How to Obtain and Qualify an "I" Foreign Media Visa
Qualifying and obtaining an I-Visa is a complex and fact specific process and the information below is a general overview. Remember that there are exceptions and nuances to the visa application process that are dependent on many factors. Please consult with an attorney at Theta Law Firm with your specific facts. An attorney is vital to help guide you and your family through the process of obtaining an I visa in a timely fashion to conduct your business.
Is the "I" Foreign Media Visa for me?
The I-visa allows people who are classified as being representatives of foreign media to travel to the United States to engage in their profession. Generally, the purpose of the travel must be informational in nature and linked with reporting the news. Receiving compensation from a United States source for the media work done is typically prohibited and must instead come from the visitors' foreign country.
Qualifications for a Foreign Media Visa
In order to obtain an I-visa a member of the foreign media must meet certain requirements and present evidence of such when filing an application.
The visitor must:
1. Represent a foreign media outlet (examples can include radio, film, newspaper, television, Internet);
2. Be coming to the United States for the sole purpose of conducting work in this profession;
3. Have a home office in foreign country; and
4. Demonstrate that s/he is a true representative of foreign media and his/her activities are essential to the foreign media organization.
Activities Determined to Qualify for the I Visa
- Reporting on sporting events
- Primary foreign media employees engaged in filming a news event or documentary
- Journalist working under contract on a report or product that will be used to disseminate information or news (not intended for commercial entertainment or advertising)
- Foreign journalists working for an overseas branch of a United States network, newspaper or other media if the journalist is going to the United States to report on United States events solely for a foreign audience
- Employees in the United States offices of organizations which distribute technical industrial information
Remember that you cannot enter the United States and engage in your foreign media profession without first applying for an I visa.
How to Apply
1. Fill out and submit Form DS-160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (can be accessed through https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/). Make sure that you keep the confirmation page that you will have to bring with you to the interview at the embassy or consulate.
2. You will be required to upload a color photograph of yourself taken within the last six months when submitting Form DS-160. For more information regarding the photograph requirements please go to http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/general/photos.html
3. Schedule an interview at the United States embassy or consulate in the country where you live.
4. Pay the current $160 application fee and any other fees that may apply.
5. Gather all documentation, including your passport that is valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay.
6. A journalist or foreign media member working under contract will also need to provide their contract.
Those that qualify for an I-visa will be generally allowed to stay for the length of time necessary to complete their project or foreign media work. Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record will have a recorded period of your stay. Generally, no application for extension of stay is necessary as long as you continue to work for the same employer in the same information medium. U.S. Custom and Border Protection will determine the length of stay.
Family of I Visa Foreign Media
A spouse or child under the age of 21 may apply for an I nonimmigrant visa. If your spouse or child is not applying at the same date as you, they will have to submit your application when they are applying themselves. Also, your spouse and child are NOT eligible to work with an I visa, but they can study in the United States without a student visa. If your spouse and children only intend to visit the United States for a vacation, they may travel to the United States with a B-2 nonimmigrant visa, or travel without a nonimmigrant visa if they qualify under the U.S. Visa Waiver Program.
 8 C.F.R. Sec. 214.2(i)
 Reporters, editors, film crews, and other occupations can qualify to conduct the listed activities.
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