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Q Cultural Exchange

Alert: On May 29, 2020, USCIS announced that premium processing would resume for Form I-129 and Form I-140 petitions in phases over the month of June. Read more here: USCIS Resumes Premium Processing for Certain Petitions.

There are two nonimmigrant visa categories for persons who want to participate in Exchange Visitor programs in the United States. The J nonimmigrant classification is for participants of exchange programs, designated by the Department of State, that are designed to promote educational and cultural exchanges between the United States and other countries. The Q nonimmigrant classification is for participants of international cultural exchange programs designated by USCIS. For more information on J Exchange Visitors, see the Department of State: Exchange Visitor (J) Visas page.

You may be eligible for Q-1 nonimmigrant classification if you are seeking to participate in an international cultural exchange program. The Q cultural exchange program is for the purpose of providing practical training and employment, and sharing the history, culture, and traditions of your home country with the United States.

Eligibility Criteria

Only qualified employers who administer cultural exchange programs are allowed to petition for Q nonimmigrants. The purpose of the Q nonimmigrant visa classification is to facilitate the sharing of international cultures. It is an employment-oriented program, but an essential and integral part of your duties must have a cultural element.  You must be:

  • At least 18 years old;
  • Able to perform the service, labor or training; and 
  • Able to communicate effectively about the cultural attributes of your country to the American public.

Petition Process

The qualified employer must file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, with the USCIS office specified in the form instructions. In addition, the employer must submit evidence that it maintains an established international cultural exchange program. They may demonstrate this by submitting copies of catalogs, brochures or other types of material that illustrate that the cultural component of the program is designed to exhibit or explain the attitude, customs, history, heritage, philosophy, traditions and/or other cultural attributes of the participant's home country. The employer may also submit evidence that illustrates that the program activities take place in a public setting where the sharing of culture can be achieved through direct interaction with the American public or a segment thereof sharing a common cultural interest.  
In addition, the employer must establish that:

  • It has designated a qualified employee to administer the program and serve as liaison with USCIS;
  • It is actively doing business in the United States;
  • It will offer the alien wages and working conditions comparable to those accorded local workers similarly employed; and
  • It has the financial ability to compensate the participant(s), as shown by a copy of the employer's most recent annual report, business income tax return or other form of certified accountant's report.

Applying for a Visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate

Once the visa petition is approved, you can apply for a visa (if required) at a U.S. embassy or consulate. For more information on visa application processing and issuance fees, see the “Department of State,” page.

Period of Stay/Extension of Stay

Initial Period of Stay
Up to 15 months

After you complete your Q cultural exchange program, you are afforded 30 days to depart the United States. You are required to spend 1 year outside the United States before you can apply for participation in an Q cultural exchange program again.

Family of Q Visa Holders

The Q 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 must qualify for a nonimmigrant classification for which they may be eligible.

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