I Visa

Frequently Asked Questions & Answers

1. What is I visa?

An I visa, is a nonimmigrant visa which allows bona fide foreign nationals who are the representatives of foreign press, radio, film, or other foreign information media to enter the U.S. in connection with the production of documentaries or newsworthy events.

2. Who are eligible for I visa?

Reporters, film crews, video tape editors, employees of independent production companies, free-lance journalists working under contract, and persons in similar occupations are eligible for this visa. Both print and film activities are included in this category. The media which you are representing should have an office in your home country.

Although the production companies are not themselves affiliated with a newspaper or electronic news medium, as the companies’ employees, you may be accorded I visa.

Note: Only those who are actually involved in the newsgathering process are eligible (proofreaders, librarians, or set designers are not eligible).

Check My Eligibility

3. How do I qualify for I visa?

To qualify for I visa, you must:

  1. Hold a credential issued by a professional journalistic association
  2. Produce a film which will be used by a television station or other media to disseminate information or news
  3. Produce a film which will not be used primarily for commercial entertainment or advertising purpose

4. What privileges do I enjoy on I visa?

On I visa, you may:

  1. Enter the U.S. and work for a foreign press, films, television or any other media for a temporary period
  2. Not be required to maintain a foreign residence
  3. Travel in and out of the U.S. or remain in the U.S. continuously for the term of production
  4. Apply for dependent visas available for your spouse as well as unmarried dependant children under 21

5. What are the limitations of I visa?

The limitations of I visa are:

  1. Tedious process of getting an extension every year
  2. Dependents cannot work in the U.S. in dependent status
  3. Employment authorization only for the employer that submitted the I visa application for which the USCIS granted approval

6. How long can I stay in the U.S. on I visa?

There is no limit on the length of your stay in the U.S. You can stay for an unlimited period with one year I visa extensions as long as you continue in the same position for which you were granted the I visa.

7. Can I study on I visa?

Yes, you may study on I visa. However, you cannot join a full length program like an F-1. You can take up a few credits at a University when they do not harm the primary interest of the visa.

8. How do I apply for I visa?

To apply for I visa, you should present the following documents at an American Consulate near your place of residence along with the required application fee:

1. Completed and signed application USCIS Form DS-156, Nonimmigrant Visa Application

2. Passport valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay in the U.S.

3.Non-refundable U.S. $20.00 application fee in addition to any reciprocal issuance fee

4. Depending upon your position, a document from your employer as follows:

a. Staff Journalist: A letter from the employer stating your name, position held in the company and purpose and length of stay in the U.S.

b.Freelance Journalist under contract to a media organization: A copy of the contract with the organization which gives the following information: name; position held within the company; purpose and length of stay in the U.S. and duration of contract

c.Media Film Crew: A letter from the employer stating your name, position held within company, title and brief description of the program being filmed and period of time required for filming in the U.S.

d.Independent Production Company under contract to media organization: A letter from the organization commissioning the work stating your name, title and brief description of the program being filmed, period of time required for filming in the U.S. and duration of contract

9. Where do I apply for I visa?

You may submit your I visa application to:

  1. A USCIS field office in the U.S. if you are in a lawful status in the U.S.
  2. An American Consulate near your place of residence in your home country if you are outside the U.S.

10. What is the processing time for I visa?

The I visa is generally issued within ten days from the day the application is submitted.

11. Can I bring my dependents on I visa?

Yes, you may bring your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 in the same visa category. They can stay as long as you maintain the status on the derivative I visa status.

12. When should I apply for visas for my dependents on I visa?

You can apply for derivative status along with your I visa application. If your dependents apply for visas at a later date, a copy of your I visa must be furnished with the application.

13. Can my dependents work on I visa?

No, your dependents may not work while on the dependent status. They have to apply for appropriate work visa.

14. Can my dependents study on I visa status?

Yes, your dependents do not have to apply for separate student visa. They can study on the same dependent I visa.

Note: Spouses and/or children who do not intend to reside in the U.S. with the principal visa holder, but visit for vacations only, may be eligible to apply for visitor  (B2) visas or if qualified, travel visa free under the Visa Waiver Program.

15. Can I extend my stay on I visa?

Extensions of stay, in one year increments, may be granted as long as you continue in the same position or activity for which you were originally granted I status.

16. Can I apply for change of status while on I visa?

Yes, you may apply for change of status if you are changing the job. You must have your employer file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, at the USCIS Regional Service Center with jurisdiction over your case, if you are trying to change to any other work visa.

17. Are there any travel restrictions on I visa?

No, there are no travel restrictions on I visa. You may plan with your employer and travel as many times as possible while you are on I status.

18. When can I apply for I visa revalidation?

Revalidation of your I visa cannot be performed while you are in the U.S.

19. What additional information is available about I visa?

The following information is helpful:

  1. If you are filming, the film must be of an informational or educational nature. An I visa cannot be used to film material which is used primarily for commercial entertainment or advertising purpose
  2. Journalists and media workers may qualify for the I visa, if your government allows for reciprocal visas to American information media
  3. I visa is company-specific, so you must be working for a particular organization only. If you have held a prior I visa and are applying again at a consulate, it is not unusual for the consulate to ask for tax returns as proof of where you have actually been working
  4. No restrictions are applicable on applying for permanent residence while on the I visa

20. Can I apply for I visa if I am a journalist working for a U.S. media organization outside the U.S.?

Yes, I visas are appropriate for 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. If you are going to replace or augment American journalists reporting on U.S. events for an American audience, an H or O visa will be required.

21. Can I apply for I visa if I am working on a project of commercial or entertainment value?

No, you may not apply for I visa if you are working on a project of commercial value. Individuals and/or companies commissioned to work on film projects of a commercial or entertainment value require the appropriate work visas (O, P or H) which will involve obtaining Employment Authorization from the office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before applying for a visa.