I Visa – What It Is, Costs and Requirements

Posted by Frank Gogol

If you’re a journalist, you want to make sure you do an impeccable job at spreading objective news. That means you might have to travel the world to find your sources of information. But if you want to go to the U.S. to do your job, you need the right documents to enter the country and one of them is the I Visa. What exactly is this visa though, and how do you apply for one? What are the requirements? Let’s find the answers.

What Is an I Visa?

An I Visa is a type of visa made for journalists. More specifically, it is a temporary, non-immigrant visa that grants journalists and different other media workers access to the U.S. so they can perform their job. This way, they can collect information on unfolding U.S. events and then distribute it around the world, so everyone is up to date with what is happening.

In order for someone to get this visa, though, they need to prove that they are employed with a media organization or company outside the U.S. Applicants must meet other eligibility criteria as well before they qualify for this visa.

Also, it is important to keep in mind that this visa will not guarantee someone’s U.S. entry. Instead, it offers permission to travel to one of the U.S. ports of entry. There, they will take an interview with a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services representative. This representative will then decide whether the applicant should be allowed to cross the border and perform their job in the country.

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Who Is Eligible for an I Visa?

In order for someone to be eligible for the visa, they must be residents of foreign countries and also work for different media companies in those countries. The U.S. also mentioned which media workers would specifically qualify for this visa, including:

  • People who are producing films or distributing films that are related to certain information from the current news or that are educational.
  • People who are employed with an independent, foreign production company that has the necessary journalistic credentials; the person should either record a documentary or events that are related to current events.
  • Journalists who are traveling to the U.S. with the purpose of collecting information about a certain event that is currently happening in the U.S. The information has to be directed towards the audience from the foreign country of the applicant.
  • Journalists who have a journalistic or foreign media company contract. The journalists in question should not get information for commercial purposes, but rather gather news with the purpose of informing others.
  • People who work in a company that deals with technical industrial information distribution. Such a worker would be allowed to work in that company’s U.S. offices.
  • A bureau of tourism representative with valid accreditation. It is necessary for the company of the representative to get funds from a foreign government. Moreover, the company’s purpose must be to collect touristic information about the United States of America.
  • Journalistic freelancers who own a valid work contract from a foreign media company. The freelancer should also deal with any of the tasks mentioned above as long as their purpose is to collect and disseminate information.

Anyone who is not finding themselves in these categories should look for another visa.

Requirements for an I Visa

There aren’t that many requirements for this visa. The most important requirement that applicants must meet is that they must work in a foreign media company that either wants to collect and distribute information or news or film it. There aren’t other requirements that one must meet to be able to get the visa. So, as long as you are a foreign media organization representative and you collect news, you will be able to get the visa.

How to Apply for an I Visa

Here is what you should do to apply for an I Visa:

  • Fill in the Necessary Form: To start your process, you should fill in Form DS-160. It will ask for your personal information and visit purpose among other things. You will receive a confirmation page and code at the end. You also have to submit a photograph with it.
  • Pay the Fee: An application fee will have to be paid, sometimes along with reciprocity or visa issuance fees.
  • Schedule the Interview: You will have to schedule an interview with the U.S. Embassy, and it is recommended to do that as soon as possible.
  • Prepare the Documents: Collect all the necessary documents like your Form DS-160 confirmation page, valid passport, visa appointment letter, receipts that show you paid the fees, medical documents showing good health, a letter from the employer mentioning the purpose of U.S. stay, documents that prove you don’t have a criminal record and the qualifications that prove you fall into the I Visa category. Bring them to the visa interview in a file.

I Visa Processing Time

After you go through the application process, you will have to wait for the visa processing. Usually, the visa is processed in 10 days after you first submitted the application, but you should also expect this time to vary depending on how much work the Embassy is dealing with. A larger workload may increase the processing time. The good news is that you will get a letter that specifies whether you obtained the visa or not.

You can immediately start planning your U.S. visit if your visa received approval. But if it was denied, you can start asking some questions. You can request some clarifications, and you can also repeal the decision or try to apply again. Just bear in mind that getting the visa doesn’t mean you will instantly get into the U.S. You still have to go through an interview at the port of entry, so the officers will make the decision.

I Visa Cost

Applying for an I Visa will cost $160. The fee is non-refundable, so even if your visa application is denied, you will not be able to get your money back. Also, you may have to pay an extra fee, like a visa issuance fee or reciprocity fee. It all depends on where you are coming from and your country’s relationship with the U.S.

How Long Is the I Visa Valid for?

Your I visa will be valid for as long as you need to work in the U.S. Therefore, if you need to be in the U.S. for 3 months, for example, the visa will only be available for 3 months. You also need to make sure you work for the visa qualification to maintain your status.

You can also ask for extensions if your visa is close to expiring but your work is not done. This can happen if you file Form I-539. The extensions apply for one year, and you can obtain more extensions later if necessary.

Can I Apply to Change Status While on an I Visa?

Applying for a change of status is allowed while you are on the I visa as long as you are changing jobs. Doing so is possible if you file Form I-129 at the USCIS Regional Service Center that has jurisdiction over your specific case.

Conclusion

An I Visa is very important for foreign journalists who want to collect and spread news and information about U.S. events. If you are about to apply for an I visa, you should make sure you follow the requirements and have your documents ready. We hope this article helped you prepare for this process.

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