What is a US I visa?
Media (I) visas are intended for foreign media representatives, including members of the print, radio, motion picture, and print industries, who travel temporarily to the United States to carry out their profession engaged in informational or media activities educational, essential for foreign media function.
Who can apply for the I visa?
Members of foreign press, radio, and media are also known as having an I visa, or an I Media visa.
Every person who is a representative of foreign media and wants to come to the United States to perform professional activities for their organization must apply for the I visa. Even if you currently hold another type of US visa, you will not be allowed to legally work for a company of foreign media without first obtaining the I visa.
To be eligible for the I visa, the activities of the organization on whose behalf you are acting must be of an informational nature and serve primarily to report on news and events. You have to fulfill the following requirements in order to be qualified for an I visa:
- You represent a foreign media company, whether it is print, radio, film or any other media.
- The sole purpose of your visit to the United States is to work in this profession.
- The organization you represent has an office abroad.
Examples of occupations that fall into this category and that may require the I visa include, but are not limited to, radio broadcasters, journalists, film crews, or editors.
If you engage in creative activities that are not associated with journalism, for example, if you are a writer or entertainer, you will not be able to apply for the I visa. If you are a freelancer, you may be eligible for the I visa if you have a contract with an organization of professional media.
A representative of the U.S. embassy will decide throughout the application process if your line of work qualifies you for an I visa.
How to apply for the I visa?
If you meet the eligibility criteria, the first step in your application is to complete a Form DS-160. You can fill it out online but you will need to print the confirmation page which you will bring to the in-person interview later. After submitting the form, you will need to schedule an appointment with the American embassy or consulate in your home country. Next, you’ll need to gather the following records:
- A valid passport
- Proof of employment, such as a contract signed by you and your employer
- Details about what your role will be in the United States
- Details of other representatives from your organization who will be coming to the United States to work on the project.
- Proof of your credentials issued by a foreign journalist association
- Evidence that you intend to return to your home country once the project is finished, such as a return plane ticket
- The confirmation page of your visa application
- A passport-size photograph if you are unable to upload one online
- A receipt for payment of the fee.
What to expect during the I visa interview?
Interviews are generally required for applicants between the ages of 14 and 80, but officials may request an interview with any applicant. The interview must be scheduled at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country. Getting an interview abroad, outside of your country of permanent residence, can be difficult. The waiting time for your appointment varies depending on the location and time of year. However, it is advisable to apply for a visa in advance to avoid problems.
A representative from the U.S. embassy or consulate will question you during the interview on your past trips to the country, your health, and your criminal history. They may also ask for proof of your qualifications, such as past published articles, employment contracts or journalist accreditations. The goal is to test whether the purpose of a tourist visit is actually to report for a foreign media organization.
It is important not to hide any information. If you lie during the interview and the officer finds out, you will be denied the I visa.
What is the registration fee?
If you want to apply for the I visa, you must be prepared to pay the fee of $160. This amount is non-refundable, regardless of the outcome of the application. On top of this, you may have to pay additional costs, for example, for issuing a visa or for submitting an application to the embassy or consulate. These costs vary depending on where you are applying from. Depending on your home country’s relationship with the United States, residents of some countries must pay higher fees than others. Be sure to keep receipts for all fees as you must include them in your application.
What is the processing time for the I visa?
In general, the I visa processing time is not long. Most applications are processed within 10 days of submission. However, if the US embassy or consulate where you are applying is busier than usual, processing times may be longer.
Once the U.S. Embassy or Consulate has finished processing your application, you will receive a letter informing you of the outcome. Should your application be approved, you will receive your I visa and be able to begin packing for your journey. You may, however, file an appeal and submit a new application if it is rejected.
It is impossible to predict whether your request will be accepted or not. That’s why you should apply early to give yourself enough time to reapply in case it is initially rejected.
How long is the I visa valid?
When you and your organization apply to become an I visa holder, you must specify how long the employment activity will last. If your request is successful, you will be issued an I visa valid for the entire duration of the assignment. If your employment contract requires you to stay in the United States for six months, your visa will be valid for six months.
When you are in the United States on the I visa you will not be able to leave and re-enter the country and will have to leave the United States on or before your visa expiration date.
If your visa is about to expire but you have not yet completed your work assignment, you can request an extension. To do so, you must complete Form I-539, Application for Extension/Modification of Nonimmigrant Status and submit it to USCIS. Any extension you receive cannot last more than one year. You can get an unlimited number of extensions, but you must be able to demonstrate that you will continue to work on gathering information for your home organization.
Can I bring my dependents with me on the I visa?
If you receive the I visa, you will be allowed to bring your dependents with you to the United States. Dependents include your spouse and your unmarried children under the age of 21. If you want to bring them with you, however, they will need to apply for a separate visa. They can submit their application at the same time as you or after receiving your I visa.
In order to come with you, your dependents must present proof of a relationship. This can be a birth certificate for your children or a marriage certificate for your spouse. If your family members start the application after receiving the I visa, they must submit a copy.
If their application is successful, the visa will be issued for the duration of your I visa. When your dependents come with you to the United States, they will not be able to work but will be able to enroll in academic studies at a non-public school. If your family members want to come with you on holiday, they could apply for a B2 tourist visa instead.
Do I need to apply for the I visa?
All representatives of foreign media companies coming to the United States to obtain content and report on U.S. news and events to foreign audiences must apply for an I visa.
If you work as a journalist, radio host, director, member of a film crew, or newspaper editor and want to come to the United States to work temporarily in this profession, you must apply for the I visa.
If you are unsure whether you need an I visa, speak to our immigration lawyers. They will assess your eligibility for the I visa and help you apply for it.
How much does the I visa cost?
People applying for the I visa need to pay $160. This fee is non-refundable even if their application is not successful. On top of that, they may have to pay additional fees to get a visa issued by a US embassy or consulate. However, these fees depend on the country of origin.