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I Visa (Journalist and Media Visa)

Journalists and other representatives of foreign media can apply for an I Visa to enter the United States temporarily for work.

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What is the I Visa?

The I Visa (Journalist and Media Visa) is a nonimmigrant visa that allows representatives of the foreign press, radio, film, or other foreign information media to travel to the U.S. to report news back to their home audience.

While in the country, foreign media representatives can work on activities classified as informative and educational. Foreign media representatives must work for a media organization that is based abroad and their work must be essential to the foreign media function.

If you are a foreign journalist and you are visiting the U.S. on a Business Visitor Visa, you are not allowed to engage in your profession as a member of the media.

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Who needs an I Visa?

I visa holders are allowed to temporarily enter the United States to work for the following purposes:

  • To work as an employee of either a foreign information media or an independent production company. Employees must have the proper credentials issued by their country’s professional journalistic association that engages in filming news events or documentaries.
  • To work as a member of the foreign media that is engaged in the production or distribution of a film. The material being filmed must be used to distribute information, news, or is educational in nature and primarily funded by a source outside the United States.
  • To work as a journalist who is under contract. The journalist must have the proper credentials issued by their country’s professional journalistic association. Journalists must be working on a product that distributes information or news. This product must not be primarily intended for commercial entertainment or advertising.
  • To work as a foreign journalist who travels the United States for the purposes of reporting on U.S. events for a foreign audience. If the journalist is employed by an overseas media outlet, the outlet must have its home office in a foreign country.
  • To work as an accredited representative of a tourist bureau. This bureau must be controlled, operated, or subsidized in whole or in part by a foreign government whose workers are not entitled to receive an A-2 visa as a foreign government official or employee. The work done must primarily engage in distributing factual tourist information about that country.
  • To work as an employee of an organization that distributes technical industrial information. Employees must work in the U.S. office of that organization.

Journalists or media professionals who enter the United States under a visitor visa or through the Visa Waiver Program can not work as representatives of the foreign media while in the United States unless they secure an I visa.

What are the requirements for an I Visa?

To be eligible for this nonimmigrant visa, visa applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • Be a foreign media representative from your home country
  • Be engaged in the production or distribution of projects aimed at reporting events
  • Not be filming projects of “commercial or entertainment value”
  • Have an office located outside the United States
  • Be from a country whose government grants similar reciprocity to media representatives from the United States
  • Intend to enter the U.S. solely for work-related purposes

Members of the media engaged in staged events, such as television shows or sports performances, are not eligible for a journalist visa. As a general rule, merely filming a live event with no editorial content, is not appropriate for a U.S. media visa.

If you are working for a foreign branch of a U.S. network, you can still apply for a media visa. However, your aim must be to report your story to an external audience.

Documentary filmmaker

Who is a “Representative of Foreign Media”?

The legal definition of a “representative of foreign media” includes, but is not limited to:

  • Journalists
  • Radio reporters
  • Filmmakers
  • Film crews
  • Newspaper editors
  • Members of a tourist bureau who are engaged in the broadcasting of informational tourist information about the U.S.

It is important to note that you can apply for a media visa only if your activities are associated with journalism. Other creative occupations such as writers and designers are not eligible for an I visa.

Freelancers can still apply for an I1 visa if they are working under an employment contract with a professional organization. The same applies to independent reporters and filmmakers.

journalist on the street

Most activities related to information and news gathering will require an I visa. However, there may be some instances where another visa such as those in the H, O, or P visa category is more appropriate. In some cases, journalists can enter the United States under a visitor visa or through the Visa Waiver program in order to pursue vacations or other activities related to their careers.

Below is a list of travel purposes for when a visitor visa or entry into the United States under the Visa Waiver Program can be used instead of an I visa:

  • Attending a conference, convention, or seminar (provided that the attendee will not report back on the event to a media organization after their return from the United States)
  • Guest speak or lecture in exchange for an honorarium from an institution of higher education, a related or affiliated nonprofit entity, a nonprofit research organization, or a governmental research organization. The speaking activity must not last longer than nine days at a single institution. Speakers or lecturers must not have received payment for such activities from more than five institutions or organizations within the last six months.
  • For holiday/vacation purposes (as long as the trip does not involve gathering information and reporting on news and events)
  • Undertaking independent research (provided that the researcher does not use it to create content for a media organization in their home country)
  • Take photographs (Provided that the photographer does not receive payment for their photos from a U.S. source)

How to apply for an I Visa

If you meet the I Visa requirements, you can start your application process by filling in a DS-160 Form (Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application). This form can be completed and submitted online. After you have completed the form, you will be shown a confirmation page and confirmation number. It is important that you print that confirmation page as you will need it later in the visa application process.

Your local U.S. Consulate or Embassy will then invite you to attend an interview. At this stage of the process, you need to provide the following documentation:

  • A letter from your employer explaining your role and all the information about the project you are going to work on
  • The period of time required for filming in the U.S.
  • The details of the other members of your crew and their roles (if applicable)
  • A valid contract of employment (if you are registered as a freelance journalist)
  • Valid credentials issued by a professional journalistic association
  • Evidence that you do not intend to immigrate to the U.S. and that you will go back to your home country at the end of your project
  • Your application fee payment receipt

Before you attend the interview make sure you prepare all the required evidence. A failure to include even one of the documents can delay your application.

How long does an I Visa last?

An I visa is issued for the requested duration of the work assignment. However, non-immigrant permits like these usually benefit from a maximum validity of 10 years.

While in the U.S. under a media visa, you can apply for an extension of your authorized stay by filing a request with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). To do this, you will need to file Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status) and demonstrate to the USCIS that your rationale to stay in the U.S. is still valid.

To be granted a journalist visa renewal, you must continue to work on the same activity for which you were registered when you first applied for your visa.

Likewise, you can apply for a change of your permit, but you are only allowed to change to another non-immigrant status. While on an I visa, you cannot apply for a Green Card to seek permanent residence in the U.S.

If your authorized stay expires before your renewal request is approved, you need to leave the country.

production filming
camera man

Can I bring my family with me?

If you hold an I Visa, you may bring your immediate relatives (spouse and dependent children under the age of 21) into the United States with you under a Dependents I visa.

To apply for this type of dependents visa, they will need to apply for separate visas and supply proof of their relationship to you such as a birth certificate (for children) or marriage certificate (spouse). If your family members apply for a visa after you have already received your I visa, then they will need to supply a copy of the I visa along with their applications.

The visa will be issued for the same duration as the principal I visa. Dependents who come to the U.S. with you are allowed to study at non-public schools but will not be able to work legally while in the United States.

If your family members would like to come to the U.S. for vacation purposes, they can also apply for a U.S. Visitor Visa B2.

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Frequently Asked Questions

The normal processing time for an I Visa ranges anywhere from days to weeks, depending on your circumstances and the workload of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate who is issuing the visa. Usually, the journalist visa is issued within 10 days after the visa interview.

The primary fee for an I visa is $160 for the processing of the DS-160 Form. It should be noted that some countries charge an additional visa issuance fee. To find out if your country charges an issuance fee, go to the travel.state.gov website and enter your nationality to see if you will be charged.

When filing for a U.S. visa, many applications are rejected due to missing or invalid supporting documents. If you would like to avoid delays and submit a thorough application, you may need the guidance of an immigration expert.

IAS can solve all your doubts and make your I1 visa application less stressful. Our experienced immigration lawyers will follow this process from start to end, making sure that:

  • You hold all the necessary qualifications to be eligible
  • The nature of your business is appropriate to this visa
  • You qualify as a “representative of foreign media”
  • Your application forms are filed correctly

Get In touch today, and we will assist you and your case. You can call us on +1 844 290 6312 or use our online contact form.