An I visa is a nonimmigrant visa available to representatives of the foreign media temporarily traveling on assignment to the United States to engage in their profession while having their home office in a foreign country. Representatives of the foreign media include, but are not limited to, members of the press, radio, film or print industries, whose activities are essential to the foreign media function, such as reporters, film crews, editors and persons in similar occupations. Both print and film activities are included in this category. The activity must be essentially informational, generally associated with the news gathering process, and reporting on actual current events.
An I visa entitles the holder to work in the United States temporarily; only for the duration of the applicant’s job assignment. This means that so long as the applicant is performing his/her job duties, the applicant may remain in the United States.
Spouses and/or unmarried children under 21 years of age may apply for a derivative I visa to accompany or join the principal media visa holder in the United States for the duration of his/her stay. Accompanying spouses and children are entitled to study in the United States, but are not entitled to undertake any employment without obtaining an appropriate work visa.
REQUIREMENTS for I Visa:
To apply for an I nonimmigrant visa, applicant must first establish that s/he is a representative of a foreign media traveling to the United States on a temporary assignment. Eligibility for the I visa requires the foreign media worker:
Represent a foreign information media outlet (press, radio, film, or other foreign information media)
Travel to the United States to engage solely in this profession; and
Have a home office in a foreign country
Who Qualifies As A Foreign Media Worker?
Primary employees of foreign information media engaged in filming a news event or documentary.
Members of the media engaged in the production or distribution of film will only qualify for a media visa if the material being filmed will be used to disseminate information or news. Additionally, the primary source and distribution of funding must be outside the United States.
Journalists working under contract. Persons holding a credential issued by a professional journalistic organization, if working under contract on a product to be used abroad by an information or cultural medium to disseminate information or news not primarily intended for commercial entertainment or advertising. (Note: *A valid employment contract is required)
Employees of independent production companies when those employees hold a credential issued by a professional journalistic association.
Foreign journalists working for an overseas branch office or subsidiary of a U.S. network, newspaper or other media outlet if the journalist is going to the United States to report on U.S. events solely for a foreign audience.
Accredited representatives of tourist bureaus, controlled, operated, or subsidized in whole or in part by a foreign government, who engage primarily in disseminating factual tourist information about that country, and who are not entitled to A-2 visa classification.
Technical industrial information. Employees in the U.S. offices of organizations, which distribute technical industrial information.
Freelance journalists will only be considered for an I visa if all of the following criteria are met. The journalist must:
Hold a credential issued by a professional journalistic organization
Be under contract to a media organization
Disseminate information or news not primarily intended for commercial entertainment or advertising
Still photographers are permitted to enter the United States with B-1 visas for the purpose of taking photographs, provided that they receive no income from a U.S. source.
Activities That Do Not Qualify As Informational or Newsworthy Events:
Attending a conference or meeting
Media representatives traveling to the United States to attend conferences or meetings as a participant and who will not report about the meeting, either while in the United States or upon their return, can travel on a visitor visa. The distinction in immigration law is whether they will be “engaging in their vocation.”
Guest speaking, lecturing or engaging in academic activity
Media representatives must hold a visitor visa when traveling to the United States for the purposes of guest speaking, lecturing, or engaging in other usual academic activity at a related or affiliated nonprofit entity, a nonprofit research organization, a governmental research organization, or at an institution of higher education from which the applicant will receive an honorarium. However, the speaking activity must last no longer than nine days at a single institution and the speaker cannot have received payment from more than five institutions or organizations for such activities in the last six months.
Purchasing media equipment
A visitor visa can be used by employees of foreign media outlets to purchase media equipment or broadcast rights or to take orders for foreign media equipment or broadcast rights, since these activities fall within the scope of those executed by ordinary business visitors.
A foreign media journalist can take vacation to the United States using a visitor visa, and does not need a media visa, as long as s/he will not be reporting on newsworthy events.
Gathering material for commercial or advertising purposes
Since this is not a newsworthy event, it does not qualify as a media activity. Journalists who are working on commercial film productions will have to apply for the O, P, or H visa.
The applicant will need to provide documentation concerning the intended journalistic activities in the United States, the employer, and the applicant’s specific qualification. To start the process the applicant must:
Schedule an interview.
Schedule an interview with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where applicant lives. Wait times for interview appointments vary by location and season, which can be anywhere from a few days to 2 weeks.
Complete the online nonimmigrant visa application, Form DS-160.
Submit the DS-160 electronically (via the Internet) to the Department of State, and print out the application form confirmation page to bring to your interview. The online DS-160can be accessed at the Consular Electronic Application Center website.
Upload a digital photograph while completing the online Form DS-160. Please refer to photograph requirements for detailed guidance.
Pay the non-refundable application fee of US$160.
Additional Documentation May Be Required
Review the instructions for how to apply for a visa on the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will apply. Additional documents may be requested to establish if you are qualified. Examples:
A journalist working under contract or freelance to a foreign media organization will need to present a valid contract of employment.
An employee of an independent production company, with a few exceptions, will need to present a credential issued by a professional journalistic association.
Spouses and Children:
The application procedure for derivative I visas is the same as for a primary media visa applicant., except that children under 13 and adults over 80 are not required to undergo an interview. The spouse and/or children of a media visa holder may not work while in the United States, however, they may study in the U.S. without also being required to apply for a student (F-1) visa
Foreign media representatives cannot travel to the United States and engage in media activities without an I nonimmigrant visa, even if the foreign media representative is a citizen of a country that participates in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP). If a foreign media representative to travel to the United States without the appropriate visa, s/he may be denied admission by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) at the port of entry (airport, seaport, or land border).
Period of Stay:
Admission as an I nonimmigrant is generally authorized for the duration of status (i.e., D/S on Form I-94), and no application for extension of stay is required to be filed as long as the foreign media representative continues working for the same employer in the same information medium. If Form I-94 indicates a specific end date for the authorized period of stay, and the foreign media representative wishes to stay beyond that specified end date, the individual must file a Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, in accordance with the form filing instructions, and submit any required evidence and applicable fees.
Read more about I visa status and Visatopia’s I visa services: