Canadian Comic book artist Gisele Lagace was stopped at the U.S. border and denied entry when she admitted she was entering the U.S. to do commission work at this weekend’s C2E2 in Chicago. From her Facebook post about the incident:
Welp, no C2E2 for me. Was refused entry at the border. They kept pressing about the comics I had and the sketches, and well, I had to be honest and said that I did get paid for commissions but before hand, but since they weren’t complete, it was considered work in the us. Comics wise, I had maybe $700 in value if I had sold everything. Honestly, it’s not a lot.
Was asked if I was the only one doing this as I looked surprised to be refused entry. I said no, many artists from around the world attend these to promote themselves. I don’t think they cared.
By “promote themselves”, I’m guessing she’s referring to going to comic book conventions and selling commissioned art to fans. In other words, working without a work visa.
When you enter the United States for the purpose of working, you need a work visa. The same applies in Canada. When you enter Canada for the purpose of working, you need a Canadian work permit.
Gisele Lagace continued:
Now that I’ve been refused entry in the US for this, it’s on file. Don’t expect to see me at a US con until I can figure out a way to get in and being absolutely certain this won’t happen.
If she wants to ensure this won’t happen again, she’ll need to obtain a work visa. The problem is that she doesn’t appear to qualify for a work visa. Under the law, she would fall under the Business Visitor “B” Status. To fall under this category, the following two stipulations must be met:
- is entering the U.S. to conduct business temporarily; and,
- will not be employed by a U.S. entity.
Although this seems to fit anyone entering the United States to do commissioned artwork at a comic book convention, there are limitations to what type of business activities can be conducted under a B visa.
Creating and selling artwork doesn’t seem to qualify.
I think the world of comic book commissions is a shady business. Most artists doing commissions don’t own the intellectual property (IP) of the art they’re creating, nor do they have permission of the IP owner to generate art for sale. Some of the artists working in this murky world routinely rip people off.
I don’t mean to imply Gisele Lagace is a shady character or that she’s ever ripped anyone off. I think she tried to do what a lot of her peers regularly do, but she answered the border agent’s questions truthfully. If she were shady, she would have told the agent a lie.
The comments on Gisele Lagace’s Facebook post indicate most of her fans blame Donald Trump for this. I’m not so sure. When I did field service work in the late 90’s, the company I worked for had a few field service techs in Canada. When they came down for training or meetings, they would make sure not to even bring a screwdriver with them. If the U.S. border agents even suspected they were coming down to work, they would deny them entrance and place them on some type of list.
One of my friends told me he would never do anything that would jeopardize his ability to take his family to Disney World. I respected that.
Trump wasn’t president back then.
Also published on Medium.