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I Class Visa for non-US Media Representatives

Representatives 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.

What is a media representative?

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.

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.

What activities are allowed under the I visa?

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.

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.

What about journalists working for a U.S. media organization?

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.

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.

How long can the I visa holder remain in the US?

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 to obtain the I Visa

Each I case must be well documented with supporting evidence proving that all legal requirements are met.

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.

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