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New border dispute: Europe refuses entry to US recital star

Friends of the countertenor David Daniels have sent us this post from his Facebook page:

Yesterday I flew to Hamburg via Amsterdam arriving into Amsterdam at 6am. 6 years ago a work visa to S. America had come loose from a page in my passport and I removed it. A customs agent in Amsterdam asked me what had been on that page and took me to a private security office. After 2 hours of questioning and missing my flight to Hamburg I was told that the document (my passport) was fraudulent and had two choices. 1) Be arrested and taken to a Dutch prison until a court hearing or 2) be on the next flight home to the USA. At 8:30am I was on a flight home to Detroit. I haven’t slept in 34 hours! NIGHTMARE!!!!

What a terrible way to treat a fine artist. Please tell all your fellow-fliers to make sure their passports are in immaculate condition. And be very, very polite to border and customs officials. Especially in Holland and Germany. It’s getting frigid out there.

And if there are any arts journalists left in Holland, please ask the appropriate questions. This incident does no credit to the country.

UPDATE FROM THE GERMAN SIDE: Der Liederabend mit David Daniels am morgigen Donnerstag, 29.11.2012, muss leider verschoben werden. Grund dafür sind Komplikationen bei der Einreise des Künstlers in die EU aufgrund eines Formfehlers. Der Liederabend wird baldmöglichst nachgeholt. Bereits erworbene Tickets behalten ihre Gültigkeit oder können bei der Konzertkasse Gerdes zurückgegeben werden. Wir bitten um Ihr Verständnis.

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  1. Reminds me of my student years in St.Petersburg, Russia. Those days we still could have a visa separate from the passport – just a piece of paper with a photo and a couple of official looking stamps. I once noticed that my photo was about to fall off the visa and secured it with a tiny piece of scotch tape – a mistake! I was also accused at the border of trying to counterfeit my document and sent home… A good reminder for not doing any “adjustments” to official documents!

  2. I’m sorry Daniels had such a miserable experience, but I’m surprised he messed with his passport. If you travel a lot, you know how crazy security is at airports, and if a passport is damaged or defective, it’s easy enough to get a new one.

    • I am always horrified at how little care the US authorities especially show to my passport…..each time of entry the relevant admission card is unceremoniously stapled through several pages on to the cover and ripped off on departure again….as a result the poor old passport is lucky if it survives its full ten years of life….just as well I have two of them!
      The Japanese of course are meticulous in everything dealing with visas, and the entry and departure process. It is a joy to travel there…..greetings from Tokyo!

  3. Come on. Chill out people. How does that compare to how the US border officials treated Krystian Zimerman a few years back – destroying his precious Steinway just because they thought the glue smelled of explosives? And what a shock for an American to get just a small dose of the medicine that the US border control has been serving to us Europeans for years. If it was the other way round and the thing was happening on the US soil I bet DD would be put in shackles and retained at least for 24 hours on limited food and drink without a chance to call his family or embassy.

    Mr Daniels might want to speak first to his government to find out more about the source of the security hysteria we have to experience at airports worldwide. Although I doubt George W Bush who got us into that predicament would bother to answer. Too busy counting the profit his family made from the war in Iraq.

    • Mark, your point is well taken. Having ramped up what has now become an “international security state”, and used the questionable provenance of 9/11 and the “terrorist” responses to our wars as its pretext, we are, to paraphrase Pogo, “seeing the enemy, and he is us”. Phony baloney with a toxic blue mold is just that, phony and baloney and moldy and toxic, but unless collectively we demand better, that’s what we’ll be served.

    • Mark is 100% spot on. Amazing! An American has an issue with a border and everyone else is unreasonable? This type of hypocracy is so typically American. We have friends from Europe who refuse to come to the US now due to how they were treated at the border. Honestly…this sounds like an article from The Onion!

      • Galen Johnson says:

        I’m so glad that Graeme thinks we Yanks have a uniquely intimate embrace of hypocrisy. Yet another rock-hewn buttress for American exceptionalism.

        • The American fascination with exceptionalism is such an interesting phenomenon.
          Is there any country which doesn’t think itself in some way exceptional ?
          Or are the exceptional ones the ones that don’t ?

          Reminds me of Life of Brian:
          Brian: “you are all individuals”
          Crowd: ” yes, we are all individuals”
          Brian: “and you are all different”
          Crowd: “yes, we are all different”
          Lone voice: “I’m not…”

          Here’s to the exceptional Americans !

    • Mark,
      That’s it. Perfect comment, but let me tell you my South American passport experience. I’ve been many times in Amsterdam, Germany and especially in the USA in the last years. Always took less than a minute with the boarder officers mostly very professionals. Nevertheless I’ve spend hours in Melbourne explaining that Brazil is not in Africa, reason why I did not need a yellow fever vaccine. They sent me to quarantine. In Milan I’ve made a mistake trying to speak in Italian, but BO were really mad thinking it was a joking. I was almost arrested. 2 years ago, after several cases in few weeks of citizens been deported from airports in Spain without notice of reasons, Brazilian government decided to reply in the same way, since Spain was not cooperating on diplomatic terms. All Spain citizens were deported as soon as they arrived without exceptions, and there are many Spanish banks and companies in the country. This was the only way Spain government changed their rules and everything was in peace again. Retaliation is just a palliative, but not the solution since both sides will suffer.
      Problems happen in this matter in every place, but it is not focused just in Netherlands or Germany as it was stated by the singer, or even in the US. The excuse is about security, but it’s seems that they had been giving too much power to front line people. At the end, all regular people of any country are suffering for this excess. I think these boarder officers should have an internal affairs inspecting very close their work based on an international common agreement and acting quickly to solve issues.

      • Quite a series of tales. The commentator above who alluded to The Life of Brian was spot on. Good thing you didn’t tell them that you were carrying a flute in your intestine and did so because it was better insulated that way for international travel. I dread to think of the consequences.

    • Just because the USA is bad doesn’t mean one cannot condemn ruthless and insensitive behavior by immigration officers in other countries.

      This said, I disagree with the sentiment that bad treatment somehow gets worse because it happens to a “fine artist” (or, for example, a famous scholar). If anything, I suspect that highly educated white people from the USA and Western Europe generally get treated better than members of most other groups. If one good thing is to come from this, it is that the poor treatment of Mr. Daniels could shine the spotlight on unnecessarily harsh practices that may well be par for the course for people whose nationality or skin color renders them “suspicious” in the eyes of immigration officers.

      • Well said. Could not agree more.

        • At least they didn’t try to confiscate his voice, as being a valuable asset that was entering the country, so as to claim unpaid taxes !

      • Good point. Tell that to Mayor Iron Mike Bloomberg or his Police Commissioner General Ray Kelly about their “Stop and Frisk” policy.

  4. Julian Rowlands says:

    Hard to believe that we are still relying on bits of paper for this sort of thing, and given how easy it is to get a false passport issued, at least in the UK (allegedly), I doubt whether people need to use forgeries. Sounds like the problem here was a customs officer being an a***hole.

  5. Just because Daniels sings like an angel doesn’t necessarily mean he’s blessed with the brains of one. You do not tamper in any way shape or form with a passport – if he hasn’t a gofer to sort stuff like this, then best advice would be to put it all inside the covers & secure with an elastic band. It’s very sad, but worse things happen. He won’t do it again.

  6. Mark couldn’t have said it better!
    If one is travelling a lot then it must be known that also European border officials do their job!
    It is rather arrogant coming from the “mighty’ US. to think that Europe is a piece of cake to get into
    with damaged papers!
    So many Europeans can’t get to the US. even if they want to due to stupid regulations from the
    Bush administration. A few years ago US. authorities tried to get all information (even private things)
    from Europeans travelling to the US.
    Get a new (undamaged) passport and try again!

    • I just realized reading the comments of “Edzo” and “Mark” that Europeans have hardass envy. Pure and simple. I did not know that petty school ground politics should guide public policy.

      • Galen Johnson says:

        I fly to Paris or Frankfurt twice a year from Seattle, and have done so for the last eight years in a row, never with the slightest passport complication, in either direction. I’ve also often watched Europeans in line to get into the US next to me, which takes times, yes, but I’ve never, never seen rude US Customs agents.

        • Galen, I travel the opposite way from Europe to the States very often and I can confirm that you can meet very rude US Custom agents if you are at the right place but at the wrong time. Fortunately, they belong to a very small minority; unfortunately they represent their country in a very bad manner. Since we have to make the Visa-waiver and rechecking the luggage just when making transit in the US, I avoid an US-American airport if the US is not my final destination. It doesn’t excuse to travel with a damage passport but there is one more question: When did he remove this Visa? Short before his entrance to the EU or the six years ago he mentioned?

      • That’s not “hardass envy”. Behaving the way US border offiials often do – or are made to do – isn’t being “hardass”. It’s being assholes. Nobody has “asshole envy” (I think…). And they behave like that to US citizens, too. Several of my colleagues who traveled to the Near East on business were treated very badly when they returned. They just couldn’t believe they traveled there for work, not to attend terrorist training! One of them was detained and told that his passport was invalid and that there were criminal charges against him. Later it turned out they had just mistaken him for somebody with the same name…which tells you a lot about how they aren’t on top of all that. All the drama at the border can not distract from that and it doesn’t exactly help “fight terrorism” either.

  7. As an American traveler, I can only say: don’t mess with your passport. If pages are falling out, go to your post office and ask them to “officially” fix it. Sounds like he hadn’t done much traveling.

  8. Last time a musician had a problem with EU border officials, this blog blamed them mentioning their nationality in the headline ( This time, it’s juts “Europe”, not “Dutch immigration officers”.

    But I’m sure this is just mere coincidence.

  9. Yusef Islham (Cat Stevens) was refused entry ……. this is the man who sang “Peace Train”

    • No problem there with his passport, only with his humanist politics and his religion.

      • “Humanist”? Like saying that Salman Rushdie should be killed? He really said that, on several occasions, even though he made some lame attempts later to explain that away.

  10. According to Dutch law the document was fraudulent, because it was damaged. I don’t see why this would be injust. He can say and it may be so that the missing page contained stamps from South America, but there is no proof of it.

    I would say, tearing it out of the passport, mistake uno. Throwing the missing page away, instead of including the page, mistake duo. And as a big artist, flying all over the world etc., using a broken passport, mistake three, four, five, six and seven.

  11. David Daniels was not treated badly or unfairly. I can understand that the whole episode was a nightmare for him. And similarly for anyone, artist or not.

    However, a torn page out of the passport constitutes damage to the document.

    Here’s a quote from US Bureau of Consular Affairs: Water damage, a significant tear, unofficial markings on the data page, missing visa pages (torn out), a hole punch and other injuries may constitute “damage”, requiring replacement of passport.

    There is no “border dispute” here. And nothing to do with Mr David Daniels’ nationality either. This is normal procedure.

  12. I do feel sorry for the young man. I remember once on a flight to India how some poor lady somehow lost her passport in between going through the customs and getting on the plane. When she arrived she could not produce a passport so was sent back. I can’t honestly see how Mr Daniels deserves special treatment just because he is a ‘fine artist’ though. The moral is to keep your passport safe at all times and not to in any way remove the pages. May we all learn from the sad experience.

  13. I think that some people commenting here are under the impression that a page from the passport came loose and Daniels pulled it out. The way I understand it is that a six-year-old South American work visa that was stapled or glued to the page came loose and Daniels removed it, leaving the passport page intact albeit with staple or glue marks. This does not constitute a damaged passport the way a missing page would.

    On my previous passport I traveled to the US many times on the visa waiver scheme as recently as 2010, and had green bits of card stapled to my passport pages then subsequently removed upon departure, so my old passport was peppered with staple holes. Not once was I accused of forgery nor even asked what had been stapled there previously. My reckoning is that there is more to this story than Daniels indicates in his post, and until we have the rest of the story, we should not be too quick to jump to conclusions and accuse either party.

    • That is how I read it also. That they wanted to know what HAD BEEN on that page. I, too, have lost visas that were in the passport and expired, and never once had a problem, even going in and out of Russia.

  14. You don’t have to tamper with your passport to be treated like a criminal by US customs.

    My Niece’s boyfriend recently flew into New York with a visa to study Jazz for a period of 10 weeks.

    John was asked his reason for visiting the US and he explained as above despite it being detailed on his visa..

    ‘I’m not letting you in if that’s all you’re going to do here. You don’t need 10 weeks for that’ was the reply.

    Then his mobile was inspected for 20 minutes before relenting and saying – ‘Stay at home in Sweden (his father is English) a long time when you get home & if you do come back here again, then you’d better have a damn good reason!

    No wonder Americans are getting such a bad reputation. They are so up themselves…

    • If this is exactly what happened, it should be reported to the US Customs and Border Patrol. I have a family member who served in the Customs Service honorably for years and this would not be acceptable behavior. If people do not report bad behavior, it is allowed to continue.

      CBP has twitter and FB among other things.

    • Yes, because one bad experience with one American who was a jerk is enough to judge them all. Come to think of it, when I was in Denmark once, a passport agent was rude to me. All Danes must be so rude and unfriendly! Down with Denmark!

      • Well, now that you mention it, their government did become pretty wretched with this so-called “war on terriers”

  15. This performance is postponed:

  16. Daniels is behaving like a drama queen and s wholly responsible for his utterly stupid actions, the Dutch border patrol is NOT to be blame at all, he can only blame himself.
    My experience with american border control is all but positive as well and I never took pages out of my passport, what was he thinking?!?
    By the same action American border patrol would refuse me entrance to the State forever !!!! Think about David!

    • Vince,

      Firstly, where is the evidence that Daniels removed pages from his passport? Read what he wrote in his post: “6 years ago a work visa had come loose from a page in my passport and I removed it”. Ergo, a paper that was attached to one of the pages – not the page itself. Furthermore, by his statement, he has been traveling with the passport in this state for the last 6 years. So the last thing he would expect after six years of unhindered travel that some customs official would suddenly make a case out of it.

      Secondly, where is the evidence that he’s behaving like a drama queen? He was given two options, he chose one.

  17. J.J. Moskau says:

    A genuine borderline case. (No pun intended.)
    Mr. Daniels’ South American work visa had become an ‘attachment’ of a passport, hence a part of it.
    My Canadian passport clearly states that ‘This passport is the property of the Government of Canada.’ I would not ever dare tamper with it.

  18. bratschegirl says:

    Unfortunately, I think we here in the States do indeed win the prize at least for arbitrary and unreasonable immigration treatment of performers who are citizens of other countries, even before they set out for the airport. Foreign nationals engaged to perform a recital or concerto here often pay huge sums for “expedited” visa processing that still doesn’t come through in time; the artist loses the engagement, the presenter has to scramble for a last-minute substitute, and the audience doesn’t get to hear the performance for which they purchased tickets. But at least, somehow, this means that the terrorists haven’t won, or so we are told.

    • You may be right, but I’ve heard some administrative horror stories of foreign musicians being excluded from entry to Great Britain of all places, on the theory, or for fear, that the performer, even if he or she were coming to play for no fee would be taking away potential employment from a British musician.

  19. With so many experts on hand….what should I do ?
    My passport has a full page Cambodia visa, stuck in with bad quality glue, which has dried up so the visa now falls out. Do I
    A) stick it back in myself
    B) throw it away
    C) put a paper clip round it and hope for the best
    D) go to a post office (? That one puzzles me, to borrow official glue ?)
    E) avoid crossing any EU or US borders
    F) get a new passport
    G) other

    • Peter,

      No, I’m not a specialist, but I’m curious. There is no expiration date for EUA passports, that’s it? That thing about “six year work visa from S. America” is puzzle me. Here, expiration is mandatory and after 5 years after the passport was issued. You can transfer your visas to the new one at the countries embassy’s (So, New Visa Stamps) or keep the old one just to show it in the proper boarder, just for the purpose of the Visa. The validity passport is the new one. So, a six years old visa sound out of purpose to me, since it won’t be at my actual passport.

  20. go and get a new one or the department responsible for passports….Daniels was wrong and shouldn’t weep

  21. Can I just put my two cents in here? I’m a friend of David’s and also an opera singer traveling all the time. David Daniels did NOT tamper with his passport, (a very old South American visa came unglued from one page in the back and FELL OUT so he left it out) and this was his PRIVATE Facebook entry to his friends expressing his frustration, which some FB friend stupidly shared with the larger community. He is entitled to complain to his friends. This was not a “letter to the editor,” for God’s sake!

    I have talked to a US immigrations officer about the exact same problem that DD had, because I have the same problem. If the glue from one of your many visas is coming undone, you can NOT glue it back on yourself, because that would be seen as tampering with it. If you staple it into your passport, they can also call that defacing your passport. If you paper-clip it to your passport, which is the only option that seems legal, it can EASILY COME UNDONE and get lost. With my own (now lost) missing visa, it was ANOTHER U.S. IMMIGRATION AGENT who told me to “just take out the visa” that had come unstuck. It was expired, anyhow, and the stamps for in-and-out were contained on other pages, so there was documentation that I had been to said place. They do not put both those stamps on the same page as a visa, which this Dutch agent should have known.

    David is very much entitled to complain to his friends if he is kept for hours in interrogation, as is ANYONE going through passport control from any country going into any country. If it happened to anyone else, they, too would be exhausted, frustrated and disappointed if they were unable to fulfill their artistic and professional obligations because of a nitpicky, over-zealous, mindless immigration control agent. And they would probably be distraught after over 30 hours of travel to end up only back in the States, not even at home. (When he said “home,” he was talking about the U.S., not literally being home…) DD is not being dramatic – the situation was dramatic; and DD certainly is not the type of person to say or even think “I am so important, you must let me through” or something that some posters here seem to imply! I’m sure he was his normal, polite, straightforward self up until and even past the umpteenth time someone asked a stupid question.

    Do you computer jockeys sitting there in your comfortable armchairs writing invective have ANY idea how many times artists cross through passport control in one year alone? I invite you to keep your passport pristine and any little thing from coming unglued or smudged on it with the same schedule!

    And to the uncomprehending a-holes who said it’s “easy to get a new passport:” the next time you are home for four days (two of which fall on a weekend) and have been away for a month and a a half and will be leaving for another couple of weeks, in the midst of trying to go through your mail, undo your suitcase, get things cleaned, say hi to you hubby and maybe one friend, redo a suitcase and work on your music for your next gig, please tell me how EASY it is to get a new passport when you are never home! REALLY?? I am not complaining about the lifestyle of an artist: I am just saying it’s really easy from your armchair at home, when you only leave town to go on vacation, to say what a “crybaby” DD is being without knowing what the reality of his life in any way entails.

    If the whole idea of border control was to keep people who are doing nefarious things out of your country, or people who have no right to come into your country OUT, then this agent was not doing that job. It would have taken two seconds to confirm who DD is and what he was doing in Europe with a simple google search. Visas are glued in the passport, you have no control of the glue being used, and the border people damn well know this. Because DD is a performer, it is easy to retrace where he has been via all sorts of outside sources. newspaper articles, etc. easily findable online.

    AND – real kicker – If they really wanted to check where he had been, there was most likely an exit or entry stamp from said S. American country in his passport (even without the corresponding OTHER stamp which could’ve been on the visa) and they could have figured out that he was telling the truth about this missing page without too much ado. But instead it sounds like DD came across some a–hole control freak. They exist in every country, and gravitate towards jobs where they can throw their weight around, unfortunately. Post office in Italy, anyone?

    David was not expecting any “American exceptionalism” or “special treatment” – just common sense! Border patrol is not there to decide if your passport is to their liking: they are there to make sure people are who they say they are (could’ve figured this out easily with DD) and that they are not there illegally (easily figured out with DD), that they are not trying to stay there illegally (easily figured out with DD) and that they are not up to anything illegal (easily figured out with DD.) So this guy was just being a power freak. And yes, 34 hours is a nightmare if you have to sing anytime soon, people. Just ONE transatlantic flight in a pressurized cabin is already enough to make your vocal cords swell. Now remember how groggy your throat feels when you don’t sleep much? Try singing on those swollen cords… So, no, he is not being “dramatic” – this ordeal impinged on his livelihood and his ability to do his job.

    I am horribly sorry for ANYONE’s inhumane treatment and grilling by ANY passport control officer – it is so sad that travel has to be so stressful and that free movement of people all over the world is so complicated and bigoted. Until we combat poverty and the roots of inequality all over the world, there will always be desperate people trying to get someplace else to make a living, and there will be the ensuing controls of emigration and immigration. We can always dream, but until that point, we can at least expect a bit more logic from our border control officers….

  22. It doesn’t really matter which boarder you cross, they are very picky about just about everything. I remember a little old woman from Bulgaria trying to get into the US at the airport in New York, the customs officer really gave her a hard time for the simple reason, that she didn’t understand him. Her papers and passport were in perfect order, she just couldn’t answer his questions because she didn’t understand! Therefore: Take care to have your passport and declarations, visas or what ever is required in perfect condition! And I do believe that goes for everybody, no matter if they are well known or not. The ones who should be weeping are the people who will not be able to hear Mr. Daniels sing.

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