Turkish band faces visa trouble on way to US festival

Turkish band faces visa trouble on way to US festival

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish band faces visa trouble on way to US festival One of Turkey’s rising indie rock bands, The Away Days is set to make it big in the United States – if they are allowed in.

U.S. authorities have rejected the band members’ applications for touristic and business visas, instead requiring the “P type” visa given only to performers set to hit the stage in the country.

The performer visa requirement, however, requires an employee, which the band does not have due to the nature of the SXSW festival, which provides unsigned bands the opportunity to perform for large crowds. Around 2,000 bands are chosen to play at the festival each year, from over 30,000 applicants, and its stages have seen the likes of John Mayer, James Blunt and the Foo Fighters.

The band, formed in 2011, is one of the strongest newcomers to emerge from the indie scene in Turkey, and has been receiving positive responses and play time on U.K. and U.S. radio stations due to their English lyrics. One of their recent gigs was opening for U.S. singer Paul Banks at his much-anticipated Istanbul shows.

South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) lawyers told the band that the performer visa was not required to attend the festival, and sent band members official invitations to ease the visa process, band agent Elif Tanverdi told the Hürriyet Daily News.

“We have sponsorship documents, accommodation arrangements, plane tickets and two separate invitation letters from SXSW,” Tanverdi said. “One of the letters explains in detail that the festival committee does not pay the performers and asks the authorities to provide the band with tourist visas.”

Even the Culture and Tourism Ministry stepped in, with a provincial directorate addressing the U.S. consulate in a letter, asking that the problem be resolved.

“We see the participation of The Away Days in the SXSW festival in Texas as having a positive impact in promoting Turkey abroad,” read the letter, which was provided to the Daily News by Tanverdi.

The issue remains unsolved so far, with band members waiting for the results.

“There is less than a month,” Tanverdi said. “We are all surprised and in a panic right now. We don’t want to lose the opportunity of a lifetime because of something like this. This could change the lives of these 19-and-20-year-old kids, but we’re stuck with this bureaucratic obstacle.”