The I visa or journalist visa is a work visa for employees in the field of media, press and broadcasting who are temporarily staying in the USA for journalistic purposes within the scope of their official activities. We have assisted well-known broadcasters, film companies and television productions with their I-visa applications. We would be happy to assist you as well.

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What is the I visa?

The I visa is a nonimmigrant visa for the US specifically for foreign media representatives who wish to enter and stay in the United States temporarily to pursue their profession. The I category is officially named "Foreign News Media" and allows a temporary work assignment in the United States for journalistic purposes.

Individuals who wish to enter the United States as a journalist or correspondent in the context of media work may qualify for a journalist visa. This is possible if, for example, you work for an American media bureau or newspaper in Germany and wish to report on events from the United States for an audience outside the United States.

ATTENTION: Journalists or (freelance) employees of the media do not always require a visa. It is not the mere job title as a journalist, but the specific purpose of stay that determines whether media representatives require a visa and, if so, which one.


Requirements for the I visa

As with all US visa categories, a wide variety of criteria must be met in order to qualify for the journalist visa. Below we guide you step by step through the catalog of requirements.


Personal requirements

In principle, the following groups of persons are eligible:

  1. Employees of foreign media companies or freelance journalists from independent production companies may be eligible for an I visa, provided they are traveling to the US solely for newsgathering purposes and are under contract with a media company.
    Persons involved in the production or distribution of films if the sole purpose of the film is to disseminate information or news and the primary place of dissemination and the primary source of funding are outside the United States. It should also be possible to attribute a documentary function to the published material.
  2. Foreign journalists working for a US media bureau, newspaper, affiliate, or other media outlet may also be eligible for an I visa as long as the reporting is intended solely for an audience abroad.

Employment as a media representative must be verified.

  • Applicants working for a foreign media company must usually submit an employment contract confirming that they are working as a reporter or editor, for example.
  • Freelance journalists or freelancers working for production companies may qualify for an I visa if they are under contract with a media company outside the United States for assignment in the US and can provide evidence of regular past fees.
  • As a rule, the US consulate also requires the presentation of a press card.

Furthermore, applicants must in any case maintain a permanent residence outside the US and intend to travel to the United States only for a temporary stay. Proof of sufficient financial means to support the stay in the US also plays a not inconsiderable role in the visa application review, especially for self-employed persons.

NOTE: Individuals who plan to work on commercial film projects or entertainment industry projects require a different work visa than the journalist visa, namely H visa, O visa or P visa.

Visa application and validity

Apply for AN I visa

I visa applicants must usually appear in person at an interview appointment at one of the responsible US consulates. There, in addition to the general application documents, documentation of employment, purpose of entry, and other evidence of intent to return should be presented. The application is usually made at the US consulate of the country in which the applicant has his or her center of life.

How long is the I visa valid?

As a rule, I visas are issued for a maximum period of five years. However, depending on the respective journalistic project, a time limit of, for example, one year may be imposed.

If media representatives are in the United States more frequently for journalistic purposes, the I visa does not have to be reapplied for again and again.

PLEASE NOTE: How long foreign media representatives are allowed to stay in the U.S. with the I-visa is decided by the US border official on the day of entry. He or she issues the residence status by means of a stamp in the passport. Either a specific departure date or "D / S", which stands for Duration of Status, is noted there. In addition, this is indicated in the electronic I-94 Entry form.

I visa holders, moreover, may remain in the United States only as long as the journalistic activity in the United States indicated at the time of entry continues under the same conditions.

We advise you comprehensively on your visa options for the USA Get in touch with our experts now!
The most frequently asked questions about the I-Visa

The fees for applying for a visa vary considerably depending on the category and may regularly increase or decrease, also as a result of exchange rate fluctuations. Therefore, every applicant should inform himself about the current fees before applying.

The application for a U.S. visa must be made through the official U.S. authorities, e.g. the U.S. consulates and U.S. embassies. The actual visa application is placed online, but almost every applicant must go to the consulate in person for a visa interview. With some work visas, it is sometimes necessary to send extensive files by mail to the U.S. authorities in the USA prior to the consular application procedure.
We advise and support companies and private individuals in all matters relating to visa applications. Read more about the requirements, duration and costs of a visa application

A U.S. work visa is always tied to a specific U.S. company. In turn this means that you must have a specific employer in the United States before you can apply for a work visa.

The application process begins with the U.S. company that wants to hire you. The U.S. employer submits the petition either to the USCIS or to the responsible U.S. consulate. Since the application for a temporary work permit is made by the company for a future foreign employee, the U.S. employer is therefore the so-called petitioner, which means the official applicant. The future employee is the entitled person and thus the so-called beneficiary.

Many companies wonder what happens to the company-bound work visa when the visa holder no longer works for the U.S. employer.

In the event that the employment contract is terminated, the U.S. work visa automatically loses its validity. The derived visas of any family members who may have travelled with the employee also lose their validity upon termination of the work relations, as these are linked to the visa of the main visa applicant.

This means that the former visa holder is no longer allowed to enter the country with the work visa after termination of the employment relationship. Even if the work visa is theoretically still valid for a certain period of time, the visa may no longer be used to enter the United States. If the visa holder concerned wishes to travel to the U.S. for tourism or business purposes in the future, he / she must reapply for an ESTA or a corresponding visa, depending on the type of activities carried out on site and the duration of such activities.

Tip: In order to avoid discrepancies or problems with later entries, it is advisable to inform the U.S. consulate about the new work situation. For this purpose, it is sufficient if the responsible company representative (e.g. HR manager, supervisor, board of directors) sends an e-mail to the responsible consulate with the request to invalidate the visa of the former employee. If possible, a copy of the visa should also be attached. The consulate will then put a note in the system so that the CBP officers at the U.S. border are also informed.
In some cases, the visa holder will even be contacted directly by the U.S. consulate in order to send its passport with the work visa for the purpose of invalidation. In other cases, the visa will simply be invalidated by the CBP officer at the boder the next time he or she enters the United States.

Our recommendation: By sending a short message to the responsible U.S. consulate, companies can protect themselves and above all be sure that entry with the previously valid work visa is no longer possible. Do not take any risks and prevent possible abuse with company-bound visas.

Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 shall be issued a derived I visa for the same period as the main applicant. If the children reach the American age of majority, they must change their non-immigrant status or leave the country.

Family members are not allowed to work. Consequently, it is not possible to apply for a general work permit (Employment Authorization Document, EAD) under I status. However, I visa holders may attend a public or private educational institution.

Accompanying family members of I visa holders can travel to the USA visa-free for up to 90 days if their nationality permits visa-free entry.

Depending on the visa type, the application is made through the U.S. consulates in the home country or additionally through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In Germany, for example, you can apply at the U.S. Consulate in Berlin, Frankfurt/Main or Munich.

IMPORTANT: Since 2001, all applicants between the ages of 14 and 79 have been required to appear in person without exception. This means that all visa applicants of this age must submit their application at a personal interview at the U.S. consulate. No documents are submitted in advance by mail (exception: age groups under 14 and over 79, here the application is submitted by mail). Another exception at present is theVisa Reissuance Program.

All applicants of a Nonimmigrant visa must be in addition to the Online application DS-160a visa profile on the website of the Visa Information Servicecreate for the purpose of making an appointment and paying the visa processing fee.

In the first step you make the payment of the visa fee (please note that the application fee is not refundable if your visa is rejected). The fee can be paid by online bank transfer, SOFORT transfer (electronic funds transfer), debit card or cash at a bank. Usually you will receive an email notification that the payment has been received and your account has been activated so that the appointment can be made.

The interview appointment must be made either online via the visa profile or by calling the U.S. consulate call center at +49 (0)322 2109 3243. If you make the appointment online via your Visa Profile, you will have the opportunity to view the available appointments at the U.S. consulates in Berlin, Frankfurt/Main and Munich in a calendar. You will then receive an "Appointment Confirmation", i.e. an appointment confirmation including proof of payment of the visa application fee. Appointment postponements or cancellations are possible. However, if you postpone your appointment more than twice, you will have to go through the whole process from the beginning and pay the visa fee again. On our website you can find the current visa fees.

Depending on the type of visa, a certain application fee is charged per applicant, which is not refundable even if the visa is rejected.

Please make every effort to schedule an appointment in a timely manner. U.S. officials cannot and will not make allowances for individual travel plans.

Basically, in addition to the common DS-160 application form, applicants must have and the "Appointment Confirmation" you have to submit further documents. What these are also depends on the visa applied for.

Please note that your passport will be retained at the U.S. Consulate on the day of the interview and will be delivered by registered mail to a German address after a processing time of approximately one to two weeks. A personal pickup of the visa or an issuance on the same day are not possible!

The I visa allows employees of foreign media companies (e.g. broadcast, print, radio, etc.) to stay temporarily in the U.S. for journalistic purposes as part of their official duties. Foreign journalists working for a U.S. media bureau or, for example, a newspaper in Germany, can also travel to the U.S. on the I visa as part of this activity in order to report on events from the U.S. for an "audience" abroad ("correspondents").

Freelance journalists and employees of independent production companies - employed or freelance - may also be eligible for an I visa if they are under contract with a foreign media company for assignment in the U.S. and can provide evidence of regular (fee) assignments from the past.

As a rule, the U.S. consulate also requires the presentation of a valid press card when the application is made.

The applicant must remain employed/under contract with the foreign media company throughout the residency. He/she may not receive any remuneration from the U.S. side or a U.S. company and must return to his/her original workplace or home country after his/her stay. Thus, affiliation with a foreign media office is essential.

Individuals working on the production and dissemination of films/reports/articles, etc., only meet the entry requirements for an I visa if the activity serves to disseminate information or news and the main source of funding and the main subsequent "place of dissemination" are outside the U.S.. The published material must therefore be of a documentary nature!

Exclusively commercial projects or, for example, advertising photos do not qualify for an I visa. In these cases, a work visa (e.g.OorH visa) needed.

IMPORTANT: Journalists or media representatives do not need an I visa for every U.S. trip just because of their status as journalists. For example, if an editor is traveling to the U.S. solely for a brief meeting, an I visa does not automatically need to be applied for (depending on citizenship). This only becomes necessary if the journalistic activity in the U.S. takes place, for example, in the context of specific reporting on behalf of a foreign media company. It is not the mere job title as a journalist, but the specific purpose of stay that determines whether media representatives require a visa and, if so, which one.

The validity period of an I visa depends on the nationality. Depending on the nationality, is determined on the basis of the so-called reciprocity schedule decided how long the visa will be valid. For example, German citizens receive a five-year I visa. But the visa is to be distinguished from the residence status. What is the difference between visa and status?).

I-Visa holders are normally allowed to stay in the U.S. until their journalistic activity (or "assignment") is over. In case of a fixed end date (e.g. coverage of the US Open), the corresponding end date of the permitted US stay will be indicated on the Form I-94 noted.

If an end date is not fixed, the journalist may stay as long as he/she performs his/her journalistic activity. The indefinite (or activity-related) duration of stay is determined by entering the letters "D/S" (duration of status) in the passport and the Form I-94 noted.

As a rule, work visas for the United States cannot be applied for without a concrete US job offer. The official petitioner ("Petitioner") is the US company of the group of companies for the future employee ("Beneficiary"). An independent petition by the foreign employee is not possible. The L-1 visa application process involves at least two entities of the corporate group - the foreign employer, as well as the U.S. location.

The I visa does not authorize employment with a U.S. media company. It only permits professional activities in the context of a work assignment for an employer localized outside the United States.

Journalists who are assigned to work on commercial film projects for the U.S. entertainment industry or a foreign production company must have the appropriate work visa (O-, orH visa).

Please note that in contrast to the I visa, the preparation and implementation for an O or H category can take several weeks or months. So the procedure should be started as early as possible. An entry - as a temporal alternative - on the visa-free entry and a later change of status to a work visa is just as inadmissible as the use of a B visa, which can usually be obtained more quickly.

As a rule, applicants find out on the day of their interview whether the visa will be granted or not.
In certain cases, the visa applicant receives a letter of refusal from the consulate after a certain processing time. Incidentally, no reasons need to be given for a refusal. The reasons for this can be manifold and range - depending on the visa category - from the assumption of an immigration intention, to the presumption of illegal employment, to insufficient application documentation.
Once this has happened, a new visa can usually only be (successfully) applied for after several months or even years. Theoretically, there is no waiting period for the applicant until the next submission. However, experience shows that without a blatant improvement in the requirements of the respective visa category (e.g. proof of the intention to return to the home country, financial means, proof of specialized professional knowledge, etc.), a new application does not appear to make much sense.

Accompanying spouses and unmarried children up to the age of 21 are granted derivative status upon application, and thus also an I visa. However, with this visa, spouses are not permitted to work,i.e. the acquisition of a General Work Permit (Employment Authorization Document, EAD) in the USAis excluded(in contrast to other categories such as L-1 or E-1/E-2).

Children and spouses of I-holders can of courseAttend educational institutions (schools/universities), but may not engage in paid work.

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