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Media Visa I

1.       Overview

a.       Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. Media (I) visas are for representatives of the foreign media, including members of the press, radio, film, and print industries, traveling temporarily to the United States to work in their profession engaged in informational or educational media activities, essential to the foreign media function. Activities in the United States while on a media (I) visa must be for a media organization having its home office in a foreign country. Activities in the United States must be informational in nature and generally associated with the news gathering process and reporting on current events.

b.       Travel purposes which require an (I) Visa for Representatives of Foreign Press, Radio, Film, or Other Information Media – Examples:

  • i.      An employee of foreign information media or employee of an independent production company having a credential issued by another country’s professional journalistic association engaged in filming a news event or documentary.
  •   ii.      A member of the foreign media engaged in the production or distribution of film, if the material being filmed will be used to disseminate information, news, or is educational in nature.  The primary source and distribution of funding must be outside the United States.
  •  iii.      A journalist working under contract with a credential issued by another country’s professional journalistic association, if working on a product to disseminate information or news that is not primarily intended for commercial entertainment or advertising.
  •   iv.      A foreign journalist travelling to the United States to report on U.S. events solely for a foreign audience, if the journalist works for an overseas media outlet having its home office in a foreign country.
  •   v.      An accredited representative of a tourist bureau, controlled, operated, or subsidized in whole or in part by a foreign government, who engages primarily in disseminating factual tourist information about that country, and who is not entitled to receive an A-2 visa as a foreign government official or employee.
  •  vi.      An employee of an organization that distributes technical industrial information who will work in the U.S. office of that organization.

c.       Working Media Cannot Travel on the Visa Waiver Program or with Visitor Visas

 i.      Representatives of the foreign media who will work in their profession as media or journalists while in the United States cannot travel on the Visa Waiver Program or on visitor (B) visas.

d.       Travel Purposes for which a Visitor Visa Can Be Used Instead of a Media Visa – Examples:

  • i.      Attend a conference, seminar, convention, or meeting as a participant, as long as you will not report about the conference or meeting while in the United States or upon return to your home country.
  • ii.      Guest speak, lecture, or engage in an academic activity for which you 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 not last longer than nine days at a single institution, and you must not have received payment from more than five institutions or organizations for such activities in the last six months.
  •  iii.      Take a vacation, as long as you will not be working or reporting during your trip.
  • iv.      Citizens of Visa Waiver Program participating countries may be able to travel to attend a conference, lecture or take a vacation (See the above examples), on the Visa Waiver Program instead of a visitor (B) visa.
  •  v.      Undertake independent research.
  •  vi.      Take still photographs, provided you receive no income from a U.S. source.

e.       Some travel purposes require a temporary worker visa, not a media (I) visa

i.      While certain activities related to information and news gathering clearly qualify for the media visa, others require a temporary worker petition-based type visa, such as the H, O, or P visa. Select Temporary Worker to go to the Department of Homeland Security, USCIS website to learn about temporary worker requirements and procedures for filing the petition, which must be approved by USCIS, prior to applying for the visa. 

f.        Some travel purposes require a temporary worker visa, not a media (I) visa

 i.      While certain activities clearly qualify for the media visa, since they are informational and news gathering, others require a temporary worker petition-based type visa, such as the H, O, or P visa. Select Temporary Worker to go to the Department of Homeland Security, USCIS website to learn about temporary worker requirements and procedures for filing the petition, which must be approved by USCIS, prior to applying for the visa.      

2.       How to Apply

a.       There are several steps to apply for a visa. The order of these steps and how you complete them may vary at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you apply. Please consult the instructions available on the embassy or consulate website where you will apply. 

b.       Complete the Online Visa Application

i.      Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 – Learn more about completing the DS-160. You must: 1) complete the online visa application and 2) print the application form confirmation page to bring to your interview.

ii.      Photo – You will upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160. Your photo must be in the format explained in the Photograph Requirements.

3.       Schedule an Interview

a.       While interviews are generally not required for applicants of certain ages outlined below, consular officers have the discretion to require an interview of any applicant, regardless of age.

If you are age:

Then an interview is:

  • 13 and younger
  • Generally not required
  • 14-79
  • Required (some exceptions for renewals)
  • 80 and older
  • Generally not required

b.       You must schedule an appointment for your visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where you live. While you may be able to schedule your interview at any U.S. Embassy or Consulate, be aware that it may be difficult to qualify for a visa outside of your place of permanent residence. 

c.       Wait times for interview appointments vary by location, season, and visa category, so you should apply for your visa early. Review the interview wait time for the location where you will apply:

4.       Appointment Wait Time

5.       Top of Form

a.       Select a U.S. Embassy or Consulate:

i.      Where will you apply?(City):  ___________________

b.       Bottom of Form

6.       Prepare for Your Interview

a.       Fees - Pay the non-refundable visa application fee, if you are required to pay it before your interview. When your visa is approved, you may also pay a visa issuance fee, if applicable to your nationality. Fee information is provided below: 

7.       Application Fee

a.       $160Top of Form

b.       Select your nationality to see Issuance Fee (country/authority):  _______________

8.       Bottom of Form

a.       Review the instructions available on the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will apply to learn more about fee payment.

9.       Gather Required Documentation

a.       Gather and prepare the following required documents before your visa interview:

  • i.      Passport valid for travel to the United States - Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the United States (unless exempt by country-specific agreements). If more than one person is included in your passport, each person who needs a visa must submit a separate application.
  • ii.      Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 confirmation page
  • iii.      Application fee payment receipt, if you are required to pay before your interview
  • iv.      Photo – You will upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160. If the photo upload fails, you must bring one printed photo in the format explained in the Photograph Requirements

10.   Additional Documentation May Be Required

  • a.       Review the instructions for how to apply for a visa on the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will apply. Additional documents may be requested to establish if you are qualified.
  • b.       As examples:
  • c.       A journalist working under contract or free lance to a foreign media organization will need to present a valid contract of employment.
  • d.       An employee of an independent production company, with a few exceptions, will need to present a credential issued by a professional journalistic association.

11.   Attend Your Visa Interview

a.       During your visa interview, a consular officer will determine whether you are qualified to receive a visa, and if so, which visa category is appropriate based on your purpose of travel. You will need to establish that you meet the requirements under U.S. law to receive the category of visa for which you are applying. 

b.       Ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken as part of your application process. They are usually taken during your interview, but this varies based on location.

After your visa interview, your application may require further administrative processing. You will be informed by the consular officer if further processing is necessary for your application.
c.       When the visa is approved, you will be informed how your passport with visa will be returned to you. Review the visa processing time, to learn how soon your passport with visa will generally be ready for pick-up or delivery by the courier.

12.   Entering the United States

a.       A visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to a U.S. port-of-entry (generally an airport) and request permission to enter the United States. A visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at the port-of-entry have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States. If you are allowed to enter the United States, the CBP official will provide an admission stamp or paper Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record. Learn more about admissions and entry requirements, restrictions about bringing food, agricultural products, and other restricted/prohibited goods, and more by reviewing the CBP website.

13.   Extending Your Stay

a.       See Extend Your Stay on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website to learn about requesting to extend your stay beyond the date indicated on your admission stamp or paper Form I-94.

b.       You must depart the United States on or before the date indicated on your admission stamp or paper Form I-94, unless your request to extend your stay is approved by USCIS.

c.       Failure to depart the United States on time will result in you being out of status. Under U.S. law, visas of travelers who are out of status are automatically voided (Section 222(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act). If you had a multiple-entry visa and it was voided due to you being out of status, it will not be valid for future entries into the United States.

d.       Failure to depart the United States on time may also result in you being ineligible for visas you may apply for in the future. Review Visa Denials and Ineligibilities and Waivers: Laws to learn more.

14.   Change of Status

a.       While in the United States, you may be able to request that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) change your nonimmigrant status to another nonimmigrant category. See Change My Nonimmigrant Status on the USCIS website to learn more.

 i.      Requesting a change of status from USCIS while you are in the United States and before your authorized stay expires does not require that you apply for a new visa. However, if you cannot remain in the United States while USCIS processes your change of status request, you must apply for a visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

15.   Additional Information

a.       We cannot guarantee that you will be issued a visa. Do not make final travel plans or buy tickets until you have a visa.

b.       You may travel to the United States on a media (I) visa to work in your profession as a foreign media representative and as part of the trip, take a vacation while in the United States.

c.       Spouse and children - Your spouse and unmarried, minor children may apply for media (I) visas to accompany or join you to reside temporarily in the United States.

d.       Unless canceled or revoked, a visa is valid until its expiration date.  Therefore, a valid U.S. visa in an expired passport is still valid. If you have a valid visa in your expired passport, do not remove it from your expired passport. You may use your valid visa in your expired passport along with a new valid passport for travel and admission to the United States.

e.       For information about employment and study, review Representative of Foreign Media and Employment Authorization on the USCIS website