Winehouse gets visa, but too late

February 8, 2008 6:40:56 PM PST
Amy Winehouse's work visa was approved after all, but the State Department's change of heart Friday wasn't in time for her to make the trip to Sunday's Grammy Awards. Instead, the rehabbing British singer will go ahead with the backup plan that was concocted while her visa was still in limbo: a live performance, via satellite, from a studio in London where she will also accept any awards that may come her way. Winehouse and her acclaimed "Back to Black" album are nominated for Grammys in six categories.

"Unfortunately, due to the logistics involved and timing complications, Amy will not be traveling to the U.S. to perform at the Grammys in person," the Outside Organization said in a statement.

Winehouse's original visa application was denied under U.S.

immigration rules regarding the "use and abuse of narcotics," a senior State Department official said Friday, on condition of anonymity because the U.S. Embassy in London's application deliberations are confidential. As a British citizen, Winehouse would not normally need a visa to enter the United States - unless she wanted to work or perform.

The Department of Homeland Security had been "rapidly" processing her appeal, the official said. But the reversal, barely 48 hours before the beginning of the telecast, came too late.

"Amy would like to thank all of those people, in particular the staff involved at the U.S. Embassy in London, who have all worked so hard to expedite her application," Outside said. "She is looking forward to being a part of the 50th Annual Grammy Awards with her Sunday night performance and to going back to the U.S.

soon."

Even if Winehouse had been able to board a non-stop flight from London to Los Angeles immediately after her visa came through Friday, the earliest she would have arrived would have been the wee hours of Saturday morning. That grueling itinerary would have left little time for her to rest and recover from a more than 12-hour journey, rehearse, and face the inevitable storm of attention that's been building during the will-she-or-won't-she-be-there drama of the past days.

Winehouse's potent blend of blues, jazz, pop and soul has won praise from critics and fans, but her chaotic personal life has increasingly upstaged her music. Concerned family members regularly beg Winehouse to seek help in letters splashed across the pages of British tabloid newspapers and magazines.

Last month, The Sun newspaper ran still images from a video that it claimed showed Winehouse inhaling fumes from a small pipe. The images were said to have been filmed during a party at her London home.

Shortly thereafter, Winehouse entered a London rehabilitation center, and has been questioned by police. Outside said earlier Friday that she was leaving the center to prepare for her performance. It added that the singer would remain under medical supervision.

Other British music acts have had difficulty securing visas.

Lily Allen was scheduled to perform at the MTV Video Music Awards in September, but the pop star's visa was revoked. The U.S.

Citizenship and Immigration Services hasn't commented, but her manager has said he suspected it was because Allen was arrested in London in June after an altercation with photographers.


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