Thu | Oct 18, 2018

Denied! - US visas not issued to performing arts group set to represent JA at World Championships

Published:Thursday | March 23, 2017 | 12:00 AMAkeem Masters
Jamaica's contingent to last year's staging of the World Championships of Performing Arts (WCOPA).

Jamaica's participation in this year's staging of the World Championships of Performing Arts (WCOPA), may be in jeopardy following the rejection of American visa applications for the majority of the participants.

The competition, which is held annually in Los Angeles, California, sees participants enter in categories of dancing, vocals, acting, instrumentals, and modelling.

Team Scout for the World Championships of Performing Arts, Jamaica, Somouya Mattis, said she is confused by the denial of 13 of 15 applicants, who have visited the embassy so far.

"A total of 15 participants went to the embassy on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and only two were granted visas. The rest were denied without explanation and (yesterday on) three applications, the consulate told them they were too young. One is an entertainment coordinator at Iberostar, she's 22, one is a student, she is 19, and one is a full-time model, she's 22. And that is very baffling because the age of the participants that we bring every year is 18 to 24," Mattis said.

"Previously, some participants' applications were rejected because they said we did not have all the paperwork. So we ensured that we got all the papers together, especially the invitation letter from WCOPA," she added.




Despite, having more applicants with dates in April, Mattis is concerned that they, too, will be denied.

"Although, we have five more contestants with visa interview dates in April, we are fearful that they will be denied also. We can't compete with only two participants," Mattis said.

Entertainment coordinator at Iberostar, Odessa Walker, who was one of the applicants denied by the US Embassy, lamented, "I paid $30,000 for my visa application and US$1,700 to register in the competition. We were asked a few questions like; 'where we from?', 'Where we going?' and at the end of the interview, she said I apologise, but you're too young."

Walker, who journeyed from Falmouth, Trelawny, in hopes of being a model at the competition, said she just wanted to represent.

"I'm an entertainment coordinator at the Iberostar hotel and I travelled from Trelawny, and I just wanted to go there to represent and do my best for the country," she said.

When contacted, Joshua Polacheck, Counsellor for Public Affairs at the United States Embassy in Kingston, said, "The embassy does not comment on individual applications and if they want, they can reapply for their visas."

However, Mattis is concerned and said, "We don't want to reapply for the visas and the applicants are rejected again, because we feel that we are targeted."

Jamaica's FranÁois Medley, who was the World Champion of the Performing Arts, Grand Champion performer of the World, at the 2015 finals, (for his rendition of, Nessum Dorma), is currently enrolled at The New York Conservatory of Performing Arts, as part of his winning prize.