How to Obtain and Qualify for a Q Cultural Exchange Program Visa

Qualifying and obtaining a Q Visa is a complex and fact specific process and the information below is a general overview. Please consult with an attorney at Theta Law Firm with your specific facts. An attorney is vital to help guide a potentially qualifying individual or group and their dependents through the process of obtaining a Q Visa in a timely fashion that will not disrupt or interfere with an event or your business.

Is the Q Visa for me?

The Q classification allows an individual having residence in a foreign country to come to the United States temporarily to perform services under a cultural exchange program. A Q classification encompasses the following[1]:

  • A person coming to the United States through a international non-immigrant exchange program for the purpose of providing training and employment, and to share the history, culture, and traditions of the persons home country with the United States.
Requirements for Q Visa Filing

In order to obtain Q classification certain requirements must be met and evidence presented when filing the required I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker.

  • In order to be eligible for a Q visa, the cultural exchange program itself must be approved and meet certain requirements[2]:

    • A. The international cultural exchange program must take place where the public or a portion of the public is exposed to parts of a foreign culture as part of a planned program. This could include a school, convention center, museum, etc.
      B. The international cultural program must have a cultural component that is vital to the exchange visitor's employment. A component of the program must be designed to show or explain the attitude, customs, history, heritage, philosophy, or traditions of the visitor's home country.
      C. The exchange visitor's employment or training in the United States may not be independent of the cultural component of the international cultural exchange program. The work must be for the purpose of successfully attaining and developing the cultural component of the program.
  • Additionally, to be eligible for a Q visa, the cultural exchange visitor must also meet certain requirements:

    • 1. Must be at least 18 years old at the time of filing the petition;
      2. Is qualified to perform the functions stated in the petition or receive the training referred to in the petition;
      3. Can effectively communicate about the culture of his or her country to the people of the United States; and
      4. Has been physically present outside of the United States for the previous year if previously admitted under a Q visa
Documentation Required for a Q Visa

The I-129 Petition MUST be submitted with all other below listed documentation in order to apply for Q classification.[3]

The following documentation is necessary from the employer[4]:

    1. Evidence that the employer has a qualifying international cultural exchange program as described above;
    2. Evidence that the employer has a representative who will administer the international cultural exchange program and act as a liaison with USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services);
    3. Evidence that the employer is doing business within the United States;
    4. Evidence that the employer will offer wages to the cultural exchange program participant(s) and working conditions that can be compared to similarly situated domestic workers; and
    5. Evidence that the employer has the financial ability to compensate the cultural exchange program participant(s) (usually provided through an employer's annual business report or tax return).
Remember that no matter where you are in the Visa filing or interview process, an attorney at Theta Law Firm can help you prepare for, and successfully obtain a Q Visa.

Change of Employment

If while already in the United States a Q Visa holder wants to change employers, the new employer must file a new petition application. Additionally, the period of time that the cultural exchange Q visa holder is allowed to remain in the United States stays at a maximum of 15 months, despite the employer change. The petitioner cannot work while this new petition is pending.

• Note that if the person attempting to obtain Q classification will work for more than one employer at the same time, each employer must file a separate petition.

• Also of note is that an employer may replace a participant previously named in a petition if the 15 month maximum duration of stay has not yet expired. The substituted party will only be allowed to remain for the amount of time left on the original 15 month petition.

Length of Stay

A person that qualifies under the Q Visa provisions is allowed a maximum period of stay not to exceed 15 months (with an additional 30 days to depart). Such an individual then must wait at least a year before applying again under the Q visa provisions.

Family of Q Visa Qualifying Applicants

A spouse and any children under the age of 21 may accompany a Q Visa applicant so long as they obtain Q-3 status. However, neither the spouse nor the child can work while accompanying a Q Visa applicant unless they get primary Q Visa status themselves.

[1] 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(q).
[2] 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(q)(3).
[3] Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker may be found at:
[4] Requirements are set out in 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(q)(4).

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