I Class Visa for non-US Media RepresentativesRepresentatives of the non-US media traveling on assignment to the United States require “I” classification visas.
They are not eligible to travel visa free under the Visa Waiver Program or enter the United States on B-1 business visas. Those who attempt to do so may be denied admission to the United States of America by immigration authorities at the port of entry.
Definition of the term representative of the media includes, but is not limited to, members of the press, radio, or film whose activities are essential to the media function, such as reporters, film crews, editors and persons in similar occupations.
What is a media representative?
It is important to note that only those whose activities are generally associated with journalism qualify for the I visa. People involved in associated activities such as proofreaders, librarians, set designers, etc. will require other visas.
While certain activities clearly qualify for I visa if 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 visa it is important to consider whether the activity essentially informational, and if it is 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 visa activities.
What activities are allowed under the I visa?
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 visas. They will require the appropriate employment-based visas.
If the applicant will be working on a project for commercial or entertainment value, the appropriate employment-based visa will be required.
Foreign journalists working for an overseas branch of a U.S. network, newspaper or other media outlet, are not precluded from applying for an I visa, provided they are coming to the United States solely to report on U.S. news events for a foreign audience and they will continue to be paid by the foreign based office.
What about journalists working for a U.S. media organization?
If the journalist is to replace or augment an American journalist reporting on events in the U.S. for a U.S. audience, then the appropriate employment-based visa will be required.
The validity of the I visa will be determined by the Consulate or Embassy. Extensions in one year increments can be issued, and there is no limit on the number of extensions. The I visa can lead to a green card.
How long can the I visa holder remain in the US?
Each I case must be well documented with supporting evidence proving that all legal requirements are met.
How to obtain the I Visa
Unlike many other employment based visas, the I visa can normally be obtained directly from the US Consulate or Embassy without first sending a separate petition to the US.
Dependents of the I holder (spouses and children) may normally obtain derivative visas.