The Q-1 visa allows individuals to come to the U.S. to take part in an established international cultural exchange program. The program must provide practical training and employment, while sharing the participants' native culture, history, and traditions with the people of the United States.
There is no cap on the number of visas issued under this category each year.
Key Features of the Q-1 Visa
A Q-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa and thus requires nonimmigrant intent. In other words, upon the termination of the Q-1 visa an individual must return to his/her native country. Once the individual has entered the U.S. in Q-1 status, he/she can engage only in activities allowed under the visa.
The spouse and children (unmarried, under age 21) of Q-1 visa holders may come to the U.S. under Q-3 visa status. A Q visa petition is approved for the length of the program, or for 15 months, whichever is shorter. The holder of a Q visa may enter the U.S. up to 10 days before the start date of the petition. No extensions of stay are granted upon the expiration of the 15 months. Moreover, the holder of a Q visa who has spent 15 months in the United States may not be issued a visa or be readmitted under the Q visa classification unless he/she has resided and been physically present outside the U. S. for one year. Upon the expiration of the 15 months, an individual has 30 days to depart the U.S.
Q-1 Visa Eligibility Criteria
To qualify for a Q-1 visa, an individual must:
- Be 18 years old or older
- Have gained acceptance to an international cultural exchange program
- Possess the education and training needed to perform the services that will be expected of him/her, including the cultural component, and
- Be able to communicate his/her native culture to the U.S. citizens.
The U.S. employer will also need to demonstrate that it meets certain criteria through the Q visa application process. In particular, the employer will need to show that it:
- Actively conducts business within the U.S.
- Operates a program that serves international cultural exchange purposes
- Has named a person within its company or organization to serve as liaison with U.S.C.I.S.
- Will provide public access to the culture-sharing part of the program, for example by holding program events within a school, museum, or similar establishment (not within a private home or business)
- Will be employing the Q-1 visa holder for a role that involves sharing the person’s culture, such as its attitude, customs, history, heritage, philosophy and/or traditions
- Will offer the Q-1 visa holder 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 the Q-1 visa holder.
Q-1 Visa Application Process
An employer must file an application with U.S.C.I.S. by submitting Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker. The employer will also need to submit evidence that an individual meets various eligibility criteria, including but not limited to the following evidence:
- The employer 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.