Covering the U.S. Visa System in Your Own Backyard

Immigration reform, the U.S. visa system, how to handle the immigrants already here and those who attempt to enter the U.S. every day — these are already hotly debated topics, and the discussion is likely to only become more intense as the 2016 election campaigns get going.

Many journalists don't know where to start in coverage of this complex topic and its many associated issues and conflicts.

This resource page provides information and links that will help journalists jump start their coverage of immigration, visas and related topics. It includes resources that grew out of the Strategic Reporting Institute on Covering the U.S. Visa System in Your Own Backyard, hosted by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting on April 10-12, 2015, in Chicago. The workshop was funded by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

Find an Expert

Miguel Keberlein, Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago, email:

Nubia Willman, Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago, email:

Tim Novak, investigative reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times, email:

Mike McGraw, Hale Center for Journalism special projects reporter, KCPT, email:

Brant Houston, Knight Chair in Investigative Reporting, University of Illinois, former executive director of IRE and award-winning investigative journalist, email:

Consular Affairs Press Office, tel.: 202-485-6150, email:

Department of Homeland Security; Immigration and Customs Enforcement, tel.: 202-732-4242, email:

Center for Immigration Studies, tel.: 202-466-8185

Department of Homeland Security; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, tel.: 202-272-1200

Twitter Tags to Follow

Mike McGraw, @MikeMcGrawKCPT, KCPT

Brant Houston, @BrantHouston

Illinois migrant legal assistant project, @IMLAP11

U.S. Labor Department, @USDOL

Center for Immigration Studies, @wwwCISorg

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, @USCIS

Blogs Worth Reading

Official blog of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

What Others Are Doing

A visa for a price, Feb. 28, 2015

Many in U.S. Illegally Overstayed Their Visas, Wall Street Journal, April 7, 2013

Little-Known Colleges Exploit Visa Loopholes to Make Millions Off Foreign Students, Chronicle of Higher Education, March 20, 2011

Key Resources

From the SRI

Miguel Keberlein and Nubia Willman of Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago presented The Visa Journey: Gaining Entrance into the U.S., which explains the different types of U.S. visas and their associated requirements.

Participants and organizers put together this blog featuring key resources, tools and highlights from the workshop.

Key Web Resources

Numbers USA: Advocacy group on reducing immigration explains the visa lottery

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Council: EB-5 immigrant investor program

U.S. Department of State fact sheet on China and U.S. and short-term visas

U.S. Department of State instructions for the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program

U.S. Department of State, visas glossary

Data and Reports

Department of Homeland Security statistics

Foreign Labor Certification Data Center data on H1-B, H2-As visas

GAO, March 2015, report on H2-A and H1B visa programs

GAP, September 2012, report on visa fraud

ICE Sevis report

Pew Charitable Trusts. report on Immigration and Legalization

Report of the Visa Office, 2014

The Chicago Council's report, Employing Agriculture: How the Midwest Farm and Food Sector Relies on Immigrant Labor

Trac, Syracuse Univerity's data gathering, data research and data distribution organization, offers data on visa and immigration cases

U.S. Department of Labor's iCert portal offers data on visas and jobs

U.S. Department of State nonimmigrant visa statistics

Yearbook of Immigration Statistics


Register Now!

Covering the U.S. Visa System and its Flaws, a Webinar scheduled for January 13, 2016 at 2 p.m. Eastern: More than 9 million people enter the U.S. as legal visitors or immigrants each year. As immigration continues to dominate the national conversation, journalists need the resources and knowledge to report on the many visa programs that allow some to pay for permission to enter the country while others to wait years for a change in status.

This Webinar will cover student visas, worker visas and lesser-known visas, such as the investor visa, which gives immigrants residency in exchange for an investment in the U.S. economy. Presented by Brant Houston, this Webinar is free, thanks to the support of the McCormick Foundation.

Webinar Replays

Covering Immigration from the Border to the Heartland: Recent immigrants are an integral part of the fabric of U.S. urban, suburban and rural communities as policy makers and politicians debate the best way of reforming our broken immigration system. Learn to tell the unfolding immigration story in your community with sensitivity, depth and context.

Seminar Snapshot

Face-to-Face: Reporting on the Border: Reporter Luis Chaparro discusses the challenges of reporting in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, where getting an accurate story, and doing so ethically, puts reporters in grave danger.

Self-Directed Course

Handling Race and Ethnicity: The question of whether and how to include racial and ethnic descriptions in news stories is one of the most-debated and least-understood topics of journalism. When handled poorly, the consequences can be explosive. But the reward for handling the decision with skill is great: You honor journalism’s highest values – accuracy, fairness and contextual truth, as well as clarity and precision in the use of language. Stories of immigration force reporters to confront their own assumptions about race and ethnicity, and to report on diverse communities with sensitivity and fairness. This course will provide tools to accomplish these goals.