Hollywood’s immigration lawyers are working overtime as they try to help overseas talent deal with the repercussions of President Trump’s travel ban.
The ban affects visa holders from seven countries, including Iran, Syria and Sudan. Actors and musicians with passports from those countries — even those with dual citizenship in other countries, such as the United Kingdom or Canada — now find themselves unable to travel to the U.S. for work.
“Our phones have been ringing off the hook,” said attorney Lorraine D’Alessio, who has many entertainment clients who are affected. “They’re aware that they cannot travel now. They’ll have to turn down jobs.”
Overseas workers typically obtain an O-1 visa to work in the U.S., which is open to those who possess “extraordinary ability” in the arts, sports, and other fields. Under Trump’s executive order, visa holders — including O-1 visas — from the seven countries are barred from entering the country for 90 days.
“That is already effecting delays in productions of all sorts,” said attorney Richard Tashjian, who is based in Glendale. “There’s a lot of Iranian talent out there.”
Tashjian said he is working with an Armenian singer who was born in Syria, and is trying to come to the U.S. for a concert tour. Over the weekend, the singer went in for an interview at the U.S. embassy in Armenia, but was turned away.
“We don’t know how long it’s going to take for him to get a visa,” Tashjian said. “The promoter may end up having to cancel all the shows and refile everything.”The ban also affects foreign citizens currently in the U.S. on O-1 visas. They can no longer leave the country — either for work or family trips — for fear of being unable to return.
“A lot of practitioners are advising their clients, ‘Don’t leave the U.S.,'” said attorney Heidy Trombi. “It’s absolutely ridiculous.”
Alan Klein, an attorney who advises studios on immigration issues, said he began warning clients weeks ago to expedite their plans if they wanted to hire Middle Eastern actors.
“It was apparent he wasn’t fooling around,” Klein said, speaking of Trump.
Klein said he had some clients who were stranded at LAX over the weekend. “They’ve all been finally let in, but there were people that did have quite a few hours to wait at inspection,” he said.
Initially, green card holders were swept up in the order. That directive was later reversed, though it appears green card holders may still experience delays.”It’s constantly evolving,” said attorney Jeffrey Ehrenpreis. “Every day it seems like there’s something new.”