I Visa

The I visa is a vital tool for connecting all nations as the international community moves toward increasing globalization. The I visa is available to members of the media, such as reporters, freelance journalists, press, print industries, radio, film, and film crew members traveling temporarily to the United States to work in their profession engaged in informational or educational media activities, necessary to the foreign media function.

I visas are available to persons only to work for a foreign media outlet or a U.S.-based subsidiary of a foreign media company. While in the United States, all the activities regarding media ‘I visa’ must be for a media organization having its home office in a foreign country. Activities must be informational in nature and extensively associated with the news making process and reporting on current events.

Note: Applicants are not allowed to travel on visa free under the Visa Waiver Program or enter the United States on B-1 business visas. In case, if anybody who tries to do so may be denied entrance to the United States by immigration authorities at the port of entry. Basically, freelance journalists will only be advised for the “I” visa classification, if they are under contract to a media organization.

Eligibility Criteria

‘I’ visas are only available to those who are based in their home country and intend to return home after their job has been completed. The I visa applicant must prove:

  • Media engaged person working in the production or distribution of the film, including employees of independent production companies, will allow for “I” visas classification only if the material being filmed will be used to distribute information or news.
  • A foreign journalist working for an overseas branch office or supporting to U.S. network, newspaper, or other media related profile, while traveling to the United States to report on U.S. events exclusively for the foreign audience.
  • “I” visa fairly depends on activities of the media-related task. News or informational content must be considered in the full context of their particular case. Members of the media should keep in mind while making the news or cover any events that purpose as to whether or not an activity qualifies for the “I” visa. There are two focused issues; the activity necessarily informational, and in general associated with the news finding process.
  • The term representative of the foreign media includes, but is not limited to, members of the press, radio, or film whose activities are vital to the foreign media function, such as reporters, editors, film crews, and persons in similar professions. It is important to note that only those whose activities are generally associated with journalism qualify for the “I” visa.
  • Sufficient funds needed to stay and to perform all media-related activities smoothly in the U.S.
  • Applicant must enter the U.S. with the intention to return to the home country after completion of work/task.

How to Apply

There are certain steps of applying for ‘I’ visa classification. These steps depend on how you complete them, but most importantly this may differ at the U.S. embassy or consulate where you apply. Please refer the instructions available on the embassy or consulate website where you will apply.

  • Importantly, individuals apply for visas well in advance of their proposed date of travel, but there is no guarantee for the issuance of visas to be given in advance. Accordingly, final travel outlines or the purchase of non-refundable ticket should not be made until a visa has been issued and you are in receipt of the passport.
  • An online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 must be completed and after that, you need to print the application form confirmation page to show at the time of interview.
  • You need to upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160.  Find out more about the photo requirements.
  • ‘I’ visa can normally be obtained directly from the U.S. consulate or embassy without first sending a separate petition to the U.S., unlike as many other employment-based visa requirements.
  • Dependents of the I holder (spouses and children) need to obtain derivative visas.

Spouses and Children

The I visa holder’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may be allowed for derivative I status.  Derivative I visa for applicants (spouses and children) must include a copy of the media employee’s I visa.  Spouses/children who do not want to reside in the United States with the principal visa holder, but visit for vacations only, may be qualified to apply for visitor (B-2 visas), or if qualified, travel without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program.

Duration of Stay

Duration of stay under ‘I’ visa status will be decided by the consulate or embassy. Continuation in one-year increments can be issued, and there is no limit on the number of continuations. Most importantly, I visa can lead to a green card.

Additional Information

Generally, stories that report on events, including sports events, are essentially informational and are usually appropriate “I” classification visa activities, but stories that involve staged events, contrived, and even when unscripted, such as reality television shows, and quiz shows are not primarily informational and do not generally comprehend journalism.

Furthermore, documentaries involving staged recreations with actors are also not advised informational. Members of the team working on such productions will not qualify for ‘I’ visas. They will need to apply for an appropriate employment-based (O, P or H) visa.




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