purpose-built sets, the agency would have probably burned up a million dollars just on these videos alone.  It's obvious enough that their agency has money to throw around and an extra few thousand dollars on some paperwork would be nothing in the grand scheme, especially for a shot at that American advancement that k-pop agencies so dearly covet.

So what's the real reason then?  Were the agency just dumb?

Here's a fun fact about getting a performance visa for the USA.  You're not allowed to wait to sign any touring or performance agreements until AFTER the visa application is approved, you must do it BEFORE.  So if you play by the rules by booking your show, and then filing your visa application after, and then the USA says you can't come in, you've not only wasted money on the application but you've also automatically breached a contractual agreement with your American business partners, which potentially means way more money than a few annoying filing fees, not to mention you've pissed off fans.  The USA can also delay your application almost indefinitely by asking for "further evidence", insist that you pay union fees and any other manner of things, waits of up to six months for performance visas are extremely common.

What maybe could have happened in the Oh My Girl situation is this - the agency booked the shows first a few months ahead of time, then filed the correct paperwork (legally it must be done in this order).  The concert date drew closer and closer but either they got no response or they were requested to provide extra documents time and time again, stalling the administrative process.  The day that the girls had to hop on the plane and go to the USA for the show finally came along and there was still no final response so the agency said "fuck it, let's just send them on the plane anyway, we'll try our luck passing them off as tourists - it's either that or just cancel the shows and give up so we've got nothing to lose".

Oh.  Okay, I feel stupid now for assuming the agency were just a bunch of morons.  It might not even be their fault.

Well, saying "we're sisters" at the airport was maybe a bit silly and the girls' or the agency's only real fuckup - but that could be down to language barriers or mistranslation of a comment made in jest or in the "we're like family" spirit that these k-pop groups are probably in the habit of acting like when in public.  When appearing before customs you have to be really careful what you say and not try any funny business, because these people are on the lookout for anything that doesn't square off neatly - after all it's their job, and it's not their fault if the visa rules suck dick and you're trying to get around them, you sneaky caonima.

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I've never heard of anything like this before - is it common for performers to try and travel with incorrect visas?

OH FUCK YES, it's very, very, very common.  If you want a k-pop example JYP did visa scams with The Wonder Girls and got away with it but this is a practice far from limited to just k-pop groups.  US punk group Black Flag famously lost their drummer when his visa expired in the UK and he wasn't able to return to the USA due to his status as an illegal immigrant.  Visa entry issues are also not just restricted to USA entry - the Japanese punk band Limited Express (Has Gone?) tried to enter Australia on tourist visas in exactly the same type of situation as Oh My Girl, and were busted the same way - their language barrier meant they ended up saying the wrong thing to customs who realised that the group might be in the country for performance work rather than tourism, so they promptly got sent back home.  I could give dozens more examples including a few personal ones (but I won't because my lawyer has read this post and wants a chat - but maybe they'll appear as blind items one day?).  Customs officers in Australia now actually actively scan gig guides and keep on the lookout for international performers expected to be entering the country.  Artists have risen to the challenge - check any insider musician blogs for plenty of "how to convincingly pretend you're a tourist" style advice, and you'll see why customs officers everywhere are becoming super-vigilant about this.  I would say that for any artist anywhere in the world who is touring internationally but not A-list in their respective genre, cheap and dirty "tourist" tours are the norm, not the exception.

Wow, I guess that might be the real reason why my fave group suddenly cancelled their tour to my country only a day or two before it happened.

Yes, it might.

Wow Kpopalypse, you're so brainy.  How can I be more like you and less like some of the dickheads I see on other k-pop related websites?
  • Question everything.  Especially question the people who tell you to question everything, because a lot of those people just like questioning everything because they can.
  • Just because someone is a deluded fangirl or a media outlet is corrupt and petty doesn't mean that they're wrong.  It doesn't mean that they're right either.  Take informations on their own merit, or lack thereof.
  • Don't let morality cloud your rationality.  Stop thinking about what's right and wrong, instead worry about what's true and false.  Adhere to Kpopalypse standards of trufax.
  • Enjoy life and k-pop in your newfound wisdom and knowledges!
ihmygirlfo

27 comments:

  1. I will read when I have free time
    and needed some visa

    thank u <3

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  2. Oh, if only Asian Junkie and AllKpop readers saw this post... tsk tsk.

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    1. I don't know about allkpop readers, but I'm pretty sure many AJ readers follow this.

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    2. AJ reads all my stuff. Some of his readers also do, some don't. I actually partly wrote this because AJ kept complaining that I'd disagree with him in his article comments instead of writing my own articles, so I thought he'd enjoy this article that partly contradicts his. That's how thoughtful I am.

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    3. You never write about us disagreeing whether I should blow a load on your mom's face, Kpopalypse. I should ground you and make you write that article, but I'd rather have an orgy with your mom and the other T-ara members.

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    4. But I don't disagree with that part. Semen is great for the complexion. That's probably how she stays eternally 13.

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    5. I bounce between here and AJ. I occasionally look at akp just to see how much more it's gone down the crapper.

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    6. Crappier loads just got on kpopalyps mom das why

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  3. Some of the sites that reported the story legit left stuff out to make it like American security were just being racist dickheads. I'm happy you and asianjunkie didn't do that.

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    1. I'm sure customs are racist sometimes but there's a pretty strong case here for them just legit doing their job as they're supposed to. People these days are obsessed with racism and constantly look for it where it isn't. I think it's a form of racism in itself to constantly be hunting for racism because it's planting the seeds of racism in other people's heads in situations where it's not really justified and getting everyone thinking along racial lines when they previous weren't. There's enough blatantly obvious racism out there that people should worry about, rather than trying to determine new examples out of ambiguous situations and twisting things into a racial issue out of morbid obsession.

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    2. How many times can I say yes to the above comment?

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  4. The flaw in your speculation that they filed the proper paperwork and that the US Customs' shitty rules are what kept them from doing it legitimately comes in this quote:

    "We were thankful that this would be an opportunity for rookie girl group Oh My Girl to meet representatives, and we decided to take part in promotions. Since the event was not our own solo performance, there was no need to receive a performance visa."

    So, no - they probably didn't file for a visa.

    Asian Junkie was right: the agency deserves most of the blame. And yes, the agency is probably dumb for either for trying to gamble on getting them in as tourists and/or for trying to save paperwork/hassle/money.

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    1. Even if he's right and I'm wrong about that bit (and he probably is but I guess we can never really be sure), the point that visas are a total headfuck and that most groups don't even bother to try to get one being a standard thing still stands.

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    2. Yeah - I don't doubt it and I'm not surprised that many artists gamble on sneaking through.

      I'd be less critical of the company if they weren't trying to paint themselves as victims in this incident. They still maintain that it wasn't a visa issue (despite the airline making comments contrary to that) but that they cancelled the trip basically due to stress over being detained.

      I do have to give them credit for pulling off a successful (IMO) media play, though. Asian Junkie was one of the only sites that had a sensible take on it. Most other articles about it took the company's statements without question.

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    3. Well these companies generally aren't going to go with the "we fucked up" line unless they have no choice!

      This is news around the world at the moment, it reached people in Australia that I know who don't follow k-pop news who were linking me this on my Facebook and asking for my opinion. So as far as getting the girls known it's as effective an incident as GFriend's cruelty to moths.

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  5. Holy Sh--! I think I'm gonna bookmark this page for actual educational purposes.

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  6. A family that gets detained together stays together <3

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  7. I have no idea what really happened, but it doesn't surprise me that OMG had troubles trying to get in. The TSA makes it a nightmare just for us Americans to travel domestically. I can't imagine how bad it is for foreigners.

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    1. Customs is no picnic for anyone, whether you're traveling to or from the US.

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    2. Amazed that America is so crazy about domestic flights. In Australia we're like "just get on the fuckin' plane, cunt". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGGQWfLzkeE

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    3. It takes over an hour to go through the TSA lines at big airports like O'Hare in Chicago. It fucking sucks.

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    4. Any major city in the US that has an airport is going to have their strictly enforced TSA regulations. Since fucking EVERYTHING can contain a bomb, apparently.

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    5. Always wear flip flops fuck the weather and that new pair of knee length boots.

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  8. Not that I care about these nugus, but that's some real bullshit law by the USA customs.

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  9. I've never been on an airplane. Shit, I don't even have a passport. But this is pretty mind-blowing.

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    Replies
    1. You don't need a passport to fly domestically. A driver's license is all you need.

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    2. Oh right haha. My mom and I are planning a trip to Canada and all we've been talking about is flying, getting passports ect.

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