Q-1 Visas for Cultural Exchange Visitors

Purpose of Q-1 Visa

The Q-1 visa is for persons participating in an international cultural exchange program that is designed to share the history, culture, and traditions of the Q-1 visa holder’s home country.

Employer Requirements for Q-1 Visa

Before a person can apply for a Q-1 visa, a United States employer must file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker for him or her. Once the petition is approved, the beneficiary of the petition may apply for a Q-1 visa at a United States consulate or embassy abroad.

For the Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, to be approved, the United States employer must show the following:

  • The culture-sharing will take place in a school, museum, business or other place where the public is exposed to aspects of a foreign culture as part of a structured program;
  • The cultural component will be an essential and integral part of the participant’s employment and training, and is designed to exhibit the attitude, customs, history, heritage, philosophy and/or tradition of the participant’s home country;
  • The participant’s employment and training is not be independent of the cultural component;
  • The employer has the ability to conduct a responsible international cultural exchange program and can pay the participant wages comparable to similarly situated domestic workers and provide working conditions similar to those of domestic workers; and
  • The participant is at least 18 years-old, is qualified to perform the service or labor, or receive the type of training, listed in the application, and has the ability to communicate effectively about the culture of the participant’s home country.

If the petition is approved, the employer will receive a Form I-797, Notice of Approval. Approval of the petition does not mean the beneficiary will be allowed to enter the United States. The beneficiary of the petition must apply for a Q-1 visa and prove that he or she meets the requirements for admission to the United States.

Applying for a Q-1 Visa

Once the employer receives the Form I797, Notice of Approval, the beneficiary may apply for the Q-1 visa at a United States consulate or embassy.

To apply for a Q-1 Visa, the beneficiary will need to complete Form DS-156, Nonimmigrant Visa Application. All male applicants between 16 and 45 years of age are also required to complete Form DS-157, Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application. Beneficiaries from North Korea, Cuba, Syria, Sudan, Iran, or Libya and 16 years-old or older, will also have to complete Form DS-157.

The beneficiary must make an appointment with the local United States consulate or embassy. A copy of the Form I-797, Notice of Approval, should be taken to the interview. At the interview, the beneficiary will need to show evidence of residence in the beneficiary’s home country and show no intention of abandoning that residence.

Having an approved visa does not mean the beneficiary will be allowed to enter the United States. A visa allows persons to travel to a United States port of entry and request permission to enter the United States. When persons arrive at a United States port of entry, an official from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will grant or deny their admission into the Untied States. If granted admission, the CBP official will mark the length of stay on Form I-94, Arrival and Departure Card.

A Q-1 visa is approved for the length of the program, or 15 months, whichever is shorter. Persons issued a Q-1 Visa may not be issued another Q-1 Visa until they have resided outside of the Untied States for at least one year.

Family Members of Q-1 Visa Holders

There is no derivative visa category for family members of Q-1 visa holders. However, family members may apply for B-2 tourist visas. Persons on B-2 tourist visas are not allowed to work or study in the United States.