An Overview of the I Visa for Foreign Reporters

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An I visa, which is set aside for foreign media members, is a relatively uncommon designation when compared to other types of non-immigrant visas. While there are only around 30,000 or so issued each year, they greatly aid foreign media members in performing their jobs here in the U.S.


In order to be granted an I visa, a foreign worker must only be traveling to the U.S. as a representative of a foreign media company. Foreign newspapers, television outlets, radio, and print media are common examples. The types of media personnel who are eligible for an I visa are as follows:

  • Television, newspaper, and radio personalities
  • Film crews
  • Editors
  • Reporters
  • Support personnel

In addition to this type of foreign media member, individuals who also work for wholly owned, U.S.-based subsidiaries of the foreign media outlet are also eligible for an I visa. Technically, the only foreign media members allowed to gain an I visa are those from countries that grant U.S. media members similar traveling visas. But as the U.S. pretty much has prior media relations relationships with all other foreign nations, this is rarely an issue.

Other Ways to Qualify

One does not necessarily have to be a foreign media member to fall under the I visa eligibility umbrella. In fact, here are a few specific circumstances under which a foreign worker could be eligible:

  • Employees of organizations and businesses that disseminate technical industrial information
  • Employees of foreign government-operated tourist bureaus, when those employees’ primary job function is to provide information pertaining to the foreign nation
  • Freelance journalists hired by foreign organizations to develop news stories and provide information that is not for advertising or entertainment.

Note: Foreign media members traveling to cover United Nations events do not require an I visa as they are considered “aliens in transit.”

I Visa Specifications

In general, the same basic requirements that apply to other non-immigrant visas apply to the I visa. One notable difference is that, unlike a dual intent visa, the foreign media member is not required to keep or establish a foreign residence.

The duration of an I visa depends on the country of nationality of the applicant.  Most applicants can obtain an I visa for up to 5 years, but some applicants might be limited to only 3 months (for example, citizens of China or Iran).

I Visa Dependents

Legal dependents of the I visa holder may accompany them to the U.S., but they are not granted work authorization. However, they can study in the U.S. without obtaining an F-1 visa.

For more information about the I Visa or work visas in general, please contact the award-winning Lightman Law Firm of New York at one of the following: 212-643-0985; email us; or submit a contact form.

Lightman Law Firm was recently honored as New York’s 2015 Immigration Law Firm of the Year by Acquisition International. Additionally, founding attorney, Douglas Lightman, was named a “Rising Star” by Lightman Law Firm also carries a 4.9 rating on Google Reviews.