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Runway Rage

New Customs rules have Brazilian models—and other foreign flyers—seeing red.


Is New York still the capital of the world when many of its international denizens are feeling so slighted? The culprit: US-visit, the controversial new program requiring that certain visa-bearing visitors be fingerprinted and photographed (most Western Europeans are exempt). “Even though Poland is loyal enough to send troops to Iraq,” says Polish vice-consul Marek Skulimowski, “we must be fingerprinted, while the citizens of the ‘old Europe’ are not? The shoe bomber had a British passport!”

There’s even concern about how US-VISIT will impact Fashion Week. “I was in Brazil, and did I get an earful,” says Roman Young, director of scouting at Women Management. “The crux of the industry is foreign models coming into New York. And now, with the fingerprinting, the girls are worried about being marked like that.”

Artists are balking, too. The New York Film Festival’s Richard Peña says Iranian director Jafar Panahi told him, “ ‘I love coming to the festival, but I won’t if I’m going to be branded as a potential criminal.’ ”

Surprisingly, the new rules apply even to those who fly in their own jets. Customs used to come to them on the tarmac, but a Homeland Security representative says they’ll now have to mingle with the commoners at the inspection area, a déclassé turn of events in any language.


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