Journalists & Media Workers
Journalists and Media Visas (I-Visas)
Visitors to the United States who report on news events and who are engaged in activities to gather information for the media should obtain an I-visa. This includes reporters, film crews, video tape editors, employees of independent production companies, free-lance journalists working under contract, and persons in similar occupations. Both print and film activities are included in this category. However, if the visitor is filming, the film must be of an informational or educational nature. An I-visa cannot be used to film material which is used primarily for commercial entertainment or advertising purposes.
Journalists and media workers working in press, print, radio, and film can qualify for the I-visa, if they are assigned to reside in the United States as representatives of their foreign media employer. The foreign media company employing the applicant must have its home office outside of the United States, and the applicant’s government must grant reciprocal visas to American media workers. Spouse and children accompanying the principal applicant can qualify under the same visa category.
Applying for the Visa
See Applying for a Nonimmigrant Visa for instructions on how and where to submit your application.
In addition to the standard requirements, the application must include proof of employment.
One of the following should be included:
- Staff Journalist: A letter from the employer that gives the employees name, position held within the company, and purpose and length of stay in the U.S.
- Freelance Journalist under contract to a media organization: A copy of the contract with the organization, which shows the employees name, position held within the company; purpose and length of stay in the U.S. and duration of contract.
- Media Film Crew: a letter from the employer which gives the following information: name; position held within company; title and brief description of the program being filmed and period of time required for filming in the U.S.
- Independent Production Company under contract to media organization: a letter from the organization commissioning the work which gives the following information: name; title and brief description of the program being filmed; period of time required for filming in the U.S. and duration of contract.
There are two parts to the nonimmigrant visa fee: the application fee and the issuance fee.
Valid I-Visa Holders Who Have Changed Employers
Often journalists and media workers who obtained an I-visa due to their work with one employer will later change employers, but still need to travel to the U.S. to engage in similar work. As long as their new employer is a foreign-based media outlet, the journalist will not be receiving income from a U.S. source, and their product (i.e. broadcast, article, documentary, etc.) is not primarily for distribution within the U.S., their visa remains valid until its original expiration date. However, it is important that they carry a letter or contract from their current employer for presentation to the Immigration Officer at the U.S. Port of Entry should it be requested.
For more information, please see the "Additional Information" section of the Department of State's website on foreign media visas.
Also Keep In Mind
Applicants who seek to work on a film which is primarily intended for entertainment or advertising must obtain a temporary worker visa, categories H, O, or P depending on the nature of the job and the skills level involved. Applicants should have their manager or agent contact the office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the US where they intend to work.
Employees of independent production companies and free-lance media workers may qualify for I-visas if they are working under contract on a product to be used for its news value or as a documentary not primarily for commercial entertainment or for advertising purpose. The employee should hold credentials issued by a professional journalistic association. Consular officers may ask to see these credentials before adjudicating applications for I-visas.
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.
Additional information is also available via email at: AMVISA@state.gov