Cultural exchange programs are a great way for U.S. citizens to learn about the cultures, history and traditions of foreign peoples. For you to come and share knowledge about your culture in a cultural exchange program, you need a Q-1 visa. The USCIS does not have any limit on the number of Q-1 visas it can issue in a year.
What You Get With A Q-1 Visa
This non-immigrant visa only allows an individual to participate in the activities allowed by the visa. But the individual’s immediate family members can come to the United States under a Q-3 visa status. The immediate family members are the spouse and unmarried children under 21 years.
A Q-1 visa lasts as long as the cultural exchange program lasts but not more than 15 months. You can apply for an extension if your Q-1 visa is only valid for less than 15 months. But the extension must not result in a period of more than 15 months if added to the original number of months you already spent in the United States. For example, you can only get an extension of 7 months or less if you already spent 8 months in the United States.
Individuals who had a 15-month Q-1 visa cannot receive an extension once the 15 months expire. Instead, once the 15 months expire they have to leave the U.S. within 30 days. They are allowed to apply for a new Q-1 visa after staying out of the USA for one year.
Are You Eligible For A Q1 Visa?
The sponsoring organization must ensure that the individual they are sponsoring is:
- At least 18 years old
- Is not only knowledgeable but also skilled enough to communicate their native culture to U.S. citizens
- Considered qualified communicator of their culture by an international exchange program
- Educated and trained appropriately for the services that they will be providing in the U.S
The employer or organization sponsoring the individual has to meet the following requirements:
- Must be a registered business in the United States
- Has appointed a person in the business or organization to liaison with the USCIS
- Created a program within the organization or business whose purpose is cultural exchange
- Intends to employ the sponsored individual for the role that involves the individual sharing their native culture, customs, heritage, philosophy, traditions and attitudes.
- Will pay wages to the Q-1 visa holder at U.S rates and provide working conditions that are appropriate for US workers
How To Apply For Q-1 Visa
The employer or organization sponsoring you has to complete and sign Form I-129(Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker) and then submit it to the USCIS. They have to include evidence that you are eligible for this visa.
They must provide evidence that this cultural program will take place in a public place to allow for direct interaction between participants. If the USCIS approves the petition, they will send Form I-797 to both the employer and the participant. The participant will then have to fill and submit Form DS-160, pay the application fee and then attend the scheduled visa interview at a nearby U.S. embassy or consulate.
Based on the interview the visa may or may not be approved.