Rant: Foreign journalists restricted from entering the USA without visas

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Since the cold-war days of 1952, there has been a law on the books that journalists from foreign countries must apply for I-visas before entering the U.S. But it hasn't been enforced in the past several decades and journalists from foreign countries have freely visited the USA. Those from Japan, Europe, and other friendly nations have entered on the same 90-day visa waivers as tourists without thinking twice about it.

Now, it seems that the current administration has decided to enforce the I-visa restriction. If you identify yourself as a journalist at immigration and tell the CBP officer that your intent is to work as a journalist during your visit to the USA and you are not in posession of an I-visa, you may find that you will be denied entry, fingerprinted, photographed, and deported with prejudice. This can result in your being denied entry in the USA in the future for any reason (usually this lasts from 5-10 years and then you can file a request to have this travel ban lifted).

According to the U.S. embassy in Paris, these are the criteria for I-visas.

Visa Journalist Media : I Visa

The following persons must request an I visa: Representative of foreign press, radio, film or other information media. This includes aliens whose activities are essential to the foreign information media function; for example, media reporters, media film crews, video tape editors, and persons in similar occupations. The I visa classification may be accorded not only to primary employees of foreign information media engaged in filming a news event or documentary, but also to the employees of independent production companies when those employees hold a credential issued by a professional journalistic association.

Documents required: Press card/credentials, letter from employer indicating the purpose of the trip, the intended length of the mission, the number of years with the applicant's company and of experience.

Spouse and children: the spouse and children accompanying, or following to join, an alien qualified for an I visa may also receive the I classification.

Note that if you are visiting the USA to make a film or other media production and it's not journalistic, you may need to apply for other visa types. I've heard reports that Japanese film crews are being stopped and deported at the Honolulu International Airport because they did not apply for the proper visas before entering.

It is unfortunate that American border controls are becoming tighter. I'd encourage all my journalist, photojournalist, and other foreign friends to make sure that they are in full compliance with the law. The immigration system in the USA is in constant flux, so you need to keep on top of things. Even if you disagree with the law, you still need to keep in compliance with it unless you enjoy being made an example of.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Karen Nakamura published on March 22, 2005 7:20 PM.

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