Breaking: US refuses entry to star Venezuelan conductor

Breaking: US refuses entry to star Venezuelan conductor


norman lebrecht

December 03, 2015

Rafael Payare, conductor of the Ulster Orchestra and a rising podium star, was refused entry to the US today even though his visa is current, according to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

Payare was due to give concerts with the orchestra this weekend together with his wife, the US cellist Alisa Weilerstein.

He is said to be ‘shocked‘ by his exclusion.

Cincy have replaced him with Dallas assistant conductor Karina Cannelakis.

rafael payare


  • SergioM says:

    What is this all about? He has conducted here in the States several times before already most recently with the Chicago Symphony at Ravinia his past summer

    • Max Grimm says:

      According to the article, the “problem involved not the visa, but other paperwork that needed to be renewed” and that despite “efforts of Ohio Congressman Steve Chabot and his office, Payare was denied entry. Fixing the issue will take at least two weeks.”

      While it is becoming increasingly laborious to ensure all necessary travel and work documentation is current and as it should be, there simply isn’t a way around the issue.
      And if there is a unifying characteristic of immigration and customs officials the world over, it is that they are mostly anal-retentive nitpickers.

    • Bruce Sterling says:

      The orchestra management in question should have filed a Homeland Security petition on his behalf stating his status as a musician and triggering a before-stay background check. Had they done this, he would have been allowed in. Unfortunately those things were not done by his US employer.

  • Alex says:

    But the syrian refugees are okay…

    • suzanne says:

      Syrian refugees’ paperwork takes more than 2 years to process! Keep your comments factual, please.

    • Alvaro says:

      Another racist piece of……work…..shows their real colors in Slippedisc.

      Why am I not surprised.

      YOU alex, are at LEAST 5X more likely to be murdered by larry or Chuck, your KKK wannabe friends who dont believe in parental control and have the confederate flag in their house, than by any syrian refugee.

      So, next time you go to chuckee cheese with your kid, or to work, or pretty much anywhere in the US, whatch the F- out! Not for the syrian guy, but from JOE, your white POS.

      P.S. Enjoy your freedom

  • Olaugh Turchev says:

    Make no mistake: this is Putin’s fault.

  • Eric Tomlinson says:

    This sounds so much like something that happened in the 80’s, when I worked for a leading artist management firm and we encountered these issues when trying to send artists to the then Soviet Union. There were always issues, wrong paperwork, a stamp in the wrong place on a document and on and on. We too resorted to help from leaders known to the artist. It made travelling to the Soviet Union terrible and full of complications. One never knew whether the concert would take place or not, often until a few hours before the concert itself. The US starts to resemble the very thing that it fought so hard to change.

  • Tobi says:

    But at least we will avoid the “So happy after tonight’s concert” instagram/face/twitter-orgy (if nothing else.)

  • Peter Freeman says:

    He should have hired ace NYC immigration lawyer Brian Goldstein to handle his visa application. He knows the ropes inside out and specialises in the classical music market.

  • Holger H. says:

    He is married to a US citizen who is also a resident inside the US, but he has no green card? Something is amiss here…

    • Max Grimm says:

      I remember reading in an article that he and his wife maintained a residence in Berlin and in Caracas, so he may not fulfill the residence requirements for an US-American green card.

      • Marcato Sempre says:

        For double-taxation reasons, he probably doesn’t WANT a green card.

        • Holger H. says:

          Green card holders can logically not be subject to double taxation.
          Because only US citizens earning and living abroad are the victims of this crazy US double taxation legislation. A foreigner who resides abroad, does not qualify as a US resident, loses his Green Card, and consequently also does not owe any taxes to the US.

          But the number of US citizens who renounce their citizenship is rising, due to the nonsense US double taxation laws.

          • Olassus says:

            The exemption is as high as $80,000, however.

          • Holger H. says:

            AFAIK only on income from labor. Not on other sources of income e.g. pensions etc.
            The US is the only country in the civilized world, that taxes based on citizenship, not based on residency.

          • Olassus says:

            It requires income reporting based on citizenship.

          • Blu Ming says:

            US citizens and permanent residents must file taxes for income received locally and/or abroad.
            Aliens legally living/working in the US must file US taxes unless a tax exemption agreement exists between the US and the country from where the alien is a citizen.

          • Holger H. says:

            Blu Ming, so far so good. Where the US turns it into borderline robbery, is the taxation of expatriates, even if they happen to temporarily live and exclusively earn money abroad, where they of course have to pay their taxes to the country of residence. It’s double taxation, and that is considered illegal under any reasonable POV.

      • Furzwängler says:

        As the conductor of the Ulster Orchestra one may assume that he spends some time in Belfast as well.

        • Max Grimm says:

          Of course. I mentioned Caracas and Berlin specifically, as I assume the couple owns their residences in the respective cities vs lease/hotel in Belfast.

  • Maria Nockin says:

    Visa getting has simply become ridiculous. We need special visas for well known artists who could get vetted once and then have a 5 year renewable visa.

  • Hilary says:

    As a result of this cafuffle Shostakovich’s enigmatic 2nd Cello Concerto will be replaced by his somewhat overplayed 1st Cello Concerto. A pity.

  • MacroV says:

    It’s a pity, but chances are that someone messed up the paperwork for his (I assume) P-1 or P-2 visa (or maybe an O-1). Nothing sinister (e.g. Old Soviet Union, etc.) need be read into it. He needed to have his I-797 petition approved by a DHS adjudicator in order to be issued a visa at an American embassy/consulate. Consular officer doesn’t have much choice if he lacks a valid petition.

    Good point, though, that married to a U.S. citizen, he can easily get a green card, and only needs to be in the U.S. once a year to keep it valid. In fact, a spouse of a U.S. citizen who is assigned by his/her US employer to be working abroad can even get accelerated naturalization (not sure if a solo cellist wife would meet that test, though, unless she incorporates and assigns herself to Berlin). Certainly would seem he should get a green card if he plans to conduct much in the US; the visa process for performers is a pain.

    • Holger H. says:

      Probably the downside of the Green Card residency for him, double taxation and with it double tax bureaucracy, is bigger than the advantages.

  • NYMike says:

    I’m told by a friend in the LSO that, despite their coming here annually, the US visa requirements are a royal pain in the ass.

  • Holger H. says:

    Hasn’t the Vienna Phil actually decided not to visit the US anymore, due to the horrific experience they had lately when touring the Soviet United States of America?

    • CDH says:

      Wonder if big rock acts, European or other foreign movie stars commandeered for Hollywood and pro sports stars who tour (tennis, golf, etc.) have similar problems?

      • Blu Ming says:

        I would say that they have similar requirements.
        Usually O visas and P visas must be petitioned to the immigration authorities by agents or US employers in behalf of the artists or athletes.

  • Hmm says:

    So Cinci hires the assistant conductor from Dallas and not uses their own?
    They should have given the chance to their OWN. My humble opinion.

  • Holger H. says:

    What qualifies Payare in NL’s eyes to be labeled a “star”? Isn’t he just a young and emerging professional musician and conductor hopeful, like dozens of others? What’s the point?