Women in Music 2018

Russian Immigration Authorities Detain Indie Band Over Common Visa Issue

The Kremlin in Moscow, Russia photographed on May 7, 2015.

On February 17, immigration authorities in North Russian city of Murmansk disrupted a show by US band mewithoutYou, detaining the band's members for two hours on the ground of alleged visa violation. The situation could set a dangerous precedent for touring foreign acts.

"Probably wildest show we have ever played," the band said on their Facebook profile several hours after the show. "We are safe and being let go but show got shut down by immigration control, been detained for the last two hours in a municipal building, godwilling we catch our flight home in 2 hours."

The musicians were eventually let go just in time to catch their plane out of the country.

Vitaly Zimin of the promo group STOP the SILENCE!, which promoted mewithoutYou's show in Moscow a day before, clarified to Billboard that the Philadelphia-based indie rockers were allowed to play their regular set, but not songs normally reserved for an encore. According to Zimin, the problem arose from the fact that the musicians visited Russia on business visas rather than work visas, and, according to the local immigration authorities, were therefore not allowed to perform the show.

"Getting work visas for touring musicians is a long, costly and complicated process," he explained. "You would need to apply some six months in advance and submit a lot of paperwork, including medical certificates."

"Technically, musicians should have work visas to perform in Russia, but just about all of them come here on business, tourist or cultural-exchange visas," Zimin went on to say, adding that artists his company brought to Russia never had problems of that kind as authorities turned a blind eye.

However, since the precedent has been created, the issue of visas for touring artists will have to be dealt with.

The idea of creating a specific kind of visa for touring artists has been floated lately, but no concrete steps have been made. In late 2015, plans for creating promoters' self-regulating organization also stipulated that it will deal with touring foreign acts' visas, but the creation of the organization has been postponed.