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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 the Department of Homeland Security. 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 approved by the Secretary of Homeland Security. 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.

For more information, see Volume 2, Part E of the USCIS Policy Manual

Eligibility Criteria

Only qualified employers who administer cultural exchange programs, or designated agents they employ on a permanent basis in an executive or managerial capacity, 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 a cultural element must be an essential and integral part of your duties.  You must be:

  • At least 18 years old;
  • Qualified 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, or a designated agent it employs on a permanent basis in an executive or managerial capacity, must file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, with the USCIS office specified in the form instructions. In addition, along with the position description, the employer must submit evidence that it maintains an established international cultural exchange program. It may demonstrate this by submitting copies of brochures, curriculum, or other types of material that illustrate that the program’s cultural component is designed, on the whole, to exhibit or explain the attitude, customs, history, heritage, philosophy, traditions, and/or other cultural attributes (arts, literature, language) of the participant’s country of nationality. The employer must also submit evidence that the program activities 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.  

In addition, the employer must establish that it:

  • Has designated a qualified employee to administer the program and serve as liaison with USCIS;
  • Is actively doing business in the United States;
  • Will offer the alien wages and working conditions comparable to those accorded local workers similarly employed; and
  • 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, travel.state.gov” 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 wishing to enter the United States must qualify independently for a nonimmigrant classification.

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