What is an I Visa?

What is an I Visa?

An I Visa is a nonimmigrant visa issued to Representatives of Foreign Media. Per USCIS, to be eligible for this visa, the foreign media representatives need to:

  • Represent a foreign information media outlet (press, radio, film, or other foreign information media)
  • Are coming to the United States to engage solely in this profession; and
  • Have a home office in a foreign country

Reporters, film crew, editors, and those in similar occupations fall under this category. An applicant for the I visa needs to establish that he/she is a bona fide representative of foreign media. Their job needs to be absolutely necessary for the functioning of their organization.

The spouses and children who are below 21 years of age can accompany the primary applicants or they can follow-to-join. The spouse and children of the I visa holder are not permitted to work in the U.S. They can study here with the I visa, and need not apply for a student visa. Also, in case the family only wants to visit the primary I visa holder and not live with them in the U.S., then they can visit the U.S. on a B-2 tourist visa or without a visa if they belong to a country that participates in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

The Department of State (DoS) is responsible for determining the visa application process and fees. The American Embassy or Consulate which has jurisdiction over the place where the applicant lives is where the application needs to be filed.

It’s important to note that even if a foreign media representative belongs to a country that participates in the U.S. VWP, he or she cannot enter the U.S. to undertake their job responsibilities. They definitely need the I nonimmigrant visa to be able to practice their profession the U.S. If they don’t have the visa, they are liable to be denied admission at the port of entry. The DoS website provides information on the few instances which allow a foreign media representative to travel with a visitor’s visa.


If the Customs and Border Protection official allows the applicant to enter the U.S., the Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record will be stamped. The I nonimmigrant visa generally allows the holder to stay in the U.S. for as long as they work for the same organization and medium. However, if a date is stamped to denote the end of the authorized period of stay, the visa holder can file for an extension, if required, using Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.

Form I-539 may also be filed if the visa holder wants to request a change of employer or medium. A person in another nonimmigrant status may file this form to request a change of status to the I nonimmigrant status. Applicants need to file the form conforming with the filing instructions and include the necessary supporting evidence and fees.

Need Counsel for Immigration? Call Today.

Immigration law can be complicated and this article does not exhaust all the circumstances surrounding applying for an I nonimmigrant visa. These issues can be extremely complex, and a single misstep could potentially lead to a rejection of your application or other immigration penalties. If you have any questions regarding this matter, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

Call our law firm for a consultation today at: (949) 478-4936.

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