Representatives of the foreign 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 by immigration authorities at the port of entry.
Definition of the term representative of the foreign media includes, but is not limited to, members of the press, radio, or film whose activities are essential to the foreign 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” classification visa. People involved in associated activities such as proofreaders, librarians, set designers, etc. will require O, P or H visas.
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 focus on two issues: is the activity essentially informational, and is it generally associated with the news gathering process.
As a general rule, 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 material being filmed will be used to disseminate information or news. As a general rule, stories that report on events, including reporting on sports events, are essentially informational.
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. In addition, simply filming a live event (including sporting events) for general broadcast, with no editorial or journalistic content, is not appropriate for an “I” visa.
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.
If your spouse, partner and/or children under the age of 21 wish to accompany or join you for the duration of your stay, they may be eligible to apply for derivative visas. Click here for more information.
Journalists working for an American Media Organization
If you are working for an overseas branch of a U.S. network, newspaper or other media outlet, you may apply for an “I” classification visa, provided you are coming to the United States solely to report on U.S. news events for a foreign audience and you will continue to be paid by the foreign based office.
If you are to replace or augment an American journalist reporting on events in the United States for a U.S. audience, then the appropriate employment-based (O or H) visa will be required.
Independent Production Companies
If you are a members of an Independent Production Company you can be considered for an I visa if the material you are filming is informational in content. At the time you apply for the visa you will be required to furnish a letter from your employer which provides: name; position held within company; title and brief description of the program being filmed and period of time required for filming in the United States.
Projects of a Commercial or Entertainment Value
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. The final determination on the appropriate classification of visa will be made by the USCIS at the time the petition is filed.