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February 2024

Bob Marley's U.S. immigration and visa records

Screenshot 2024-02-15 at 01.01.38

Happy Valentine's Day. To commemorate today's release of the film "Bob Marley: One Love," here's a fascinating and detailed look at Bob Marley's U.S. immigration record. The 95-page docket, released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), reveals that Marley first entered the United States in 1966 on an Immigrant Visa petition as an unmarried dependent of his mother, who was living in Wilmington, Delaware, as a Lawful Permanent Resident ("Green Card" holder in common parlance). While in Delaware, Marley worked as a janitor and forklift driver. Unfortunately for Marley -- but fortunately for the world -- the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) discovered that Marley was not single; he had married Rita Marley just 10 days before he entered the United States, invalidating his visa. Marley was forced to return to Jamaica, and later London where he recorded some of his greatest hits. In 1977 Marley returned to the United States on a B-2 "tourist" visa, overstayed his visa while recuperating from toe surgery, and threatened with arrest and deportation if he did not voluntarily depart, which he did. Although the attached immigration records only go up to 1977, he was presumably later issued a new U.S. visa in September 1980 to perform in Providence, New York and Pittsburgh. It was in NYC that he collapsed, was hospitalized and diagnosed with advanced terminal cancer. Despite the diagnosis, Marley went on to play two shows at Madison Square Garden, and his last ever performance in Pittsburg on Sept. 23, 1980. After seeking unsuccessful alternative treatments in Bavaria, Germany, Marley decided to make a final trip home to his native Jamaica in May 1981. On the charter flight home, his condition worsened, forcing an emergency landing in Miami where he was immediately hospitalized. That would be his last trip to the United States. Bob Marley died in Miami on May 11, 1981 at the age of 36.

Adapted from:

"The Times Bob Marley was Expelled from the US" - Dance Hall Magazine

Original documents archived by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS):