Celebrity Immigration 101: Amy Winehouse

Inadmissibility Criminal Grounds, Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse was an excellent performer.  She was nominated for 6 Grammy Awards and won 5 a huge achievement and one of international acclaim.  Amy was clearly tops in her field as an international performer, singer, and songwriter.  Unfortunately, Amy Winehouse had a troubled life, she died way too early at the age of 28 in July 2011.  She was arrested numerous times for drugs and was even allegedly videotaped smoking crack.  This is likely the reason why her visa was denied by the US Consulate in London so that she could perform at the Grammy’s and also be present while being nominated for 6 awards.

Two part test: Visa eligibility + admissibility
Given Amy Winehouse’s international acclaim as a performer, her substantial ties to the United Kingdom she was eligible for many different types of visas.  Just on the surface if an Examiner was told that Amy was nominated for the Grammy Awards it would be 90% of the battle for an approved visa.  So there had to be something more going on.  What was it?  While I don’t know the details, the big picture of most immigration applications, there are 2 main issues that need to be established:  First, the substantive merits of the case need to be established.  For example, in an H1B visa, it must be shown that the Beneficiary has the equivalent of a US Bachelor’s Degree; a job offer related to the bachelor’s degree, the offered wage must be above the prevailing wage, and the sponsoring entity must be able to afford the wage.  Or for a K1 visa which is a fiancé visa, the couple must show that both the US Citizen fiancé and overseas fiancé both are eligible to marry, they have seen each other within the last 2 years in person, they have a bona fide relationship, and they intend to marry within 90 days of entry into the US on the K1 Fiancé Visa.  Proving the substantive elements of the case is essential.  However, the second main issue is proving that the Applicant is admissible.  Or put another way, the Applicant must not be inadmissible.

Grounds of Inadmissibility – Drugs Addiction
There are many grounds of inadmissibility.  Some of the main grounds are crimes of moral turpitude, communicable disease of public health significance, persons determined to be drug abuser or addict grounds.  When someone is deemed inadmissible, not only must they prove the substantive requirements, now they need to file a waiver.  In Amy Winehouse’s case, due to the video that surfaced allegedly showing her smoking crack cocaine, she was likely deemed a drug abuser or addict.  So as eligible as Amy Winehouse was for a tourist visa, O visa, or P visa, she was likely deemed inadmissible and likely needed a waiver so that the grounds of inadmissibility were waived.

EB1 Extraordinary Ability for international acclaim professionals
Moreover, if Amy Winehouse wanted to permanently reside in the US, she clearly would have been eligible for an EB1 Extraordinary Ability given her musical achievements and international acclaim.  However, even if she proved all of the elements required for an EB1 extraordinary ability or an EB2 National Interest Waiver, Amy still would have needed to deal with the grounds of admissibility.  The point of this article was to illustrate that no matter how qualified someone is for a visa, they still need to establish that they are not inadmissible. If that is the case, a waiver application should be considered.