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Aliens who participate in cultural exchange programs between the US and other countries must apply for the Q cultural exchange visa.

In this article we will analyze the Q-1 visa, its eligibility criteria, application process and other relevant details of this visa. If you need to process a visa or require assistance in any other immigration matter, call us. Our immigration lawyers in Los Angeles are specialists in visas for the United States. Contact us and we can help you. 


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What is the Q visa?

The Q visa is a type of American visa that is granted to participants in an international cultural exchange program. Q visa holders often belong to a registered organization seeking cultural exchange with the US.

The purpose of the Q category is to provide practical training, employment, sharing cultures, histories, and traditions between a foreign country and the US. That is, to familiarize the foreigner with American culture. On the other hand, that the United States also benefits from this rapprochement and cultural exchange with the participant. 

Q-1 Visa

The “Q” category is currently known only as the “Q-1” visa, being the visa indicated for those who participate in an international cultural exchange program.

With a Q-1 visa, foreign nationals can visit the United States due to a cultural agreement between private organizations. However, it can also be among non-profit, non-governmental organizations seeking to strengthen culture.

It is important to clarify that the Q-1 visa is not related to the Q-2 visa of the Walsh Program, also known as the The Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program Act.

Eligibility requirements for the Q-1 visa

Only qualified US employers who operate a cultural exchange program can petition for category Q. This is an employment-oriented program, but an essential or major part of the activities must be culturally related. You must:

  • Be 18 years old or more;
  • Be able to provide the service, work or cultural entertainment; 
  • Also demonstrate aptitude for the exchange of ideas, cultures and traditions of your country of origin.
cultural exchange visitors in the usa

How to apply for the Q-1 visa?

The employer must file with USCIS Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker. In addition, the employer will have to submit evidence that they maintain an active international cultural exchange program through:

  • Copies of catalogs;
  • Booklets;
  • Other material that demonstrates that the cultural component of the program is designed to provide an overview or explain the attitudes, history, customs, philosophy, tradition, cultural heritage, or other cultural characteristics of the participant’s country of origin; 
  • Some evidence that the cultural program activity will take place in public places and will be able to interact directly with the American public or a part of it that has a common cultural interest.

In addition, the employer must:

  • Demonstrate they are actively doing business in the US.
  • They have designated a representative to manage the cultural program and be a liaison with USCIS.
  • They offer salary compensation to the visa holder similar to that of any other US worker in similar jobs.
  • Demonstrate through a copy of the most recent annual report (or any other report certified by a certified public accountant) that they have sufficient financial capacity to compensate one or more Q-1 visa participants.
cultural exchange with the united states

USCIS will notify the employer if it has approved or denied the petition. If approved, USCIS sends the sponsor and participant Form I-797, Notice of Action. Subsequently, the participant must follow the following steps:

  1. Complete, submit, and print Form DS-160;
  2. Pay the visa application fee ($190);
  3. Schedule the interview with the US embassy or consulate;
  4. Submit the required documents on the website of the US consulate or embassy;
  5. Attend the interview.

Documents to be submitted by the Q-1 visa participant

The documents that the sponsor of the Q-1 visa must submitt are the following:

  • Valid and current passport for at least six months after the end of the program;
  • Passport-type photograph;
  • Copy of the form I-797 sent by the USCIS to the applicant and the sponsor;
  • DS-160 confirmation code and printed page;
  • Receipt of payment of the visa application fee;
  • Documents proving the applicant’s work experience and educational level;
  • Some proof that certifies that you intend to return to your country of origin after finishing the cultural program.

What is the difference between a Q-1 visa and a J-1 visa?

In the United States there are two types of cultural exchange visas under the category of cultural exchange programs, the Q-1 and J-1 categories, their main difference is:

This does not mean that both government agencies run the exchange programs, just that each agency is responsible for processing a different type of visa (Q-1 or J-1).

Note: For Q-1 visas there is no annual limit. So if the applicant meets the requirements, the probability of being granted is high.

How long does it take to process a Q-1 visa?

Processing times can vary by embassy, ​​sometimes as little as 15 days and other times as long as 3 months. It all depends on the number of visa applications the US embassy has in the country.

When the application has been processed, the embassy sends the passport with the visa to the applicant’s address.  

q visa for a cultural exchange program in the united states

How long does the Q-1 visa last?

The period of stay granted by the Q visa is up to 15 months. Once you complete the estimated time, you will have 30 days to leave the US territory. If you wish to return to the US, you must wait at least one year before submitting a new application for this visa.

Do I have to attend the Q-1 visa interview?

The interview is an important part of the application process. 

The participant will need to ensure that they arrive on time and have all the necessary documents with them. You may have your fingerprints taken before you begin your interview at a US embassy or consulate.

The consular officer will ask you a few questions to ensure that you intend to return to your home country before your Q-1 visa expires. In addition, the officer wants to make sure that you do not pose a threat to American security or its residents.

How much does it cost to apply for the Q-1 visa?

The Q-1 visa application fee as of the date of the article is $190, but there may be other fees depending on the relationship of the US to the country of origin of the visa beneficiary. Therefore, please note that additional fees may apply.

Can I bring my relatives to the United States if I have a Q visa?

The “Q” category does not allow spouses or children to accompany the visa holder. In addition, it does not have a variant for family members, so if the holder’s spouse and/or child wishes to travel to the US, they must qualify under another nonimmigrant visa. For example, the B1 or B2 visa 

In our articles “What is the B1 visa” and “How to get tourist visa for USA” you have extensive information about both visas. Our firm will be able to analyze your status and help you determine which nonimmigrant visa you may qualify for. 

family based immigration

If you are looking for information to bring your relatives to the United States, do not hesitate to review our section on family-based immigration.

Is it possible to get a Green Card with a Q-1 visa?

It is not possible to get the Green Card with the Q-1 visa since it does not open a direct path to permanent residence. However, with the help of an experienced immigration attorney, you will be able to see your options. The most expeditious ways to obtain the Green Card is:

Our immigration attorneys at Lluis Law can help you in many ways in any immigration matter. Whether you want to apply for this visa or need to fill out the I-130 form to apply for American residency. We have over 40 years of immigration experience in the Los Angeles area and the rest of California. 

Contact us so that we can provide you with complete legal advice for any type of immigration case that you and/or your family may have in mind.


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