There are two nonimmigrant visa categories for persons who want to participate in Exchange Visitor programs in the United States. The J nonimmigrant visa is for educational and cultural exchange programs designated by the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs. The Q nonimmigrant visa is for international cultural exchange programs designated by USCIS. For more information on Exchange Visitors, see the “Department of State: Exchange Visitor (J) Visas” link to the right.

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

Only employers who administer cultural exchange programs are allowed to petition for Q nonimmigrants. The purpose of the Q nonimmigrant visa is to facilitate the sharing of international cultures. It is an employment oriented program, but an integral part of your duties must have a cultural element. You must be at least 18 years old and be able to communicate effectively about the cultural attributes of your country.
Application Process

Your sponsoring organization must file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, with the USCIS office specified in the form instructions (see the “Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker” link to the right). In addition, the employer must submit evidence that the employer maintains an established international cultural exchange program. This may be demonstrated by submitting copies of catalogs, brochures or other types of material which illustrate that the cultural component of the program is designed to give an overview of the attitude, customs, history, heritage, philosophy, tradition and/or other cultural attributes of the participant’s home country. The employer may also submit evidence which 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.

In addition, the employer must establish that:

* It has designated a qualified employee to administer the program and serve as liaison with USCIS
* It will offer the alien wages and working conditions comparable to those accorded local workers similarly employed
* 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

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 the Q cultural exchange program again.
Family of Q Visa Holders

The Q nonimmigrant visa 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 visa classification for which they may be eligible.


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Shah Peerally is an attorney licensed in California practicing immigration law and debt settlement. He has featured as an expert legal analyst for many TV networks such as NDTV, Times Now and Sitarree TV. Articles about Shah Peerally and his work have appeared on newspapers such as San Jose Mercury News, Oakland Tribune, US Fiji Times, Mauritius Le Quotidien, Movers & Shakers and other prominent international newspapers. His work has been commended by Congress women Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Lee. He has a weekly radio show on KLOK 1170AM and frequently participates in legal clinics in churches, temples and mosques. His law group, Shah Peerally Law Group, has represented clients all over the United States constantly dealing with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Immigration and Custom Enforcement(ICE) and CBP (Customs Border Patrol (CBP) under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This department was formerly known as the Immigration and Nationality Services (INS).