Eligibility Requirements for Media Visa – I Visa

In determining whether the person qualifies for a media visa or not, the consular will look at the qualifying activities of an applicant for a media organization that has their head office in a foreign country. The media person must be generally engaged in information activities and they should generally be associated with the news gathering process, reports on actual current events, etc.

E.g., reporting on sports events is appropriate for the media visa. 

Other examples include, but are not limited to, the following media-related activities:

  • Primary employees of foreign information media: Persons engaged in filming a news event or documentary. 

  • Members of the media engaged in the production or distribution of film: Only if the filmed material will be used to disseminate information or news. Also, the primary source & distribution of funding must be outside the US. 

  • Journalists working under a contract: Persons holding a credential issued by a professional journalistic organization. This is only if they are working under a contract on a product to be used abroad by an information or cultural medium to disseminate information or news (that is not primarily intended for commercial entertainment or advertising). 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. Such journalists must be paid by the foreign based office. 

  • 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 an A-2 visa. 

  • Technical industrial information – Employees in the U.S. offices of organizations, which distribute technical industrial information.

To obtain a media visa, you are not required to maintain a foreign residence. You can travel in and out of the U.S. or remain in the U.S. continuously for the term of production.

Using a Visitor Visa

There are several scenarios that would not require a media visa, but a visitor visa for a person engaged in the media profession:

  • Foreign media journalist taking a vacation in the U.S., as long as he/she wouldn’t be reporting something newsworthy. 

  • Visiting the USA to purchase U.S. media equipment or broadcast rights, or to take orders for foreign media equipment or broadcast rights. Such persons are considered general business visitors. 

  • Attending a conference or meetings as a participant that will not report about the meeting, either while in the U.S. or upon their return. This is allowed because they are not “engaging in their vocation”. 

  • Visiting the U.S. as a guest speaker, lecturer, 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. The speaking activity must last no longer than 9 days at a single institution and the speaker cannot have received payment from more than 5 institutions or organizations for such attributives in the last 6 months.

Activities Not Qualified for a Media Visa

Certain activities do not qualify for a media visa as they are essentially not informational and generally not associated with the news gathering process. 

The following activities would not qualify for a media visa and would require a temporary worker type visa such as the H, O, or P visa.

  • Proofreaders, librarians, set designers. 

  • Persons filming the material or employees who will work on a film which will be used primarily for commercial entertainment or advertising purposes. 

  • Media representatives that want to participate in the production of artistic media content (in which actors are used). TV, radio, and film production companies should consult an immigration attorney that specializes in media work for specific advice tailored to the current project. 

  • Stories which are staged events, television, and quiz shows. Persons working in the productions such as
    • 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.
    • Documentaries involving staged recreations with actors.
      TV, radio, and film production companies should consult an immigration attorney that specializes in media work for specific advice tailored to the current project.

  • Visiting the U.S. as a guest speaker or lecturer. They must obtain a visitor visa. Further details are provided in the above section.

    However, a media representative who has entered the U.S. on an I-visa can perform informal free speaking activities as long as no fee for such activities is received. It is acceptable to receive the reimbursement of reasonable expenses. 

  • A media worker that replaces or augments American journalists reporting on U.S. events for an American audience. 

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