Who qualifies as a media worker?
To be eligible for the I visa, you must represent a foreign media outlet and normally be based in a foreign country.
The definition of “representative of the foreign media” includes, but is not limited to, members of the press, radio, film and bloggers where those roles are deemed to be essential to the operation of the media, such as production staff and journalists but would not extend to, say, set designers.
If you are a freelance journalist not under contract to a media organisation, then you will not be eligible for an I visa. Foreign media representatives visiting the USA to work as a guest speaker or lecturer are also not covered by the I visa.
While the I visa extends to a broad range of workers in the media sector, there are strict restrictions on permissible activity and purpose of visit while on the media visa.
For example, members of the media engaged in the production or distribution of film, including employees of independent production companies, will qualify for “I” classification visas only if the content qualifies under the requirements of the visa, such as material that is informational or educational.
It is important to note that only those whose activities are generally associated with journalism qualify for the “I” classification visa. People involved in associated activities such as proofreaders, librarians, set designers, etc. will require permission under an alternative visa route such as the O, P or H visas.
What activities qualify for the I Media Visa?
While certain activities clearly qualify for “I” classification visa as they are informational in content, many do not and must be considered in the full context of their particular case. In making the determination as to whether or not an activity qualifies for the “I” classification visa, we would focus on two issues:
- Is the activity essentially informational?
- Is it generally associated with the news gathering process?
As a general rule, stories that report on events, including sports events, are essentially informational and are usually appropriate “I” classification visa activities.
Stories that involve contrived and staged events, even when unscripted, such as reality television shows, and quiz shows are not primarily informational and do not generally involve journalism. Similarly documentaries involving staged recreations with actors are also not considered informational.
Members of the team working on such productions will not qualify for “I” classification visas. They will require the appropriate employment-based (O, P or H) visas.
What are the I visa requirements?
The eligibility criteria for obtaining an I visa includes:
- that you are a genuine foreign journalist or other representative of the foreign media and that you can provide proof of this
- that your role is essential to the functions of the foreign media that you represent, with supporting evidence
- that the media related activities you will be involved in during your time in the USA are eligible for an I visa. This generally means that the activities are informational or news related, or both, may be eligible whereas work relating solely to entertainment or advertising would not.
- that there is no reason why you should be prevented from entering the USA, such as involvement in terrorist activities or past violation of immigration laws
Is the I Media Visa open to freelance journalists?
If you are a freelance journalist you will only be considered for the “I” visa if you are under contract to a media organization.
At the time you apply for the visa you will have to provide furnish a letter from the organization describing the nature and duration of the contract.
If the film project is of commercial or entertainment value, the appropriate employment-based O, P or H visa will be required and a petition, form I-129 must be filed and approved with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) prior to you applying for the visa.