If you work for a foreign news agency, or in any other kind of media production, you’re eligible to enter the U.S. under a specific type of nonimmigrant work visa. This visa is called the “I Visa for Representatives of Foreign Media.”
Applying for this visa is actually pretty easy. In fact, the major advantage the I visa has over the other visa types is the relative speed and ease of the application process. In this article we’ll cover the basics of the I visa, and give you the information you need if you’re thinking about applying for one.
I Visa Eligibility
If you’re applying for this type of visa, you are required to show U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that you:
- Are employed by (and represent) a foreign media outlet, such as print, radio, or film group.
- Plan to come to the United States in an official capacity to engage in your profession.
- Have a personal base office in another country (i.e. a place to return to).
Remember, you don’t necessarily have to be a reporter to get an I visa. You can be part of the film crew, an editor, or other essential part of the media team.
In addition, your spouse and any children under 21 years of age may follow or join you in the U.S. using an I visa. They will also apply for an I visa, and will submit your visa as additional proof for their application.
Your spouse and children may also attend school while in the country under this visa, however, they under no circumstances are they allowed to work.
How to Apply for the I Visa
You can apply for an I visa at your local Consulate or U.S. Embassy. The U.S. Department of State handles all the processing and fees for the I visa.
The exact process you’ll go through may vary depending on your home country, but here are the basic steps:
- Fill out the non-immigrant visa application, Form DS-160.
Complete the application online, then print a copy of the confirmation to take to your interview. You will also be asked to upload a photo of yourself with the application. Make sure your photo is in the approved format.
- Schedule an interview.
If you are older than 13, and younger than 80, you’ll schedule your interview with your local Consulate or U.S. Embassy. Do this as soon as possible, since the wait times can be quite long.
- Pay the application fee.
The amount you pay for the non-refundable issuance fee will depend on your country of residence.
- Get your documents together.
When you go to your interview at the Consulate or Embassy, make sure you have the following documents with you:
- Passport – your passport must be valid for at least 6 months after you plan to arrive in the United States.
- The printed confirmation of your online DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa application.
- Your application fee, or the receipt from the fee if you had to pay before the interview.
- A photo of yourself in the approved format. This is only if you couldn’t upload a photo with your application.
You should also bring any other documentation that is relevant to prove your status as a member of the foreign press. In addition, you should prepare to answer any questions about your intended purpose for traveling to the U.S.
For instance, if you are a free-lance journalist, you’ll need to bring a copy of the contract you have with the company you’re working for. Certain press credentials, or even evidence of other pieces you’ve written, can also help your case.
Interview and Processing
- Go to your visa interview.
In your interview, the consular officer will not only determine whether you are eligible for a visa, the officer will determine that the type of visa you have applied for is the right category of visa for your circumstance.
During your interview, you will
- Answer questions
- Be fingerprinted – with digital, ink-free scans of your fingerprints
- Wait for a response.
Some I visa applications are approved quickly. Some require additional administrative processing. The consular officer will be able to give you an idea of how much time you’ll have to wait before you are able to pick up your passport with your visa.
However, once you receive your visa you’re free to travel to the U.S. at your earliest convenience.
Even if you’re a member of the foreign press, you may only use the I visa if you are working in that capacity. If you aren’t working as a representative of your press, you’ll have to instead apply for a visitor or temporary worker visa.
For example, some common reasons for travel that the I visa doesn’t cover are to:
- Attend a conference or meeting that you aren’t planning to report on.
- Act as a guest speaker, or receive an award from an institution.
- Vacation (if you aren’t a travel reporter).
- Do independent research (not sponsored or mandated by your employer).
In general, if you aren’t sponsored by your news organization, you’ll probably want to look into other visa types. If you’re still confused, feel free to contact an immigration attorney who can give you advice about the different options available to you.
If you’re a member of the foreign press and are planning to visit to the U.S. for your job, you should apply for an I visa. The process itself is actually quite simply, just apply online then attend the interview at your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate. You must also have a valid passport, and pay any related fees.
In addition, you’ll have to prove that you’re spending your time in the U.S. as a representative of a foreign press, not just for personal reasons.
If you’re thinking of applying for this type of visa, you should discuss your plans with an experienced immigration attorney who can help you navigate the red tape. Hiring an attorney can make the whole process easier, and can even save you money in the long run.