“I am writing to you from Ireland where I have worked as a journalist for a few years.  I would love to go to the U.S. and work as a journalist. I know there is a visa available, the I visa, and I’m wondering if you know if these visa holders can take on additional work while in the U.S. and how strict the requirements for the visa are?”

The I visa is available to members of the media who need to relocate to the U.S. to represent a foreign news organization – i.e., a print/Internet publication, TV station, radio station, etc. “The applicant must be engaging in qualifying activities for a media organization having its home office in a foreign country,” according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. 

I visa terms are very specific, and do not permit the visa holder to undertake any work outside of what is required by the foreign news organization associated with the visa.

How strict are the requirements? Obviously you won’t have a U.S. immigration official shadowing your every move here if you do obtain the I visa, but rules are rules and how you follow them is really up to you. 

In order to obtain an I visa, you will have to prove that you are a genuine representative of a media operation based outside the U.S. who needs to be here as part of the job.  An interview will be required at the American Embassy in Dublin; this will be scheduled after receipt of the DS-160 application which is available at http://dublin.usembassy.gov/media-visas.html and can be filed online.

As you’ll read, it will be necessary to provide evidence of your link to the foreign media organization and what will be expected of you in the U.S.  This will come in the form of a letter which must outline your current position with the media company and how long you’ve been employed.  The embassy website adds that I visa applicants will have to have a press credential, which shouldn’t be difficult if the applicant has been working in the media.

Freelancers can also avail of the I visa, provided that a media organization contracts with the applicant and provides a letter detailing what the applicant will be doing in the U.S.  A freelancer will also need a press credential.

The application fee for the DS-160 is $160.  Spouses and minor (under age 21) children may also travel to the U.S. with an I visa holder, but they may not seek employment here.  However, they can study here without needing to apply for an F-1 student visa.

I visas – indeed, many kinds of non-immigrant visas – can be issued fairly quickly. In order to check processing times at a U.S. embassy or consulate visit this site..  In Dublin, the wait is currently seven calendar days.

I visas can be issued for varied lengths of time, based on the needs of the applicant’s duties.

Even though citizens of some countries are part of the Visa Waiver Program, all media workers who will go to the U.S for informational purposes, must obtain an I visa. This means that if you try to enter the U.S through the Visa Waiver Program and conduct activities related to the I visa, you will be denied entry and returned to your home country.