“Bringing stars to Guam can be a joy or a torturous experience! ” said Shelly Gibson director of Tango Inc.’s group sales marketing special events and promotions. “We secure partnerships with airlines hotels car rentals restaurants vendors and suppliers.” Fortunately it will be the Philippine talent managers or studios that secure the visas for their talents Gibson said.
According to the U.S. Embassy in Manila visa requirements for Guam are the same as those for mainland U.S. Michelle A. Solinsky Deputy Chief of the embassy’s Non-immigrant Visa Unit said “artists for purposes of non-immigrant visa applications are catergorized either as 1) aliens with extraordinary ability; i.e. in sciences arts education business or athletics for which they are issued ‘O’ visas; or 2) aliens at an internationally recognized level of performance for which they are issued ‘P’ visas.”
“Guam performances are usually limited to ‘Guam only’ visas. The validity of the visa depends upon the validity of the approved petition filed by the producer on their behalf ” she said. Solinsky said the embassy database however does not provide any figures on how many Filipino artists have been given visas to perform on Guam or in the U.S. mainland.
Gibson said Guam producers or sponsors of Filipino stars are usually limited to writing the letter of invitation that will be presented to the U.S. Embassy for their interviews. “In the last month [July] more than 30 young entertainers and artists were given their visas to travel abroad. But we have had incidences that the visas were delayed or denied. In those cases a lot of legwork is expended but that’s part of the effort. We just don’t know if they will get their visas or not but can’t wait on the plans if they don’t.”
Just recently “concert king” Martin Nievera and erstwhile husband of Pops Fernandez was not able to push through with his concert due to visa problems of his crew according to sources.
Even before 9/11 the U.S. Embassy had already been tightening its screws on visa application procedures due to the proclivity of some Filipinos to overstay in the U.S. after their visas have expired. Most of them risk deportation just to find work which pays more than jobs back home. The phenomenon has grown over the years to the point that Filipinos have dubbed the phenomenon “TNT ” short for tago ng tago (hide and hide).
As for Guam sources said there was a time that Filipino artists had a difficult time getting U.S. visas due to isolated incidents of drug smuggling and use by starlets. Sexy actors Alma Concepcion and Anjanette Abayari in the late 1980s were found to be in possession of methampethamine hydrochloride known as “ice.” The busty sexpots were deported after spending a few days in jail.
Superstar Gary V has not had any problems bringing his crew to Guam. “We are able to bring the same number of people [14: Gary including his wife Angeli seven band members and one each for sound engineer lighting engineer road manager tour director and stage manager] as we have been traveling for a long time to the U.S.; so our record at the Immigration must be clean ” said Angeli. Gary V and Nievera are U.S. citizens.
If visa applications are denied the road almost always leads to the offices of immigration attorney Michael Gurfinkel who has made a name in the Philippines after being able to help his star clients secure visas even under the most impossible conditions.
Gurfinkel was the one who was able to help songbird Regine Velasquez get a U.S. visa after she was initially denied one for allegedly falsifying her application papers. MBJ