I Nonimmigrant Visa: Representatives of Foreign Media

The I visa is a temporary nonimmigrant workers visa meant for bona fide representatives of foreign media. In order to be eligible for the I visa, you must:

  • Represent a foreign information media outlet, which can include press, film, radio, etc.
  • Have a home office in a foreign country
  • Come to the United States only to practice this profession
  • Have your home country grant similar privileges to media representatives from the United States

I visa applicants must engage in activities which are informational and associated with the news gathering process, which involves reporting on current events. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the consular office abroad to determine if an activity warrants the conferral of an I visa. Persons applying for this visa must apply in the consular office or American Embassy that has jurisdiction over his or her place of permanent residence. Some examples include, but are not limited to, the following activities:

  • Primary employees of foreign information media engaging in filming a news event or documentary
  • Members of the media involved in the production or distribution of films designed to disseminate information or news
  • Employees of independent production companies
  • Journalists employed under contract and credentialed under a professional journalistic organization
  • Foreign journalist working for an overseas branch of a U.S. network, newspaper, or media outlet, This person must disseminate information solely to a foreign audience
  • Employees in U.S. offices of organizations that distribute information technical and industrial in nature
  • Accredited representatives of tourist bureaus which are controlled or operated in whole or in part by a foreign government engaged in disseminating factual tourist information about that country. These applicants cannot be entitled to an A-2 visa classification

For all of these categories, proof of employment is required. This can be done through a letter from the employer or a copy of a contract with the sponsoring organization. Requirements for the proof of employment can be found below. Aliens visiting the United States cannot practice their media profession without an I visa, even if he or she lawfully gained entrance into the U.S. under another visa or status. Admission for an I visa holder is generally authorized for the duration of stay and does not require an extension as long as the visa holder continues to work for the same employer under the same information medium. An extension of status may be filed if the Form I-94 indicates an authorized end date or period of stay.

Getting Started:

I visa holders are nonimmigrant workers who must first have a prospective employer file a petition Form I-129 on their behalf. After filing the petition, the employer will receive feedback from the USCIS and if the petition is approved, the alien may enter the United States and begin working after filling out Form I-9.

Each I visa application must also include the following documentation:

  • Form DS-160 - Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application
  • A passport valid for travel to the United States with an expiration date at least 6 months after the applicant’s intended period of stay
  • One 2x2 photograph that meets USCIS photo requirements
  • Proof of employment, depending on the occupation
    • Staff Journalist –letter from the employer providing: employee’s name, position, purpose and length of stay
    • Freelance Journalist under media organization’s contract – copy of the contract which provides: employee’s name, position, purpose, length of stay, and duration of the contract
    • Media Film Crew –letter from employer providing: name, position, title and description of program being filmed, period of time needed to film in the United States
    • Independent Production Company under media organization contract – letter from the media organization which commissioned the work and provides: name, title and description of the work being filmed, duration of contract, length of time required to film in the United States

The nonimmigrant visa application process is accompanied by processing and issuance fees. The I-129 petition fee is currently set at $325 while the issuance fee varies by country. You can access the visa reciprocity tables to find out the fee amount for your country.

I visa holder wishing to transfer companies may do so by resubmitting the I-129 form. I visa holders may not study full time.

Spouse and Children

Family of the I visa holder are eligible for admission into the United States under an I visa. While this visa will allow the children of the holder to attend school without applying for an F-1 visa, it makes the children and spouse of the principal I visa holder ineligible for employment in the United States.

Tax Information

Taxes for I visa recipients followthe U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens (Publication 519) provided by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Depending on the duration of stay in the United States, I visa holders are responsible for taxes as either resident or non-resident aliens. Resident aliens – those with a green card or who had a “substantial presence” in the United States – are taxed like U.S. citizens. Non-residents mostly pay taxes on their income connected to a U.S. trade or business. Remember that “resident” and “non-resident” are categories used by the IRS for tax purposes and do not necessarily reflect immigration status. For more detailed guidelines and instructions, please reference Publication 519 on the IRS’s website.