The US Department of State Amends FAM Notes for I Media Visas
ROne of the most common questions our office receives relate to the I Media visa. The Foreign Affairs Manual or “FAM” is the US Department of State’s guidebook for consular officers. The FAM note for Information Media Representatives – I visas was amended on August 22, 2018. The new notes make the I Media visa available to bloggers. The notes also specify that the organization sending the media representative have “home office in a foreign country.”
Definition of Information Media Representative
In general, according to 9 FAM 401.11, “information media representative” is defined as “a bona fide representative of the foreign press, radio, film, or other foreign information media” and includes those who are “journalists, researchers, producers, presenters and other on-air personnel and aliens whose activities provide essential support to the foreign information media function (e.g. media film crews, videotape editors, and persons in similar occupations).” This definition now also include bloggers.
Definition of Journalistic Information as it relates to the I Media visa
The new FAM note for I Media visas clarifies that the term “journalistic information” and, as it relates to I Media visas, is defined as:
“As 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 or materials aimed at fan engagement, or works produced for promotional or marketing purposes.” Emphasis added.
This new definition clarifies that the I Media visa can’t be used for pieces may be eventually used for a commercial purpose. Over the last decade or longer with reality television show filming and other new media, the I Media visa has been a visa that many have tried to fit in as the only other option could be an O-1 visa for Extraordinary Ability or O-2 Support visas which require the approval of an O petition before the applicant may apply for the visa at the US Embassy or Consulate. The O visa process can be very laborious and take a lot of time to obtain. As the I visa requires that an applicant apply directly with the US Embassy or Consulate outside the US, the processing can be much easier assuming the applicant meets all the I Media visa requirements.
Foreign Information Media Representative as a “Blogger and Other Electronic Media Platforms”
A blogger who meets the definition of an information media representative should qualify for an I visa. Similarly, the I Media visa FAM notes allow for self-employed and freelance media representatives as long as the visa applicant intends to leave the US within a reasonable timeframe consistent with the purpose of travel and has a valid home office in another country. In addition, a freelance media representative will provide evidence of a valid contract for information media services.
These changes finally put into words what appeared to be the changes I’ve seen in the I Media visa over the last 13 years I’ve been practicing in London.
If you require more information on the I Media visa, please call our office to speak to an attorney at +44 (0)20 7092 6830.