Deadline Monday for Comments on I Visa Restrictions

by Ian Williams, OPC member and Foreign Press Association President

The Overseas Press Club and the Foreign Press Association oppose proposed rule changes by the Department of Homeland Security that would restrict the freedom of foreign journalists to work in the United States, and could invite retaliation by other governments against U.S. journalists overseas.

The DHS proposal would require foreign journalists holding I visas in the U.S. to apply for renewal every 240 days. Currently, I visas are valid for five years, and allow journalists who cover the United Nations or other U.S. organizations the right to move freely in and out of the U.S. with their families.

Please consider using the following bullet points to make your views known to DHS and the State Dept. by Monday, Oct. 26 on the following link.


We oppose the proposed changes for the following reasons:

  • The requirement to renew every 240 days would give the U.S. government an easy tool to oust foreign journalists whose work they may deem unfavorable.
  • Other governments might use it as an excuse to retaliate against U.S. journalists in their country.
  • The number of I visas issued annually, at around 11,000, is not large, and we could not find any evidence of major abuse of the category that would justify the inconvenience and the implied threat to the media.
  • Long-term reporters, whose familiarity with the Wall Street, Hollywood, Washington, or U.N. beat is an essential part of their tradecraft, would find it hard to set up home and move families with a potential 240-day horizon.
  • The changes could erode implied “First Amendment rights” that the U.S. extends to foreign correspondents. Some OPC and FPA members expressed fears that their reporting could be inhibited.
  • Under the U.N. Headquarters agreement, the U.S. is bound to facilitate entry for correspondents accredited to the U.N. On the face of it, these restriction flout that agreement.