A Q-1 Visa to the U.S.: Who Qualifies?

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The Q-1 visa allows people to come to the U.S. to take part in an established international cultural exchange program. The program must be one that provides practical training, employment, and sharing of 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. That’s good news; it means that, unlike in some other visa categories, applicants won't face long waits for the visa, other than the time it takes to apply, submit paperwork, and attend a consular interview.

Key Features of the Q-1 Visa

A Q-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa, meaning that it is temporary. Once the visa holder has entered the U.S., he or she can engage only in activities allowed under that type of visa.

Your spouse and children (unmarried, under age 21) may come to the U.S. with the Q-1 visa holder, by obtaining Q-3 visas.

How long you will be able to spend in the U.S. on your Q visa will depend partly on your employer/sponsor's needs and its description of the position. You will be admitted for the length of time the program lasts, up to a maximum of 15 months, plus 30 days in which to depart the United States.

A Q-1 visa holder cannot apply for any extensions of stay. In fact, you will be required to spend one year outside the United States before applying for a new Q-1 visa.

Q-1 Visa Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for a Q-1 visa, you must:

  • have reached at least the age of 18
  • have gained acceptance to an international cultural exchange program
  • possess the education and training needed to perform the services that will be expected of you, including the cultural component, and
  • be able to communicate your native culture to the people of the United States.

Your U.S. employer will also need to demonstrate that it meets certain criteria. The employer will not need to (in fact, it cannot) obtain any sort of advance certification showing that it meets these criteria. Instead, it will have to demonstrate this within the application process for your Q visa. In particular, the employer will need to show that it:

  • actively conducts business within the United States
  • 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. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
  • 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.

For information on how to apply, see “Application Process for a Temporary (Nonimmigrant) U.S. Visa.” [http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/application-process-temporary-nonimmigrant-us-visa]

by: , J.D.

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