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FAQ / LIGHTHOUSE ARTICLES:

(#79-05/16/98)

How to get an I visa?


US Immigration Question:

Please tell me about the visa for journalists.


Answer:

The United States Congress understands the importance of facilitating the exchange of information among nations. Therefore, the Immigration and naturalization Act, Section 101(a) (15) (I), provides that an alien who is a bona fide representative of foreign press, radio, film, or other foreign information media having its home office in a foreign country may request permission to enter the United States solely to engage in such vocation.

Employees of foreign information media engaged in filming a news event or documentary, employees of independent production companies who hold credentials issued by a professional journalistic association, freelance media workers under contract, and accredited representatives of government tourist bureaus who engage primarily in disseminating factual tourist information about that country are entitled to I visa classification.

In addition, a representative of foreign press, radio, film, or other information media who is covering the Summer or Winter Olympic Games, the Pan American Games or other regional games under the auspices of the International Olympic Committee which are held in the US, and who is the holder of an official identity card which has been issued for participation in such Games and is signed by a consular officer may use the card as a multiple entry I visa valid for the duration of the card.

The alien seeking this visa must be involved in activities which are essential to the foreign information media function. For example, media reporters, media film crews, video tape editors, and persons in similar occupations. Others associated with such activities but not directly involved, a proofreader, for example, may qualify for another classification, such as an H visa.

If the alien is involved with film or video work, it must be informational or educational. Those intending to work on entertainment or advertising related material must seek permission to enter as an H nonimmigrant. Nonetheless, production companies may use film footage in its library for commercial purposes in the future.

Sometimes an alien may qualify for a B-1, H-1, or L-1 visa as well as an I. The I visa is often times more desirable for a number of reasons. First, it is less restrictive in terms of length of stay. An alien may remain in the United States for the "duration of employment." In addition, unlike most nonimmigrant visas, there is no requirement that applicants for I status establish that they have a residence in a foreign country which they have no intention of abandoning.

Keep in mind, however, that the alien is not allowed to change his or her employer or information medium (ie from radio to television) without permission from the INS. In addition, the spouse and children of an I nonimmigrant may not work in the United States without permission from the INS.

 

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