6 Celebrities Who've Been Banned From Entire Countries
Find out what these stars did to be denied entry.
Think being a celebrity is a free pass to travel the world? As it turns out, a certain amount of fame can make it surprisingly easy to end up on the wrong side of immigration authorities, as these tales of exiled celebrities reveal. Read on to discover the gamut of indiscretions, social causes, associations, and allegations that have led to these six stars being banned from entire countries across the globe.
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Supporting Tibet—whether that means speaking out, attending a benefit, or simply appearing in a film related to the region– is a seemingly surefire way for celebrities to get banned from China, the government of which does not recognize Tibet's autonomy. In 2016, Selena Gomez joined Harrison Ford, Keanu Reeves, Brad Pitt, and other celebrities barred from China over a picture on her Instagram account of her smiling into the face of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet. Although she had posted the image two years earlier, it reportedly led to her being unable to tour in China.
This wasn't the first time Gomez had been prevented from performing in a particular country, however. In 2013, Russia refused Gomez entry out of fear she would speak out against its "gay propaganda" laws.
During a 2009 appearance on The David Letterman Show, Alec Baldwin joked that he was thinking about "getting a Filipina mail-order bride." This led to members of the Philippines senate demanding an apology and Manila's consul general to New York calling the remark "offensive and prejudiced." A week later, Baldwin issued an apology on his HuffPost blog. Although the Philippine Ambassador to the United States called the apology a "positive reflection" on Baldwin, the actor was nonetheless soon blacklisted by its Bureau of Immigration after being "deemed an undesirable alien."
Sacha Baron Cohen
According to AOL UK, Sacha Baron Cohen was initially banned from the country at the heart of his politically (and factually) incorrect 2006 spoof Borat! Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. It therefore came as a surprise when Cohen was thanked six years later by Kazakhstan's foreign minister for "boosting tourism" after visa applications for the country increased tenfold. By the time Borat's Subsequent Moviefilm sequel was released in 2020, the glorious nation was even using the character's catchphrase "very nice" in its tourism campaign.
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Snoop Dogg has had a few rough patches when it comes to entering and staying in the United Kingdom. When he was touring in 1993 and concurrently facing a murder charge that he would later be acquitted of, Britain's Daily Star ran a front-page story about the rapper urging lawmakers to "kick this evil [expletive] out." To Snoop's surprise, none other than Queen Elizabeth II defended the artist. He told The Guardian in 2015, "When they tried to kick me out of England, the Queen made a comment that her grandbabies loved Snoop Doggy Dogg, and he had done no wrong in the UK, so she gave me permission to be here."
However, the Queen was nowhere to be found after he and his entourage were involved in an altercation at Heathrow Airport in 2006. As a result of that incident, Snoop was denied a travel visa the next year, ruining plans for a tour with Diddy. An immigration court eventually ruled that border guards had been wrong to deny the visa, but by then Snoop was facing issues elsewhere.
In 2007, Australian authorities banned the rapper from entering that country due to "a whole string of convictions" including felony gun and drug charges coupled with a two-day overstay on a previous visa that had left him on thin ice. Five years later, the rapper was also banned from Norway for two years after customs agents found he was carrying more cash than legally allowed in the country along with eight grams of cannabis.
The first time Yusuf Islam, the British singer-songwriter also known by the stage name Cat Stevens, was barred from entering Israel was in 1990—the same year he appealed to Iraqi president Saddam Hussein for the release of four British hostages. Although he had previously visited Israel in 1988, Islam and his eight-year-old son were denied entry that time on the grounds of "security reasons." After he attempted to enter the country again in 2000, Islam claimed he was held in a tiny windowless cell without water for hours before being flown back to Germany. Shockingly, a spokesperson for the government said the singer was denied entry "because he is a Hamas supporter," alleging he had transferred funds to the militant Islamic group during his 1988 visit, according to ABC News.
The U.S. also deported Islam in 2004 hours after the FBI diverted his DC-bound flight to Bangor, Maine when it was discovered his name appeared on a terrorism watch list. This time, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw intervened, telling U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell that the action "should not have been taken." Islam has since returned to the U.S. to perform. He has also stated he has not "ever knowingly supported any terrorist groups," spoken out against terrorism, and successfully sued publications for libel over stories linking him to terrorism.
Cat Stevens isn't the only celebrity who's been sent home by the U.S. In 2007, "Smile" singer Lily Allen was detained and searched at the Los Angeles airport before she had her O-1 work visa revoked by authorities ahead of a U.S. tour. Although it was not made clear publicly why the visa was revoked, there was speculation it was due to an incident outside a London nightclub months earlier in which she was warned by police but not arrested. After she married American Stranger Things star David Harbour in 2020, reports emerged that Allen planned to relocate to the country that had once rejected her.