Participants in an international cultural exchange program designed to provide practical training, employment and sharing of the participant’s native culture, require classification Q visas.

The training/employment must be approved in advance by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the United States on the basis of a petition, Form I-129Q, which must be filed by the U.S. sponsor with USCIS.

A new petition must be filed each time a qualified employer wants to bring additional persons into the United States in Q status.

Before a petition may be filed with the USCIS, the following criteria must be met:

  • The cultural exchange program:-
    • The culture-sharing must take place in a school, museum, business or other establishment where the public is exposed to aspects of a foreign culture as part of a structured program;
    • the cultural component must be an essential and integral part of the participant’s employment and training, and must be designed to exhibit the attitude, customs, history, heritage, philosophy and/or tradition of the alien’s country of nationality; and
    • the alien’s employment and training may not be independent of the cultural component.
  • The organization must demonstrate that it has the ability to conduct a responsible international cultural exchange program and has the financial ability to remunerate the participant and offer him/her wages and working conditions comparable to those accorded local domestic workers similarly employed.
  • The applicant must be at least 18 years of age, qualified to perform the stated service or labor or receive the specified type of training and have the ability to communicate effectively about his/her culture.

A Q visa petition is approved for the length of the program, or for fifteen months, whichever is shorter. The holder of a Q visa who has spent fifteen 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 United States for one (1) year.

If you are abroad and the Q petition has been approved in your name you will be required to apply for a visa with the U.S. Consulate before traveling to the United States. The Notice of Action, Form I-797A or B, issued by USCIS, is not valid for travel unless accompanied by the appropriate visa.

If the Q-1 beneficiary is in the U.S., the change of status can be requested in the Form I-129Q.

There is no derivative visa category for spouses and children of the beneficiary of a Q petition. Spouses and/or children who wish to accompany the Q visa holder to the United States for the duration of the program are required to qualify for visas in their own right. If they wish to work, they require work visas; if they wish to study, student visas must be requested. Those who have no intention of working or studying, may apply for tourist (B-2) visas for the possibility of obtaining the B-2 to accompany the Q-1 visa holder for a short duration. If the spouse and/or child will not apply for visas at the same time as the principal applicant, they will be required to furnish a copy of the principal applicant's visa with their application.

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