US Media Visa

Do you work in media and need to travel to the US?

Journalists and media representatives traveling to the United States to engage in their profession will need to have been granted a US media visa, known as the I visa.

The media visa is for representatives of the foreign media. This includes professionals working in broadcast, radio, film or print industries in roles that are essential to the foreign media function, such as journalists, photographers, film crews, editors and bloggers.

If you are traveling to the US to perform media work, you will not be permitted to enter visa-free under the Visa Waiver Program or on a B1 business visitor visa.

Attempting to gain entry without the required permission can result in you being refused admission by border officials. Not only will this impact your ability to carry out your planned work, the refusal will be recorded on your immigration record and may impact future US travel and immigration applications.

The eligibility criteria for the I visa aren’t, however, clear-cut. Requirements for the type of permissible content and the skills and role of the applicant will be scrutinised as part of the application process. It is advisable to seek guidance on your circumstances, to ensure the I visa is the most appropriate for your needs and to compile and submit a petition that effectively presents your eligibility.

NNU Immigration are here to help!

Applying for the I visa requires substantial consideration ahead of filing the petition. Will the media content satisfy the requirements? Do you have the necessary supporting documentation?

NNU Immigration bring extensive experience in advsing media companies and professionals with their US travel needs. We represent clients from across the sector, including media agencies, financial publishing houses and news photographers through to independent production studios.

With exceptional knowledge and insight into US visa and immigration protocol, we help media professionals with all aspects of the I visa application, advising on the US media visa eligibility requirements and the documentation to be compiled to support your application.

US immigration policy is undergoing a period of considerable upheaval; we can advise on the prevailing impact of any changes in US visa rules that may impact the entry routes available to you.

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US Media Visa FAQs

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:

  1. Is the activity essentially informational?
  2. 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.

How to apply for a US media visa

The first step of the I visa application process is to complete the Online Non-immigrant Visa Application form DS-160. The online application system will require that your upload a photo in the required format.

Once you have completed the online application process, print off the application form confirmation page for your own reference and to provide at your interview.

You should now visit the US Visa Information and Appointment Services website to create an account, pay the machine-readable visa (MRV) application fee (keep a copy of your payment receipt) and schedule your interview.

What happens during the media visa interview?

Applicants will need to arrange a visa interview at a US consular post abroad.

Interview procedures vary widely among consular posts so it is important to carefully follow instructions provided for the post where your I interview will be held.

You will need to bring documentation with you to support your application. The specific documents to take will depend on your circumstances, but as a minimum typically include:

  • Your passport, which must be suitable for travel to the USA and valid for a minimum of 6 months after you plan to leave the USA.
  • The confirmation page from your DS-160 form
  • Your application fee receipt, if you were required to pay this before the interview
  • A printed photo
  • Documents outlining the purpose of your trip to the USA and your activities whilst there
  • Communication from your employer or hiring organisation for the purpose of the trip, including a valid contract of employment
  • Communications with the US organisation that you will be visiting
  • Where relevant, a credential issued by a professional journalistic association

On the day of your appointment, arrive no later than 30 minutes before your interview time. Arriving late may mean that your appointment is cancelled, however, you won’t be admitted into the Embassy or Consulate more than 30 minutes before your interview.

You will generally be at the Embassy or Consulate for between 2 to 3 hours.

Your biometric information will be taken either before or during your interview. This includes your finger prints, photograph and signature.

Take your supporting documents with you, including the confirmation page from your DS-160 form and a copy of your appointment instruction page. You will need this last document to be allowed access to the Embassy or Consulate.

The purpose of the interview is to ensure that you are eligible for an I visa by examining your DS-160 form and supporting documents, and by asking you relevant questions. The consular officer will ask you questions about your experience, the publication or media organization sponsoring you for the visa, and your proposed US employment terms.

After your interview, you may be asked to submit additional documents, or your application may enter into further administrative processing.

You will be notified of the decision made on your application at your interview. Provided your application is approved the consular officer will retain your passport for visa stamping. Your passport with embossed I visa stamp will be returned to you within approximately one week of your interview. Once received you are permitted to travel to the US to work in I status in line with the assignment detailed in your supporting documentation.

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