I Media Visa
The I Media Visa is a temporary visa for representatives of the information media, including members of the press, radio, film or print media industries. It is generally issued for one year. An I Media Visa is renewable indefinitely. Working media cannot enter the US on a B Visitor Visa or without a visa on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP); they must first obtain an I Media Visa from a US Consulate if they will be working in the US.
Eligibility for the I Media Visa
To qualify for the I Media Visa, an applicant must show that her activities are essential to the foreign media function. Examples of applicants who might qualify include: reporters, film crews, editors and individuals in similar occupations who are traveling to the US to engage in their profession.
An I Media Visa applicant must be engaging in qualifying activities for a media organization that has its home office in a country outside of the US. To qualify for the I Media Visa, activities must be essentially informational, and they must be generally associated with the news gathering process and/or reporting on actual current events.
A consular officer at the US Consulate where the I Media Visa application is made will determine whether a particular activity qualifies for the I Visa. Reporting on sports events is usually appropriate for the media visa. Examples of individuals or activities that qualify for the I Visa include:
- Primary employees of foreign information media who are 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 I visa if the material being filmed will be used to disseminate information or news. In addition, the primary source and distribution of funding for such a project must be outside the US.
- Journalists working under contract: Individuals who hold a credential issued by a professional journalistic organization would qualify for the I Media Visa 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 in this instance.
- 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 US network, newspaper or other media outlet if the journalist is entering to the US to report on US events solely for a non-US audience.
- Accredited representatives of tourist bureaus that are 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 US offices of organizations that distribute technical industrial information.
Working Media Must Obtain an I Media Visa (No Entry on the Visa Waiver)
Citizens from a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) who want to enter the US temporarily as representatives of the foreign media traveling to the US, engaging in their profession as media or journalists, must first obtain an I Media Visa to enter the US. They cannot travel without a visa on the Visa Waiver Program, nor can they travel on a B visitor visa; attempts to do so may be denied admission to the US by the Department of Homeland Security, CBP, or US immigration officer at the port of entry.
When Can Media or Journalists Use a B Visa (Visitor Visa)?
- To Attend a Conference or Meeting: Media representatives who are going to the US to attend conferences or meetings as a participant, and who will not be reporting about such meetings either while in the US or upon their return, can travel on a B visa (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 US. However, the speaking activity must last no longer than 9 days at any single institution, and the speaker cannot have received payment from more than 5 institutions or organizations for such activities in the last 6 months.
- To Purchase Media Equipment: A B visitor visa can be used by employees to purchase US media equipment or broadcast rights or take orders for foreign media equipment or broadcast rights.
- Vacation: A foreign media journalist who does not have an I Media visa, can vacation on a B visa, and they do not need an I Media Visa if they are not reporting on something newsworthy (again, if they are not “engaging in their vocation”).