9 FAM 402.11
Information Media Representatives - I Visas
(Office of Origin: CA/VO)
9 FAM 402.11-1 STATUTORY AND REGULATORY Authorities
9 FAM 402.11-1(A) Immigration and Nationality Act
INA 101(a)(15)(I) (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(15)(I)).
9 FAM 402.11-1(B) Code of Federal Regulations
22 CFR 41.52.
9 FAM 402.11-2 I Visas - Overview
Media (I) visas are for bona fide representatives of the foreign media, including members of the press, radio, film, and other foreign information media, traveling temporarily to the United States to engage in activities associated with their profession that are essential to the work of the foreign information media. Activities in the United States while on an I visa must be for an information media organization that has its home office in a foreign country. Activities in the United States generally must be associated with gathering and reporting journalistic information, as defined below.
9 FAM 402.11-3 DefinitionS of “Information Media Representative” AND "JOURNALISTIC INFORMATION"
a. An “Information Media Representative” potentially eligible for an I visa is an applicant who:
(1) Is a bona fide representative of the foreign press, radio, film, or other foreign information media and is traveling temporarily to the United States to represent, as an employee or under contract to perform services for, an organization that: (a) is engaged in the regular gathering, production or dissemination, via print, radio, television, Internet distribution, or other media, of journalistic information; and (b) has a home office in a foreign country; and
(2) Seeks to enter the United States temporarily solely to engage in such a vocation.
b. "Information media representative" includes journalists, researchers, producers, presenters and other on-air personnel, and individuals whose activities provide essential support to the foreign information media function (e.g., media film crews, video tape editors, and persons in similar occupations).
Others who may qualify as information media representatives, if otherwise eligible, include:
(1) Employees of independent production companies, as well as self-employed and freelance information media representatives, as explained below at 9 FAM 402.11-11 below;
(2) In some cases, representatives of new media, such as bloggers and other representatives of publications on other electronic media platforms (see 9 FAM 402.11-10, below); and
(3) Employees of foreign government tourist bureaus. See 9 FAM 402.11-13 below.
c. Others who are associated with such activities, but are not directly involved in the gathering, production, or dissemination of journalistic information, such as a proofreader, generally are not "information media representatives" but may qualify for another visa classification.
d. "Journalistic Information" is content that is primarily informational in nature, such as the reporting on recent or important events, investigative reporting, or producing educational materials, such as documentaries. It does not include content that is primarily designed to provide entertainment rather than information, including scripted or contrived situations, such as most “reality television” shows. It also does not include most personal content, such as discussions of personal experiences in the United States, materials aimed at fan engagement, or works produced for promotional or marketing purposes (except as described in 9 FAM 402.11-13).
9 FAM 402.11-4 Purpose and length of travel
I visas are appropriate for foreign information media representatives coming to the United States for the duration of qualifying employment, including on long-term assignments, such as serving as the Washington bureau chief for their organization, or for very short-term projects. The I visa can serve either purpose, if the applicant is coming solely to engage in qualifying activities. Officers should carefully assess the proposed scope of the applicant's employment abroad and the ability of the organization for which the applicant works or is under contract to cover the applicant's expenses for the entirety of the duration of stay. If you have concerns that an applicant may intend to engage in activities not permissible in I nonimmigrant status, you should refuse the visa under INA 214(b).
9 FAM 402.11-5 Residence ABROAD NOT REQUIRED
There is no requirement in the INA that applicants for an I visa establish that they have a residence in a foreign country which they have no intention of abandoning, although the organization the applicant is representing must have a home office in a foreign country. Because I visa applicants are subject to INA 214(b), however, they must satisfy you that they will engage only in activities permissible in I nonimmigrant status.
9 FAM 402.11-6 Home Office Abroad Required
An applicant must be representing an organization that has a home office outside of the United States to qualify for an I visa. If the home office abroad will cease to function or greatly limit its operations after the applicant is in the United States, the applicant would not qualify for the I visa, as the applicant could not demonstrate the required ties to an organization that has a home office abroad. For an applicant who primarily serves as a freelance information media worker (see 9 FAM 402.11-11 below), the organization contracting the applicant must have a home office abroad.
9 FAM 402.11-7 I Visa reciprocity AND USE OF ANNOTATIONS
a. Pursuant to INA 101(a)(15)(I), I visas may be granted only based on reciprocity. Therefore, be sure to refer to the Reciprocity Schedule, which can be found on travel.state.gov, to determine the maximum validity for the applicant's visa. For guidance on reporting limitations placed on representatives of U.S. information media representatives by foreign governments, see 9 FAM 402.11-15 below.
b. Posts should not routinely annotate I visas, particularly for short "one off" assignments such as covering a specific sports event or conference. Annotations stating the name of the foreign media outlet and U.S. office location may be useful for applicants with longer term assignments, or to indicate "freelance" employment for those journalists serving multiple outlets.
9 FAM 402.11-8 Spouse and Children of I Visa RECIPIENTS
The spouse and children accompanying or following to join an applicant qualified for an I visa or joining a principal in the United States in I nonimmigrant status, may also be eligible for I visas.
9 FAM 402.11-9 I Visa Classification when applicant eligible for both I visa and E visa
An applicant who meets the definition of “information media representative” in 9 FAM 402.11-3 above shall be classified as a nonimmigrant under INA 101(a)(15)(I), even if they may also be classifiable as a nonimmigrant under the provisions of INA 101(a)(15)(E)(i) as an E-1 treaty trader or 101(a)(15)(E)(ii) as an E-2 treaty investor, in accordance with 22 CFR 41.52(b).
9 FAM 402.11-10 NEW MEDIa - Blogging and other electronic media platforms
a. Foreign Information Media Representatives who Primarily Provide Content through New Media (Blogging or Electronic Media Platforms): An applicant seeking to enter the United States to represent an organization engaged in the regular dissemination of journalistic information through online media, such as blogs or social media platforms, may be classified under INA 101(a)(15)(I) if they otherwise meet the definition of “information media representative” in 9 FAM 402.11-3 above, including the requirement that the information media organization has its home office in a foreign country. A representative of new media must be engaging in the gathering, production or dissemination of journalistic information, as defined in 9 FAM 402.11-3, paragraph d above to qualify for an I visa. Whether content is journalistic information will depend on the nature of the content featured on the new media outlet. For example, a political blogger traveling to the United States to cover an election could qualify for an I visa because election coverage is journalistic information. In this example the applicant would still need to demonstrate that they meet the other requirements of an information media representative, including that they represent an organization involved in the regular gathering, production, or dissemination of journalistic information that has a home office in another country.
b. Similarly, a professional travel blogger traveling to the United States to obtain and produce materials on national parks in the United States could also qualify for an I visa if all aspects of the definition of an information media representative are established, including the requirement that the media content generated will be informational in nature. However, a blogger traveling to the United States to report on their own activities at a national park would not qualify for an I visa if the applicant does not represent an organization involved in the regular gathering, production, or dissemination of journalistic information and the media content is not primarily informational in nature. Individuals who are not professional bloggers but maintain a personal blog and will produce content on their blog based on their personal experiences in the United States, such as providing information and reviews of their personal vacation, generally would not qualify for an I visa but may qualify for a B visa. See 9 FAM 402.2-4. Likewise, a blogger promoting a line or products would not qualify for an I visa.
9 FAM 402.11-11 self-employed and freelance media representatives
a. Self-Employed Information Media Representatives: A self-employed applicant may qualify for an I visa if the applicant satisfies the definition of “information media representative” in 9 FAM 402.11-3 above, including the requirement that the applicant has a home office in another country. See 9 FAM 402.11-6 above. To maintain the home office in another country, a self-employed applicant must demonstrate that they intend to depart the United States within a reasonable time frame consistent with the intended purpose of travel.
b. Freelance Information Media Worker: An applicant who primarily serves as a freelance information media worker seeking to travel to the United States under contract to an organization engaged in the regular dissemination of journalistic information may qualify for an I visa under INA 101(a)(15)(I) if the applicant otherwise satisfies the definition of “information media representative” in 9 FAM 402.11-3 above. The applicant must present a valid contract for services. The organization contracting the freelance worker must have a home office abroad.
9 FAM 402.11-12 Film/Video Work
Informational Film/Video: NIV applicants engaged in the production or distribution of film and/or video may be classified under INA 101(a)(15)(I) only when the works meet the definition of journalistic information in 9 FAM 402.11-3, paragraph d, above. Applicants seeking to engage in film/video work that falls outside that definition may be eligible for visas under INA 101(a)(15)(O) or INA 101(a)(15)(P) if all applicable requirements are met for those visa classifications. See 9 FAM 402.13 and 9 FAM 402.14. Film or video materials involving scripted or contrived situations, such as most “reality television” shows, generally do not qualify as journalistic information and, therefore, would not qualify the applicant for I visa classification. Similarly, applicants traveling to engage in film/video work for promotional or marketing purposes would not qualify for an I visa.
9 FAM 402.11-13 foreign government tourist bureaus and trade missions
a. Employee of Foreign Government Tourist Bureau: Duly accredited representatives of tourist bureaus, controlled, operated, or subsidized in whole or in part by a foreign government, who engage primarily in disseminating factual tourist information about the country for which they are employed as a representative may qualify for an I visa under INA 101(a)(15)(I) if the applicant otherwise satisfies the definition of “information media representative” in 9 FAM 402.11-3 above.
b. Member of Foreign Government Trade Promotion Mission: Employees and other representatives of a foreign government's trade promotional mission(s) in the United States do not qualify for an I visa, because they are engaged primarily in commercial and/or economic activities. If the trade promotional mission is governmental in nature and the applicant is assigned to an Embassy, Consulate, or Miscellaneous Foreign Government Office registered with the Office of Foreign Missions (OFM), then the applicant may be eligible for an A visa under INA 101(a)(15)(A). If an employee or representative of a foreign government is traveling to a trade office in the United States that is not registered as a Miscellaneous Foreign Government Office (MFGO) and is not located at an embassy or consulate, contact L/CA and CA/VO/DO/DL for additional guidance.
9 FAM 402.11-14 Classification of certain INFORMATION media representatives proceeding to the united nations
Foreign information media representatives may seek to travel to the United Nations to cover various UN-related events. If the applicant meets the definition of “information media representative” in 9 FAM 402.11-3 above and is not otherwise eligible for an A or G visa, the applicant would be classifiable under INA 101(a)(15)(I). In limited cases, the applicant may be classifiable under INA 101(a)(15)(C) as C-2. See 22 CFR 41.71 and 9 FAM 402.3-6(F). If you are considering denying the visa application of an information media representative proceeding to the United Nations, you must first submit an AO request via email to L/CA as such applicant may fall under Section 11 of the Headquarters Agreement, whereby the United States has an obligation to not impose any impediments to transit to or from the UN headquarters district.
9 FAM 402.11-15 Foreign Government Limitations on Employment of Representatives of U.S. Information Media
All posts must report promptly to the Department through their CA/VO/F post liaison any restrictions, registration requirements, or limitations imposed by a foreign government on the employment of representatives of U.S. information media. This information should remain current so that the Department may ensure that the issuance of visas to applicants pursuant to INA 101(a)(15)(I) is “upon a basis of reciprocity".