Visas for foreign journalists
What visas can foreign journalists apply for?
Foreign journalists traveling to the US on assignment must apply for I visas by filling out a non-immigrant
visa application (DS-160) form . Applying for an I category visa means that the foreign journalist wants to
come to the US to engage in the journalistic profession and they have employment in a media company
in a foreign country.
Who are considered “foreign journalists”?
Foreign journalists as nationals or citizens of foreign countries who are employed or are members of any
media company which is engaged in disseminating news or information, producing or distributing films
which be used to disseminate information or news.
The term “foreign journalist” includes members of the press (newspapers, magazines), radio, television,
print industry, or film industry whose activities are essential for foreign media to function. This term also
includes reporters, film crews, editors and persons in similar work of gathering or disseminating news
I am a freelance journalist. Can I get an I visa?
A freelance journalist can apply for an I visa. However, freelance journalists must show that they have an
existing freelance writing contract with a media organization. They must also present a letter from the
media organization showing the name of the applicant, the purpose of the visit to the United States, the
length of stay and the duration of the freelance contract.
Members of an independent production company can apply for an I visa if they are filming informational
or news content. Members of independent production companies must prove that they hold a regular
position in the independent production company and that the program or film they are making is
informational in content. They must specify the period within which they will film in the US. If the film
project is for a commercial or entertainment purpose (such as reality shows) then the I category visa is
I work for an overseas news bureau of an American media company, but I am a citizen of another
country. Can I apply for an I visa?
Foreign journalists working for overseas news bureaus of an American media company can apply for an I
visa but only when they are coming to the United States for gathering or disseminating news and
information for the overseas branch of office of the American media company. They must prove that the
news and information they are gathering is for the audience of the overseas branch. They must also
prove that their compensation, salary or pay comes from the overseas branch of the American media
If they are coming to the US to work in the US, to report on events in the US and for the US audience,
they are not qualified for an I visa – they may be qualified for other visas, but not the I category of visa.
What if I entered the US on an I visa but my assignment in the US has been extended?
Foreign journalists can stay on in the United States without extending the visa or changing the
declaration of the duration of stay in the US (in the Form I-94 or the Arrival/Departure Record). But this
only means that their I visa will be valid while they work for the same media company and engage in the
same journalistic profession. They must file a Form 1-539 which is an Application to Extend or change
their non-immigrant status if they want to apply for a different visa category.
If they extend their stay because they have changed employers, but the employer is still a foreign media
company, they can extend their status, instead. If they change employers and their new employer is an
American Media Company, the I visa will no longer be appropriate for their new status.
Can I bring my family with me to the US when I am on assignment?
Yes, foreign journalists who are issued an I visa can bring along their spouse and their children who are
under 21 years of age. Their spouse cannot work while holding an I visa, but their children can study in
the US while holding an I visa. If their spouse and children will not travel with them but they will tour
the US while the principal I visa-holders are on assignment, the I visa may not be appropriate for their
Do you need help? Do you need assistance in figuring out if you are eligible to apply for an I category
visa? Our lawyers at Lluis Law have relevant experience to give you an evaluation and to give you advise.
Call us today.