The media (I) visa is a nonimmigrant visa for representatives of the foreign media temporarily traveling to the United States to engage in their profession while having their home office in a foreign country. Some procedures and fees under immigration law relate to policies of the traveler's home country and, in turn, the U.S. follows a similar practice, which we call "reciprocity." Procedures for providing media visas to foreign media representatives of a particular country consider whether the visa applicant's own government grants similar privileges, or is reciprocal, to media/press representatives from the United States.
There are very specific requirements, dictated by U.S. immigration
law, which must be met by applicants in order to qualify for the
media visa. To qualify for the media (I) visa applicants must
demonstrate that they are properly qualified to be issued a media
Media visas are for "representatives of the foreign media," including members of the press, radio, film or print industries, whose activities are essential to the foreign media function, such as reporters, film crews, editors and persons in similar occupations, under U.S. immigration laws, traveling to the U.S. to engage in their profession. The applicant must be engaging in qualifying activities for a media organization having its home office in a foreign country. The activity must be essentially informational, and generally associated with the news gathering process, reporting on actual current events, to be eligible for the media visa. The consular officer will determine whether or not an activity qualifies for the media visa. Reporting on sports events are usually appropriate for the media visa. Other examples include, but are not limited to, the following media related kinds of activities:
Primary employees of foreign information media engaged in filming a
news event or documentary.
Members of the media engaged in the production or distribution of
film will only qualify for a media visa if the material being filmed
will be used to disseminate information or news. Additionally, the
primary source and distribution of funding must be outside the
Journalists working under contract. Persons holding a credential
issued by a professional journalistic organization, if working under
contract on a product to be used abroad by an information or
cultural medium to disseminate information or news not primarily
intended for commercial entertainment or advertising. Please note
that a valid employment contract is required.
Employees of independent production companies when those employees
hold a credential issued by a professional journalistic association.
Foreign journalists working for an overseas branch office or
subsidiary of a U.S. network, newspaper or other media outlet if the
journalist is going to the United States to report on U.S. events
solely for a foreign audience.
Accredited representatives of tourist bureaus, controlled, operated,
or subsidized in whole or in part by a foreign government, who
engage primarily in disseminating factual tourist information about
that country, and who are not entitled to A-2 visa classification.
Technical industrial information. Employees in the U.S. offices of
organizations, which distribute technical industrial information.
Freelance journalists will only be considered for an I visa if all
of the following criteria are met. The journalist must:
- Hold a credential issued by a professional journalistic organization
- Be under contract to a media organization
- Disseminate information or news not primarily intended for commercial entertainment or advertising
- Still photographers are permitted to enter the United States with B-1 visas for the purpose of taking photographs, provided that they receive no income from a U.S. source.
Citizens from a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program who want to enter the United States temporarily as representatives of the foreign media while engaging in their profession as media or journalists, must first obtain a media visa to come to the United States. They cannot travel without a visa on the Visa Waiver Program, nor can they travel on a visitor (type B) visa. Attempting to do so may result in a denial of admission to the U.S. by the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry. The list below describes situations when a visitor visa or the Visa Waiver Program can be used.
A visitor visa may be used if your purpose of travel is for the
-Attending a conference or meeting
-Media representatives traveling to the United States to attend conferences or meetings as a participant and who will not report about the meeting, either while in the U.S. or upon their return, can travel on a visitor visa. The distinction in immigration law is whether they will be "engaging in their vocation."
Media representatives must hold a visitor visa when traveling to the United States for the purposes of guest speaking, lecturing, or engaging in other usual academic activity at a related or affiliated nonprofit entity, a nonprofit research organization, a governmental research organization, or at an institution of higher education from which the applicant will receive an honorarium. However, the speaking activity must last no longer than nine days at a single institution and the speaker cannot have received payment from more than five institutions or organizations for such activities in the last six months.
A visitor visa can be used by employees of foreign media outlets to purchase U.S. media equipment or broadcast rights or to take orders for foreign media equipment or broadcast rights, since these activities fall within the scope of those executed by ordinary business visitors.
A foreign media journalist can take vacation to the United States using a visitor visa and does not need a media visa, as long as he/she will not be reporting on newsworthy events.
While certain activities clearly qualify for the media visa because
they are informational and news gathering in content, many do not.
Each application is considered within the full context of its
particular case. The consular officer focuses on whether the purpose
of travel is essentially informational, and whether it is generally
associated with the news gathering process, in order to determine if
an applicant qualifies for a media visa. The list below describes
situations when a temporary worker visa, such as types H, O, or P,
are required instead of a type I journalist/media visa.
A temporary work visa may be used if your purpose of travel is for the following activities:
- Filming material for commercial entertainment or advertising purposes
- A media visa cannot be used by applicants whose purpose of travel to the United States is to film, or work on a film, intended primarily for commercial entertainment or advertising purposes. A temporary worker visa is required.
- Production support roles such as proofreaders, librarians and set
- People involved in associated activities such as proofreaders, librarians, set designers, etc., are not eligible for media visas and may qualify under another classification, such as H, O, or P visas.
Stories that are staged events, television and quiz shows 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 media visa. Television, radio, and film production companies may wish to seek expert counsel from an immigration attorney who specializes in media work for specific advice tailored to the current project.
Media representatives who will travel to the United States in order to participate in the production of artistic media content (in which actors are used) will not qualify for a media visa. Television, radio, and film production companies may wish to seek expert counsel from an immigration attorney who specializes in media work for specific advice tailored to the current project.
Spouses, including same-sex spouses, and/or unmarried children under
the age of 21 who wish to accompany or join the principal visa
holder in the United States for the duration of his/her stay require
derivative I visas. Spouses and/or children who do not intend to
reside in the United States with the principal visa holder, but
visit for vacations only, may be eligible to apply for visitor (B-2)
Spouses and dependents may not work in the United States on a derivative I visa. If the spouse or dependent seeks employment, the appropriate work visa will be required.