Journalist Nonimmigrant Visa Options

Question: I am a journalist with several years experience in both radio and television news production. I’m interested in working in the U.S. I know I need to obtain a job offer before I can get a visa. Can I obtain a TN visa with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism? I’ve been told I need an H1B visa, which is nearly impossible to come by. I was researching your website on employers who hire writers, which is what I am (news, communications, etc.). However, I do not have a technical writer’s degree or diploma.

Reply: Journalists were originally able to obtain employment authorization in the U.S. under TC visa status during the initial stages of the Canada Free Trade Agreement (the predecessor to NAFTA). However, the Journalists category was removed during the final rulemaking process of CFTA purportedly due to opposition from journalistic organizations. See 56 FR 480 (Jan. 7, 1991).

The only remaining occupation specifically available for writers under NAFTA is the Technical Publications Writer category. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook governs the types of job duties permissible under that category, which generally involves writing technical materials, such as equipment manuals, operating instructions, or online help documents. If you find a position that fits under the OOH’s description, you may make an argument for a TN as a Technical Publications Writer.

The TN regulations do not require a specific degree in the field to qualify for a majority of the occupations listed in NAFTA. The general rule is that the degree should be in the field or a related field. See Cronin Memo. To determine the types of degrees suitable for an occupation, again, we turn to the OOH. Coincidentally, the OOH states that “[e]mployers [of Technical Writers] look for candidates with a bachelor’s degree, often preferring those with a major in communications, journalism, or English.” Based on the OOH then, you may be able to make an argument that you qualify for TN visa status as Technical Writer based on your Bachelor’s degree in Journalism.

Other non-immigrant visa options specifically for Journalists may include the I-visa, the H-1B visa, or the O-1 visa. The I-visa authorizes journalists to come to the U.S. to work, but generally only if working for a non-U.S. media company or for a foreign branch office of a U.S. network. Journalists may also have opportunities for permanent residency (a green card) under one of the employment based preference categories.