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Concern over proposed USA visa changes for journalists

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Concern over proposed USA visa changes for journalists

Do you have, or plan to have, correspondents based in the US? If so, you might want to comment urgently on proposed changes to the visa rules under which journalists can enter and stay in the USA.

If adopted, the proposals from Homeland Security will end the current system where foreign journalists enter on an "I" visa and can stay as long as they meet the terms and conditions linked to non-immigrant status.

Citing security concerns, Homeland Security says it plans to replace the current visa system with a fixed period visa for foreign journalists, students and exchange visitors.

The maximum period granted for a journalist to stay will be 240 days. Correspondents who wish to remain in the US longer than their approved duration will have to apply for an extension of stay for a maximum of another 240 days or leave.

"It is not at all clear how the stay of foreign professional journalists in the United States can threaten the country's national security," said WAN-IFRA CEO Vincent Peyregne.

"The US administration's proposed rules to limit the stay of foreign journalists in the country is a discriminatory measure that seeks to fix a problem that does not exist. It is a new assault on the press, which should be able to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information an ideas through any media, and regardless of frontiers," Peyregne added.

WAN-IFRA is urging publishers, editors and representatitive organisations to take the opportunity to comment online on the changes before the deadline on hthe 26th October. Comments may be submitted on the proposed rule here, using DHS Docket No. ICEB-2019-0006.

In a message to members of the Overseas Press Club of America, Ian Williams, President of the Foreign Press Association, said “almost by stealth, Homeland Security is proposing ill-considered changes that will dampen foreign reporting in the U.S. and on the U.N. – while risking provoking foreign governments to retaliate with restrictions on U.S. reporters going abroad. Foreign Reporting of the U.S. and the U.N. is about to be completely transformed with “I” visa changes that threaten the livelihoods and legality of foreign correspondents – and no one is reporting it or protesting!”

Williams fears the new visa will limit flexibility and introduce continual uncertainty. “Good luck getting an apartment or office lease for 240 days! And anyone who thinks renewal of status will be seamless and assured has not been doing much reporting on life in the USA recently! One cannot underestimate the threats to freedom of the press.”

Being scrutinized by Homeland Security every 240 days is bound to have a dampening effect on reporters’ objectivity, Williams said.

 

DHS Public Announcement

Federal Register proposal for public review.

 

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2020-10-20 13:26

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