Which activities are acceptable if I enter the U.S. on a visitor visa or a visa waiver?
If your sole purpose for entering the U.S. is to perform one of the following activities, you will not need to obtain an I visa.
- Taking still photographs, as long as any payment you receive comes from abroad.
- Attending a conference or similar meeting, if you will not report on the meeting. Reporting on the meeting after you return to your home abroad, however, will retroactively violate your immigration status.
- Giving a lecture, even if you are paid, as long as (i) your speaking engagement lasts no longer than nine days at any particular institution and (ii) you haven’t received such payment from more than five other institutions over the last 180 days.
- Engaging in academic activity at an institute of higher education (such as a university), a nonprofit research institute, or an educational institute.
- Performing research.
Naturally, it is fine for you to take a vacation to the United States, even if you are a member of a foreign news outlet, as long as it is not a working vacation.
Can I extend my I visa in the United States?
If you wish to remain in the U.S. beyond the date specified on Form I-94 (or beyond your employment relationship with your sponsor, if your period of stay is listed as “duration of status”), you will need to file Form I-539 along with applicable fees and supporting documents. As long as you don’t change jobs, you can remain in the U.S. indefinitely without leaving to get a new visa.
You will need to leave the U.S. if you wish to revalidate your visa. You can only revalidate your visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.
Is the I visa a dual intent visa?
No, it is not–you are expected to intend to return to your home country after your I visa expires. In fact, U.S. immigration authorities can deny your visa if they believe that you have “immigrant intent.” In practice, it is sometimes possible to get permanent residence after entering the U.S. in I visa status.