Reports | July 11, 2012 22:05

Van Wely denied entry to U.S. for lacking a work visa

Loek van Wely

On Monday night at Newark Airport Loek van Wely was denied to enter the United States because he "lacked a work visa". When the Dutch grandmaster told the authorities that, among other things, he was going to teach chess to American kids, they considered this an illegal working activity. As a result of that, Van Wely's entry was refused, he got detained, handcuffed and escorted by police to a plane and deported.

Monday, July 9th at 21.30 Loek van Wely arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport. He had just started a big trip to the USA. As always, at customs he was asked what he was going to do in the USA, and he explained that he would celebrate holidays, play poker, play chess and participate in two chess camps.

This attracted their attention,

Van Wely told us on the phone on Wednesday night.

I explained that I was going to teach kids chess, and they asked if I would be earning money with this. I said yes, and told them how much. Then they detained me.

Van Wely was held in a small room for eight hours, and had to hand over his mobile phone.

I was allowed to make one phone call, as if I was some dangerous criminal. I called the Duch consulate, but they couldn't help me,

said Van Wely. On Tuesday morning at 04:30 AM he was handcuffed and escorted to a terminal. There he had to wait for another 4.5 hours before he was escorted by police to a plane which flew him back to London. (He had also flown to Newark via London.)

Besides visiting Atlantic City, New York and Las Vegas, Van Wely was going to coach quite strong teenagers, rated between 2200 and 2500, in Saint Louis for a few days. Later he would also join a short chess camp in L.A.

Instead of considering this a noble act, they looked at this as an illegal working activity. (...) I was surprised I didn't end up in Guantanamo Bay,

Van Wely wrote on Facebook, where he revealed the whole affair in a status update on Wednesday.

The Dutch grandmaster said to us that he understands that a working visa is required for his coaching work.

However, the reaction was heavily exaggerated. The thing is, they are never bothered when you tell them you will play a chess tournament, and you have a chance to win some money. And for a chess player, making money with coaching comes down to the same thing, but for the authorities it's very different. They see coaching, much more than playing, as work.

Last year Van Wely also took part in a chess camp in Los Angeles, before playing in a tournament there.

I only started recently with these chess camps, so it's not a regular income or anything. And it was just going to be ten days; it's not that I was going to doing a lot of work in the States.

Van Wely is still trying to rearrange is trip and do the coaching.

I'll try to get a work visa. They said it shouldn't be a problem, but I'm expected to be in Saint Louis on July 22nd, so there is not much time.

Even if he won't do any coaching, from now on Van Wely will need to apply for a visa to visit the USA for the rest of his life. This is standard practice for travellers who have once been rejected.

At the chess camp in Los Angeles, Vishy Anand is also going to make an appearance – if the World Champion gets through customs, that is.

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


Casaubon's picture

I fail to see how this is newsworthy. The law is clear and, whether through laziness, indifference or whatever else, Mr.Van Wely broke the law. No amount of 'nobility' or honesty changes this fact. Other professional sportspeople need to procure work permits before plying their trade in another country so why do chess players feel they should be different?

B L's picture

I agree. Also, the other issue is that of him being 'hand-cuffed' under immigration laws, one would only be hand cuffed for their safety or the safety of officers. I have no doubt that Loek made a big fuss when he entered the country, tried to argue and they through the cuffs on him.

Get your paper work right next time and avoid the 'embarressment' you caused yourself.

Anonymous's picture

'' I have no doubt" lol

Niima's picture

You have no doubt?!

You live in the dream world. The way Loek was treated (handcuffed etc) was standard - no provocation was needed. Do your homework.

It is a typical example of the U.S. government's and military's tendency to use disproportionate force in situations where critical thinking and measured actions would solve the problem with half the resources.

hansie's picture


Anonymous's picture

My god, would you shut up with the +1 thing?

Anonymous's picture


Anonymous's picture


Anonymous's picture


hansie's picture


Yeah, sure!
Minus Ten for you!

Anonymous's picture


Anonymous's picture


S3's picture

I think you misspelled your name BS.

NN's picture

"Having no doubt" about some event in which you were not present but use your imagination to reconstruct how it might have been ... Why would anyone take you seriously?

Mike's picture

Loek, welcome to the new Obama America !!. Sneak in across our southern boarder, you will become an instant hero!. And remember our boarder agents shoot with bean bags, not real bullets like your escorts.

Bala B's picture

Why can't they tell him that he cannot do the chess camps (which needs the work visa) and let him in for what he is allowed to do. Why do they have to deport him?

noyb's picture

The US Government is completely out of control. It welcomes illegals carrying drugs ("mules") with open arms, free education and schooling for their children, but kicks out chess players trying to make pocket change. What a sorry mess, makes me embarrassed to be an American. My apologies for my countrymen Loek!

randi's picture

Don´t visit the 'promised land'. It sucks. Everything is new & many places you can visit instead, rich in culture and full of opportunities. The american concept, you know 'the dream', is exhausted.

hansie's picture


Mads Sørensen's picture

All of a sudden, I am very glad to live in Scandinavia. :-)

P.S. Do not thrash the American's; they are very nice people! The problem is their culture.

Anonymous's picture

Ok mads. Next time there is a genocide in Bosnia, we will ask Scandinavians to go to the rescue.

Bert de Bruut's picture

It might work, Sweden has waged war with Russia more often then the French and Germans combined.

hansie's picture


Columbo's picture

yeap ! especially if you think that Finland was right in the middle !!!

valg321's picture

and aligned itself with US interests at least equally as many no it will not work

Anonymous's picture

As someone in Serbia who witnessed the violence, I can tell you the genocide did not start until NATO bombing. After that, Mladić went crazy. You can look it up in history books. NATO lies about it to save face. Clinton and Blair are war criminals, they should be on trial too.

hansie's picture


hansie's picture


hansie's picture


Minus 10

hansie's picture

I apologise that most of my responses have not appeared at the proper places.
So, just to re-iterate my reply to Anonymous saying, "Ok mads. Next time there is genocide ..."
I intended to reply: Minus Ten.
In retrospect, I feel that it was too mild. But, I'm afraid that if I vent my true feelings, these may very well be deleted.
So, I'll compromise by saying:
Down with USA.
None of your chessplayers is ever going to qualify even for the candidates.

Anonymous's picture

You have a lot of hatred in you . Come to US I will take you to a good doctor

hansie's picture

"You have a lot of hatred in you. ..."

As if the rest of the world believes in the goodness of US doctors!!!

randi's picture

Nobody ever asked for American help, it's an obligation self imposed and actually, any country involved with the US i think might want to go back in time and refuse any contact between countries. Americans are cool, like the rest of the world, period. No one is superior to one, but in any case, i prefer to visit other places, far more interesting.

Anonymous's picture

What do you know about Bosnia?

Creemer's picture

And what is the difference between the characteristics of a people (being nice for example) and its culture?

MJul's picture

If in elementary, secondary and high school, college, media, etc (or culture). people alway hear the same they will probably believe that or act as if they believe it even when it's obviously wrong (Asch experiments).

However the same people under other cinrscumstances would be different.

hansie's picture


KingTal's picture

Actually USA doesn´t have any culture... except for the native Indians there.

Carabanchel's picture

U.S. Shame, medieval methods, like always

justice uber alles's picture

When the law isn't applied equally to all persons, people complain that famous persons receive preferential treatment. When the authorities do their job and apply the law in the same way to all persons, people complain again. People have a tedency to complain no matter what. I am European but I am glad that there is a country on earth where the law is respected and applied equally to all persons. The law that required to handcuff the GM seems too extreme, but I am glad that it was applied to the letter because I don't want persons to get preferential treatment because of their name.

Anonymous's picture


Columbo's picture

People who hired Van Wely should have told him about this ! that's the whole point.

Thomas's picture

On one hand, if van Wely hadn't mentioned _everything_ he was going to do in the USA he certainly would have been able to enter the country. Theoretically he could then be 'caught' later on when his teaching kids gets local media coverage - but I guess the local police either wouldn't care, or would assume without checking that he has the required papers.

I agree with others that it's primarily the organizers' fault. I guess Anand is safe - if they haven't done what needs to be done they will now do their homework (unless it is now too late).

It's not a specific USA problem: If I remember correctly, at one occasion Kramnik almost couldn't play the London Classics due to visa problems, but such issues were then resolved. But it's rather likely that other GMs from eastern Europe couldn't play events in western Europe for such reasons. Moving on to genuine police states and someone (Peter Doggers) who isn't even a GM :) : I don't know about Astana where he apparently worked for himself and Chessvibes. But - again if I remember correctly - at the Baku Grand Prix he worked for the organizers, and they had to ensure that he wouldn't encounter immigration problems.

Septimus's picture


Police here don't go about harassing people for papers. It used to be the norm in Arizona, but the supreme court struck down most of the state laws. In fact, almost all policemen don't want to be shackled with enforcing immigration issues. There are bigger problems to tackle.

Columbo's picture

It also happened to Carlsen a little while ago , no ? He should have played in a movie but didn't get a visa on time ... Van Wely should read chessvibes from time to time :)

jadoubeavich's picture

in England we let anyone in and give them free money and a house and free healthcare

Columbo's picture

except that if you go too often in England - let's say as a musician - they might ask you a few question and forbid you to come back if they find out you were actually working without permit on their beautiful island

Anonymous's picture

Good. Then loek should go to england

Welfare Mama's picture

Oh really? Then I'll be on the next flight there!

Johan's picture

Van Wely can be happy that he was not water boarded. Of course a state may have a visa system. However you recognize the Nazi police state in the execution of the rules.


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