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I Visa for Foreign Media, Press and Radio Employees

immigration lawyers

Overview

The media (I) visa is a nonimmigrant visa for representatives of the foreign media temporarily traveling to the United States (U.S.), 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 travelers 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 representatives of the media or press from the United States. There are very specific requirements which must be met by applicants for qualify for the media visa, under U.S. immigration law. immigration lawyer

Qualifying for a Media (I) Visa

Media (I) applicants must meet specific requirements to qualify for a media (I) visa under immigration law. The consular officer will determine whether you qualify for the visa. 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 U.S.
  • 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 U.S. 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. immigration lawyer

Working Media Cannot Travel Without a Visa on the Visa Waiver Program

Citizens from a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), who want to enter the United States temporarily, as representatives of the foreign media traveling to the United States, engaging in their profession as media or journalists, must first obtain a media visa to come to the U.S. They cannot travel without a visa on the Visa Waiver Program, nor can they travel on a visitor (B) visa; and attempting to do so may be denied admission to the U.S. by the Department of Homeland Security, CBP, U.S. immigration officer at the port of entry. See information below, explaining situations when a visitor visa or Visa Waiver Program can be used.  immigration lawyer

Applying for a Media Visa

As part of the visa application process, an interview at the embassy consular section is required for visa applicants from age 14 through 79, with few exceptions. Persons age 13 and younger, and age 80 and older, generally do not require an interview, unless requested by the U.S. embassy or consulate. Making your appointment for an interview is the first step in the visa application process. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early visa application is strongly encouraged. Visa wait times for interview appointments and visa processing time information for each U.S. Embassy or Consulate worldwide is available on our website at Visa Wait Times , and on most embassy websites. Learn how to schedule an appointment for an interview, pay the application processing fee, review embassy specific instructions, and much more by visiting the Embassy or Consulate website where you will apply.

During the visa application process, usually at the interview, an ink-free digital fingerprint scan will be quickly taken. Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant's interview by a Consular Officer.  immigration lawyer

Required Documentation

Each applicant for a media visa must submit these forms and documentation as explained below:

  • Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160. Visit our DS-160 webpage to learn more about the DS-160 online process.
  • A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the U.S. (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions). If more than one person is included in the passport, each person desiring a visa must make an application;
  • One (1) 2x2 photograph. View the photograph requirements.
  • Proof of employment – Provide the following:
    • 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.  immigration lawyer

What are the Required Visa Fees?

  • Nonimmigrant visa application processing fee - For current fees for Department of State government services select Fees. You will need to provide a receipt showing the visa application processing fee has been paid, when you come for your visa interview.
  • Visa issuance fee – Additionally, if the visa is issued, there may be an additional visa issuance reciprocity fee. Please consult the Visa Reciprocity Tables to find out if you must pay a visa issuance reciprocity fee and what the fee amount is.  immigration lawyer

Spouses and Children

Spouses and/or children under the age of 21 who wish to accompany or join the principal media visa holder in the U.S. for the duration of his/her stay require media visas. The application procedure is the same as for a primary media visa applicant. If the spouse and/or children apply for visas at a later date, a copy of the principal visa holder's media visa must be presented with the application. The spouse and/or children of a media visa holder here in the U.S. may not work without an appropriate temporary worker visa. The spouse and/or children of a media visa holder who are in the U.S. on a media visa may study in the U.S. without also being required to apply for a student (F-1) visa. 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) visas, or if qualified, travel without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program.  immigration lawyer

When Can a Visitor Visa Be Used?

  • Attend Conference or Meeting: Media representatives who are going to the U.S. to attend conferences or meetings as a participant and 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.”
  • Guest speaking, lecturing, engaging in academic activity: When traveling for the purpose of guest speaking, lecturing, or engaging in other usual academic activity, for which they will receive an honorarium from an institution of higher education, a related or affiliated nonprofit entity, a nonprofit research organization, or a Governmental research organization, media representatives will need to travel on a visitor visa to the U.S. 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.
  • Purchase media equipment: A visitor visa can be used by employees to purchase U.S. media equipment or broadcast rights or take orders for foreign media equipment or broadcast rights, since they are considered ordinary business visitors.
  • Vacation: A foreign media journalist, who does not have a media visa, can take vacation to the U.S. on a visitor visa, and would not need a media visa, as long a he/she would not be reporting on something newsworthy.  immigration lawyer

Activities That Require a Temporary Worker Visa, Not Media Visa

While certain activities clearly qualify for the media visa, as they are informational and news gathering in content, many do not. Each application 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 media visa, the consular officer will focus on whether the activity is essentially informational, and whether it is generally associated with the news gathering process.

The activities listed below, are shown as examples, that would not qualify for a media visa, and would require a temporary worker type visa, such as the H, O, or P visa. Select Temporary Worker to learn about temporary worker requirements and procedures for filing the petition, which must be approved by USCIS, prior to applying for the visa. For specific nonimmigrant visa information, select Visa Types for Temporary Visitors.

Material for commercial entertainment or advertising purposes - A media visa cannot be used to film material, or for employees who will work on a film, which will be used primarily for commercial entertainment or advertising purposes. A temporary worker visa is required.

Proofreaders, librarians, set designers - 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.

Artistic media content production - Media representatives who will travel to the U.S. 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.  immigration lawyer

Additional Information

  • No assurances regarding the issuance of visas can be given in advance. Therefore final travel plans or the purchase of nonrefundable tickets should not be made until a visa has been issued.
  • A media visa holder can travel to the U.S. for media purposes and, as part of the trip, take a vacation in the U.S.
  • Unless previously canceled, a visa is valid until its expiration date. Therefore, if the traveler has a valid U.S. visa in an expired passport, do not remove the visa page from the expired passport. You may use it along with a new valid passport for travel and admission to the U.S.  immigration lawyer

Misrepresentation of a Material Facts, or Fraud

Attempting to obtain a visa by the willful misrepresentation of a material fact, or fraud, may result in the permanent refusal of a visa or denial of entry into the United States. Classes of Aliens Ineligible to Receive Visas, provides important information about ineligibilities.  immigration lawyer

Visa Ineligibilities and Waivers

Certain activities can make you ineligible for a U.S. visa. The Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-156 or Online Form DS-160, lists some categories of persons who are ineligible under U.S. law to receive visas. In some instances an applicant who is ineligible, but who is otherwise properly classifiable for a certain type of visa, may apply for a waiver of ineligibility and be issued a visa if the waiver is approved. Classes of Aliens Ineligible to Receive Visas, provides important information about ineligibilities, by reviewing sections of the law taken from the Immigration and Nationality Act. immigration lawyer

Visa Denials

If the consular officer should find it necessary to deny the issuance of a visa, the applicant may apply again if there is new evidence to overcome the basis for the refusal. For additional information, select Denials. In the absence of new evidence, consular officers are not obliged to re-examine such cases.  immigration lawyer

Entering the U.S. - Port of Entry

A visa allows a foreign citizen coming from abroad, to travel to the United States port-of entry and request permission to enter the U.S. Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States. If you are allowed to enter the U.S., the CBP official will determine the length of your visit on the Arrival-Departure Record (Form I-94). Since Form I-94 documents your authorized stay in the U.S., it’s very important to keep in your passport. In advance of travel, prospective travelers should review important information about Admissions/Entry requirements, as well as information related to restrictions about bringing food, agricultural products or other restricted/prohibited goods explained on the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection website. Upon arrival (at an international airport, seaport or land border crossing), you will be enrolled in the US-VISIT entry-exit program. In addition, some travelers will also need to register their entry into and their departure from the U.S. with the Special Registration program.  immigration lawyer

Staying Beyond Your Authorized Stay in the U.S. and Being Out of Status

  • It is important you depart the U.S. on or before the last day you are authorized to be in the U.S. on any given trip, based on the specified end date on your Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94. Failure to depart the U.S. will cause you to be out-of-status. Staying beyond the period of time authorized by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and being in the United States is a violation of U.S. immigration laws, and may cause you to be ineligible for a visa in the future for return travel to the U.S. Select Classes of Aliens Ineligible to Receive Visas to learn more.
  • Staying unlawfully in the United States beyond the date Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authorized, even by one day, results in your visa being automatically voided, in accordance with INA 222(g). Under this provision of immigration law, if you overstay on your nonimmigrant authorized stay in the U.S., your visa will be automatically voided. In this situation,you are required to reapply for a new nonimmigrant visa, generally in your country of nationality.  immigration lawyer

How Do I Extend My Stay?

Visitors who wish to stay beyond the date indicated on their Form I-94 are required to have approval by USCIS. See Extend Your Stay on this website.  immigration lawyer

How Do I Change My Status?

Some nonimmigrant visa holders, while present in the U.S., are able to file a request which must be approved by USCIS to change to another nonimmigrant category. See Change My Nonimmigrant Status on this website.  immigration lawyer

Important Note: Filing a request with USCIS for approval of change of status before your authorized stay expires, while you remain in the U.S., does not by itself require the visa holder to apply for a new visa. However, if you cannot remain in the U.S. while USCIS processes your change of status request, you will need to apply for a nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.  immigration lawyer

Further Visa Inquiries

Questions on visa application procedures and visa ineligibilities should be made to the American consular office abroad by the applicant. Before submitting your inquiry, we request that you carefully review this website and also the Embassy Consular web site abroad. Very often you will find the information you need.

If your inquiry concerns a visa case in progress overseas, you should first contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate handling your case for status information. Select U.S. Embassy or Consulate, and you can choose the Embassy or Consulate Internet site you need to contact.  immigration lawyer



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Moses Apsan and his staff, based in New York City and Newark, NJ provide exceptional legal services throughout the world, in all aspects of immigration to the United States, including non-immigrant (temporary visas), immigrant visa (Green Card) and deportation defense. In addition Mr. Apsan, has been practicing Bankruptcy law and Divorce laws for over 30 years, He was the President of the Federal Bar Association, New Jersey Chapter (1997-2002). He speaks Portuguese and Spanish..
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