Are you a journalist? Are you a member of the press, radio, film or print industries? Are there current news events in the United States that you need to work on for your profession? If you answered “yes,” then you may be able to obtain the media (I) visa. It is a non-immigrant visa for representatives of the foreign media temporarily traveling to the United States (U.S.), to engage in their profession while having their home office in a foreign country.
Do you qualify for a Media (I) Visa? Applicants have to demonstrate that they are properly qualified for a media visa, as a “representative of the foreign media.” Media visas are usually issued to members of the press, radio, film or print industries, whose activities are important to the foreign media function, such as reporters, film crews, editors and persons in similar occupations engaged in qualifying activity. The activity must be basically for information, and generally connected with gathering news and reporting on actual current events. Consular officers determine whether or not an activity qualifies for the media visa. An example of a qualifying activity is reporting on sports events. The following is a non-exhaustive list of media related kinds of activities:
- 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, controlled, operated, or subsidized in whole or in part by a foreign government.
- Distribution of technical industrial information by employees in the U.S. offices of organizations.
What if I am a national from a country designated for the Visa Waiver Program? As a representative of the foreign media traveling to the United States, engaging in your profession as part of the media or a journalist, you must first obtain a media visa to come to the U.S. You cannot travel without a visa on the Visa Waiver Program, and by attempting to, you may be denied admission to the U.S. by the Department of Homeland Security at the port of entry.
What do I need to show to get 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:
- Bring a letter from your employer with your name, the position you hold within the company, why you’re going to the U.S. and how long you intend to stay in the U.S.
Freelance Journalist under contract to a media organization:
- Bring a copy of your contract with the organization, which shows your name, the position you hold within the company, why you’re going to the U.S., how long you intend to stay in the U.S and how long your contract is for.
Media Film Crew member:
- Bring a letter from your employer with your name, the position you hold within the company, the title and short description of the program you’re filming and how long you need to film in the U.S.
Part of an independent production company under contract to media organization:
- Bring a letter from the organization assigning the work which shows the name, title and brief description of the program you’re filming, how long you need to film in the U.S. and how long your contract is for.
Can Spouses and Children of an I-visa holder accompany him/her to the U.S.? Yes, Spouses and/or children under the age of 21 may apply for a media visa to accompany the principal media visa holder in the U.S. for the duration of his/her stay. However, the spouse and children may not work in the U.S. without a temporary work visa. They may also study in the U.S. without also being required to apply for a student F-1 visa. If the spouse and/or children do not intend to reside in the United States with the principal visa holder, but just intend to visit for a vacation, they may be eligible to apply for visitor (B-2) visas.
- You cannot use a media visa to film material for commercial entertainment or advertising purposes. A temporary worker visa is required.
- 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 classification. (Ask us about the H1B, O or P visa).
- 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.
Guest Post Author
Naresh M. Gehi