Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Ian McEwan refused entry into the US 

Story still developing, but the author of ATONEMENT was detained Tuesday night for four hours at Vancouver airport as he prepared to fly to Seattle for a speaking engagement as immigration officials tried to ascertain the validity of his visa. Afterwards, they refused to allow him into the country. He was travelling as the guest of Caltech, who had indicated he didn't need a special visa for entry, but immigration officials thought otherwise and turned McEwan back.

McEwan was, understandably, rather upset about the whole business:

"I have been doing this type of thing for 30 years and I have never been refused entry," he said. "I have never had anything to conceal and have always told immigration officials what I was travelling for.

"I am not stealing anybody else's work, I am talking about my work and who can talk about my work better than me? "I am not coming to the US to practice as a novelist, I am coming to talk about being a novelist.

"In other words, if I was a trapeze artist in a circus in London and if I was invited to talk about it in the States, I could do it without a visa. If I wanted to do trapezing in the States, I would need a visa."

Luckily, the matter was referred to the British Consul, which secured McEwan a visa in time for tomorrow's speaking event in Portland, Oregon. I'm somewhat confused about the matter though--CalTech assumed that because McEwan was only speaking somewhere, not actually engaging in anything to do with the act of writing, that he could get by just being classified as a tourist? Never mind that the rules are probably more stringent on that sort of thing post 9/11. But I wonder how frequently writers are turned away at the border, and what lengths publishers or benefactors have to go to make sure visiting foreign authors can actually enter the country. Obviously, they will have to do more after this.

UPDATE: The Literary Saloon investigates the visa requirements that McEwan allegedly needed--and is puzzled that the rules explicitly state he did not need one.

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