Chapter 2 - Eligibility Requirements

A. Petitioner Requirements

1. Qualified Employer

A qualified employer is a United States or foreign firm, corporation, non-profit organization, or other legal entity, including its U.S. branches, subsidiaries, affiliates, and franchises,[1] which:

  • Is actively doing business in the United States;[2] and

  • Administers a DHS-designated international cultural exchange program.[3] 

Doing business means the regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods or services (including lectures, seminars and other types of cultural programs) by a qualified employer which has employees, and does not include the mere presence of an agent or office of the qualifying employer.[4]

To establish eligibility as a qualified employer, the petitioner must provide evidence that it maintains an established international cultural exchange program.[5]  

2. Agent

A designated agent may file the petition if he or she is employed by the employer on a permanent basis in an executive or managerial capacity and is a U.S. citizen, a noncitizen lawfully admitted for permanent residence, or a noncitizen provided temporary residence status under INA 210 or INA 245A.[6]

B. Program Requirements

1. Accessibility to the Public

The culture sharing must take place in a school, museum, business or other establishment where the American public, or a segment of the public sharing a common cultural interest, is exposed to aspects of a foreign culture as part of a structured program. A private home or an isolated business setting that is not open to direct access by the public would not qualify.[7]

2. Cultural Component

The program must have a cultural component that is an essential and integral part of the participant’s employment or training, and is designed to exhibit or explain the attitude, customs, history, heritage, philosophy, or traditions of the participant’s country of nationality.[8] The cultural component may include structured instructional activities, such as:

  • Seminars;

  • Courses;

  • Lecture series; or

  • Language camps.[9]

3. Work Component

The participant’s employment or training in the United States may not be independent of the cultural component of the international cultural exchange program. The work component must serve as the vehicle to achieve the objectives of the cultural component of the program. In other words, the participant’s work or training in the United States must be tied to the cultural component which is to exhibit or explain attitude, customs, history, heritage, philosophy or traditions of the participant's country of nationality.

The sharing of the culture of the participant’s country of nationality must result from his or her employment or training with the qualified employer in the United States.[10]

4. Services in More than One Location

The participant may engage in employment or training in different locations for the same employer. If there are different locations, the petition must include an itinerary with the dates and locations of the services, labor, or training to be performed.[11] The employment occurring at each location must meet the requirements of an international exchange program.

C. Participant Requirements

1. Participant Requirements

Participants in Q-1 cultural exchange programs must:[12]

  • Be at least 18 years of age at the time the petition is filed;

  • Be qualified to perform the service or labor or receive the training stated in the petition; and

  • Have the ability to communicate effectively about the cultural attributes of his or her country of nationality[13] with the American public.

In addition, participants who have previously spent 15 months in the United States as a Q-1 nonimmigrant must have resided and been physically present outside the United States for the immediate prior year.[14] Brief trips into the United States do not break the continuity of the 1-year foreign residency.[15]

2. Family Members

The Q-1 nonimmigrant classification does not have a provision for any spouse or children to accompany or follow to join a Q-1 nonimmigrant. Therefore, any spouse or children wishing to enter the United States must qualify independently for a nonimmigrant classification.


[^ 1] See 8 CFR 214.2(q)(1)(iii) (definition of qualified employer).

[^ 2] See 8 CFR 214.2(q)(4)(i)(C).

[^ 3] See 8 CFR 214.2(q)(1)(iii) (definition of qualified employer).

[^ 4] See 8 CFR 214.2(q)(1)(iii) (definition of doing business).

[^ 5] See 8 CFR 214.2(q)(4)(i)(A).

[^ 6] See 8 CFR 214.2(q)(1)(iii) (definition of petitioner).

[^ 7] See 8 CFR 214.2(q)(3)(iii)(A). See Matter of R-C-C-S-D- (PDF, 356.08 KB), Adopted Decision 2016-04 (AAO Oct. 24, 2016).

[^ 8] See 8 CFR 214.2(q)(3)(iii)(B). See Matter of R-C-C-S-D- (PDF, 356.08 KB), Adopted Decision 2016-04 (AAO Oct. 24, 2016).

[^ 9] See 8 CFR 214.2(q)(3)(iii)(B). See Matter of R-C-C-S-D- (PDF, 356.08 KB), Adopted Decision 2016-04 (AAO Oct. 24, 2016).

[^ 10] See 8 CFR 214.2(q)(3)(iii)(C). See Matter of R-C-C-S-D- (PDF, 356.08 KB), Adopted Decision 2016-04 (AAO Oct. 24, 2016).

[^ 11] See 8 CFR 214.2(q)(5)(iii).

[^ 12] See 8 CFR 214.2(q)(3)(iv).

[^ 13] The country of nationality is the country of which the participant was a national at the time of filing. See 8 CFR 214.2(q)(1)(iii).

[^ 14] See 8 CFR 214.2(q)(7)(iv).

[^ 15] See 8 CFR 214.2(q)(2)(ii).

Current as of July 30, 2021