Are you a foreign media journalist or a member of the press, radio, film or print industries?
Are there current news events occurring in the United States that you need to cover?
If you answered “Yes” to the questions above, then you may be able to obtain an I visa (or media visa). The I visa (or media visa for usa) is a nonimmigrant visa for representatives of the foreign media temporarily traveling to the United States. The applicant must be coming to the U.S. solely to engage in their profession and must also maintain his or her home office in a foreign country. For example, if you are working for a foreign newspaper company and you would like to come to the U.S. to cover a certain current event, then the I visa can allow you to succeed in your mission.
How can I qualify for an I visa (also known as a “Media Visa”)? Applicants must demonstrate that they are properly qualified for a media visa as a “representative of the foreign media.” As previously mentioned, media visas are usually issued to members of the press, radio, film or print industries, whose activities are important to the functioning of the foreign media. This includes reporters, film crews, editors and persons in similar occupations engaged in qualifying activities. The activity of the applicant must basically be for the purpose of obtaining information, and generally connected with gathering news and reporting on actual current events. Some examples of qualifying activities are traveling to the U.S. to cover the Grammy Awards, Academy Awards, or the Super Bowl. An applicant must apply for the I visa prior to entry into the U.S. The Consular officer determines whether or not an activity of the foreign national qualifies for the I visa.
What types of activities qualify for the I visa? The following is a list of common media activities, which are covered under this category:
- Filming of a news event or documentary by employees of foreign information media;
- Production or distribution of film (funded by non-U.S. sources) used to disseminate information or news
- Working on a product to be used abroad by an information or cultural medium for distribution of news, not primarily for commercial entertainment or advertising, by journalists contracted by a professional journalistic organization
- Work by independent production company employees holding credentials issued by a professional journalistic association
- Reporting on U.S. events for a foreign audience by foreign journalists working for an overseas branch office or subsidiary of a U.S. network, newspaper or other media;
- Distribution of factual tourist information about a foreign country by accredited representatives of tourist bureaus, which are controlled, operated, or subsidized in whole or in part by a foreign government
- Employees who work in U.S. offices of foreign organizations which distribute technical industrial information
What documents do I need to show to obtain an I-visa?
- A valid passport for travel to the United States, not expiring within 6 months beyond the amount of time you intend to stay in the U.S.;
- Proof of employment, If you are a:
- Staff Journalist: Obtain a letter from your employer with your name, the position you hold within the company, the purpose of your trip to the U.S. and how long you intend to stay in the U.S.
- Freelance Journalist under contract to a media organization: Obtain a copy of your contract with the organization, which shows your name, the position you hold within the company, the purpose of your trip to the U.S., how long you intend to stay in the U.S, and the time duration of your contract.
- Media Film Crew member: Obtain a letter from your employer with your name, the position you hold within the company, the title and short description of the program you are filming, and how long you need to film in the U.S.
- Part of an independent production company under a contract with a media organization: Obtain a letter from the organization assigning the work that shows the name, title and brief description of the program you are filming, how long you need to film in the U.S., and the length of your contract.
Can spouses and children of I-visa holders accompany them to the U.S.?
Yes. Spouses and/or children under the age of twenty-one (21) may accompany the I visa holder in the U.S. for the duration of his or her stay. However, the spouse and children will not be allowed to work in the U.S. without first obtaining a temporary work permit, but are allowed to study in the U.S. without being required to apply for a student visa. If the spouse and/or children do not intend to reside in the United States with the principal visa holder, but would like to visit or vacation, they may be eligible to apply for B-2 visitor visas.
Restrictions on an I visa:
The following activities are not covered under the I visa:
- You cannot use a media visa to film material for commercial entertainment or advertising purposes. A temporary worker visa, such as an H-1B visa, is required in such cases.
- If you are a proofreader, librarian or a set designer, you are not eligible for a media visa. However, you may qualify under a different visa category.
- Staged shows, reality shows, and quiz shows generally do not involve journalism. Members of production companies filming these types of shows are not eligible for a media visa.
- Media representatives participating in media content in which actors are used are not eligible for the media visa.
Validity of the I Visa
An I visa is valid for a period of one year and you can apply for unlimited extensions, until your project is completed.
If you are a professional journalist or member of the press, radio, film or print industries based outside of the United States, and have to cover a current event in the United States, the I media visa may allow you to do so. Remember that the I visa must be obtained prior to entry into the U.S. and has certain restrictions on what activities qualify as acceptable media coverage. Once having obtained an I visa, the successful applicant’s spouse and/or children under the age of twenty-one (21) may accompany him or her in the U.S. for the duration.