Q-1 Visa for Cultural Exchange Program in U.S.

This visa allows U.S. entry for people participating in an established international cultural exchange program.

The Q-1 visa is designed to allow U.S. entry to  people participating in an established  international cultural exchange program that provides practical training, employment, and sharing of the participants' native culture, history, and traditions with the people of the United States.

Q-1 Visa Quotas by Country

There is no cap on the number of visas issued under this category each year nor on  the number of nationals of a country admitted to the United States under this category. That means that, as an applicant,  you won't face long waits for the visa, other than the length of time it takes to get through the application process.

Benefits and Limitations of the Q-1 Visa

A Q-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa, meaning that it is temporary, and allows entry into the U.S. for a limited purpose. Your spouse and children (unmarried, under age 21) may accompany you, by obtaining Q-3 visas.

How long you'll be able to spend in the U.S. on your Q visa will depend partly on your employer/sponsor's needs and description of the job.  You'll be admitted for the length of time the program lasts, up to a  maximum  stay  of 15 months, plus 30 days in which to depart the United States.  

A Q-1 visa holder cannot apply for an extension of stay.  You must spend  one year outside the United States before applying for a new Q-1 visa.

Q-1 Visa Requirements

To be eligible for a  Q-1 visa, you must:

  • be at least 18 years of age
  • have been accepted to  participate in an international cultural exchange program
  • have the education and training  to perform the services expected of you, including the cultural component, and
  • be capable of communicating your native culture to the people of the United States.

In addition, your employer will need to demonstrate that it meets certain criteria. The employer will not need to (and cannot) obtain certification that it meets these criteria in advance, but will have to demonstrate this as part of the process of applying for your Q visa. Specifically, the employer will need to show that it:

  • actively conducts business in the United States
  • is operating an international cultural exchange program
  • has identified a person within its company or organization who will act as liaison with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
  • will make the  culture-sharing part of the program accessible to the U.S. public, for example by holding events within a school, museum, or similar establishment (as opposed to within a private home or business)  
  • will be employing you for a role that involves sharing your culture, such as  the attitude, customs, history, heritage, philosophy and/or tradition of your  country
  • will offer  you wages and working conditions comparable to U.S. workers performing similar tasks in the same geographical region, and
  • has the financial ability to actually pay  you.

Q-1 Visa Application Process

The application must be started by the  employer, who will submit Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, to USCIS. Besides the Form 1-129, the  employer must  submit evidence that you and it meet the various eligibilty criteria, most notably evidence that:

  • it maintains an established international cultural exchange program, as shown by copies of catalogs, brochures, or other types of material.  
  • the program activities take place in an appropriately  public setting where the sharing of culture can be achieved through direct interaction with the American public or a segment thereof.    

Upon approval, USCIS will send a Form I-797 notice to the employer. You will need to produce this at the U.S. embassy or consulate, where you will also submit your own forms and paperwork requesting a nonimmigrant visa. The consulate will supply you with the necessary forms and instructions.

Q-1 Visa Fees and Costs

Your employer is likely to pay the fee for the Form I-129 petition to USCIS. At the consulate, you will also be asked to pay  an application  fee, which you can find out on the "Fees for Visa Services" page of the Department of State  website.

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