Applying for an I Visa as a Representative of Foreign Media
I visa is a type of nonimmigrant visa issued to a foreign press, radio, film or print media workers. Foreign media workers with an I visa can temporarily travel to the United States to engage in informational or educational activities.
These activities must be essential to their foreign media function. Furthermore, the media organization employing them must have its home office in a foreign country. Some of the occupations under this category include reporters, film crews, news photographers, or editors. Media workers must be reporting on US events solely for a foreign audience.
The rules and procedures for receiving an I visa may vary from country to country. This is because media visas are issued on a reciprocal basis. In other words, the United States expects that our media workers will be granted the same level of access in a foreign country.
For example, some countries tightly control the flow of information within their borders. Foreign media workers from these countries are not likely to receive an I visa because US correspondents would not enjoy the same freedoms in their country.
Obtaining the correct visa status
At one point, representatives of foreign media could enter the US on a B-visa as a visitor. The B-visa allowed them to visit for under 90 days. This is no longer the case. Foreign press workers must apply for an I visa to enter the country for journalistic purposes.
Foreign journalists who are attending conferences, guest speaking, purchasing media equipment or vacation can enter the US on a visitor visa. However, they are prohibited from reporting on current events or the events they are attending due to their B-visa status.
Who is ineligible for an I visa?
I visa requirements state that the foreign media representative’s job must be essential to their employer’s operations. Employees who fill secondary roles like set building or proofreading cannot enter the US on an I visa. Film crews and actors who are working on entertainment films cannot enter the US on a media visa either. However, they may be able to apply under another nonimmigrant visa category, including H, O, or P visa status.
Visa Waiver Program
The visa waiver program allows certain visitors and business travelers in good standing to visit the US for less than 90 days. However, this program does not apply to members of the media.
Foreign media workers from Canada or Bermuda may not need an I visa to pursue journalism in the United States. Talk to the US Embassy or a local consulate to verify your requirements for entry. You may also ask an Expert for assistance.
Completing the visa application process
You may apply for an I visa at the US Embassy in your country or a consulate with jurisdiction over the area where you live. You do not have to submit a petition to US Citizenship and Immigration Services. To be approved for an I visa, you must complete Form DS-160 online. You must also schedule and attend a biometrics appointment and a visa interview.
Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application
Form DS-160 is the name for the online nonimmigrant visa application. Read the instructions carefully; incorrect information can cause your application to be delayed or denied. The Department of State call center does not offer translation services or assistance with Form DS-160. You can talk to an Expert if you need help understanding how to fill out the form.
Print the confirmation page when you are finished. It will have an alpha-numeric barcode on it. You will need this for your biometrics appointment and your visa interview.
Paying the visa fee
Next, you must create a profile and log in to pay your visa fee. Currently, the fee is $160 USD. Since this amount may change from time to time, verify the correct fee amount before making a payment. Payment processing may take up to 2 business days. Record your login credentials; you will need them for the next step.
Scheduling your appointments
Log in to your profile. Use the same username and password you used to pay your visa fee. Click “Schedule Appointment” in the menu on the left of the page. You must have the following information to schedule your appointments.
- Fee payment date
- 10-digit barcode number from your DS-160 confirmation page
Schedule your Embassy or Consulate interview first. Note that individuals that fall outside of the 14-79 age range may not have to complete an interview.
Next, schedule your Visa Application Center (VAC) appointment. Schedule it at least a day ahead of your visa interview at the consulate or Embassy. Print and keep your confirmation page for this appointment.
Keeping your VAC appointment
You must bring certain information with you to your VAC appointment.
- A valid passport; it should still be good at least six months after your stay in the US
- Your DS-160 confirmation page
- Your appointment confirmation page
- A photograph that meets US visa specifications if the applicant is younger than 14
VAC staff will gather your biometrics information, including fingerprints and a color photograph. If your passport includes more than one person, you must submit a separate visa application for each person.
Attending your visa interview
Bring your appointment letter, DS-160 confirmation page, and current and all old passports to your visa interview. You must also provide proof of employment and support documents that show you are a foreign media representative. Support documents for a media visa include press credentials or a letter from your employer. The letter must state the purpose of your trip, how long you will stay in the US, how long you have been with your employer, and how many years of journalism experience you have.
Proof of employment
The proof of employment you must show depends on your job position and title. All proof of employment should include your name, company position, and the length and purpose of your visit to the United States.
- A staff journalist must provide an employer letter that contains the relevant information.
- A freelance journalist must provide a copy of their contract with an eligible media organization. The duration of the contract must be defined.
- Media film crew members must provide an employer letter that includes the title and a short description of the filming project.
- Independent production company members must provide a letter from the media organization commissioning them for the project. It should include the title and a short description of the filming project, the contract duration, and the time period required for filming in the US.
Bringing your family with you
Your spouse and children under the age of 21 can come with you if they apply for a derivative I visa. If they apply for their visa after yours is approved, they must provide a copy of your visa as proof of eligibility.
Dependents of an I visa holder are not eligible to work while they are in the United States. However, they can attend school without changing status to an F-1 student visa. Dependents of an I visa holder who want to work in the US must apply for the appropriate work visa.
Derivative media visas are only for dependents who want to live with you while you are in the US. If your family members want to visit, they can apply for a B-visa. The B-visa will allow them to remain in the country for up to 90 days, then return home.
Entering the United States
Your status as a visa holder does not guarantee your entry into the US. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents at your point of entry have the final say in whether you can enter the country.
If your admission is approved, the CBP official will stamp your visa or issue a paper Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record. Retain this record as proof of your lawful temporary residence in the US.
Extending your stay
You must leave the US by the date stamped on your visa or I-94. Failure to do so will result in your status being revoked. If your status is revoked, it will also void your visa; you must apply for a new visa to reenter the country.
Changing your status
If you want to extend your stay, you must file Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, with USCIS before your visa expires. The agency recommends applying at least 45 days before expiration to allow time for processing. You can find your expiration date on your stamped passport or in the lower right-hand corner of your Arrival/Departure Record.
You must meet the following conditions to extend your stay.
- You lawfully entered the US with a nonimmigrant visa
- Your visa status is still valid
- You have not committed crimes that would void your eligibility
- You have not violated the terms of your admission
- You have a valid passport; it should remain valid for the rest of your stay
If you cannot stay in the United States while your extension is being processed, you must leave the country. However, you can apply for a new visa at a US Consulate or Embassy.
Applying for a media visa is fairly straightforward, especially if your home country has solid media ties with the United States. It is vital to provide correct information and observe all conditions of your visa. If you need help, ask an Expert about the visa application process. Verified Experts offer you customized answers based on years of experience.