Is the media visa only open to journalists?
The I Media Visa is open to wider members of the media sector, but 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 material being filmed will be used to disseminate information or news.
Definition of the term ‘representative of the foreign media’ includes, but is not limited to, members of the press, radio, or film whose activities are essential to the foreign media function, such as reporters, film crews, editors and persons in similar occupations. Bloggers were added to the list in August 2018.
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 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 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.