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Q1 Visa

The Q1 visa allows individuals to temporarily come to the United States in order to participate in an international cultural exchange program that provides practical training and employment, and shares the history, culture, and traditions of the Q1 visa holder’s country. The cultural aspect of the program must be integral to the employment or training. The Q1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa.

How to qualify for a Q1 Visa?

In order to qualify for a Q1 visa, both the foreign citizen visa applicant and the employer who will petition on behalf of the visa applicant must meet certain criteria.

Visa Applicant Requirements

The Q1 visa applicant must meet the following requirements in order to qualify for the visa:

  • At least 18 years of age;
  • Qualified to perform the service, labor, or training provided by the employer;
  • Able to communicate effectively about the cultural attributes of the applicant’s home country to the American public;
  • Accepted into an international cultural exchange program.

Employer Requirements

The employer who conducts the international cultural exchange program must meet the following requirements in order to successfully petition on behalf of the Q1 visa applicant:

  • Administers an international cultural exchange program or has one administered by designated agents they employ on a permanent basis in an executive or managerial capacity who serves as a liaison with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS);
  • Conducts business within the United States;
  • Provides public access to the culture-sharing aspect of the program;
  • Will employ the Q1 visa holder in a role where they can share their home country’s culture;
  • Can financially afford to pay the Q1 visa holder, as shown on the employer’s most recent annual report, business income tax return or other form of certified accountant’s report;
  • Will provide the Q1 visa holder with wages and working conditions that are comparable to those offered to U.S. workers in the same geographical region who perform similar tasks

What is the process for obtaining a Q1 Visa?

  1. Step One: Employer or Its Agent Files Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker

    The first step to obtain a Q1 visa is to have the potential employer file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker with the USCIS. Form I-129 is where the employer will prove it meets all eligibility requirements.

    When submitting Form I-129, the employer or its agent must provide a description of the position the Q1 visa holder would fill, including evidence that the position fits within an established international cultural exchange program that is conducted by the employer. The employer or its agent may demonstrate this through brochures, curriculum, or other materials that describe the program’s cultural component and how it is designed to exhibit the history, heritage, philosophy, traditions, attitude, customs, arts, literature, and language of the Q1 visa holder’s home country.

    In addition to the above, the employer or its agent must prove that the structured cultural program includes activities that will take place in a public place, such as a school, museum, business, or other establishment where members of the public will be exposed to the culture of the Q1 visa holder’s home country.

  2. Step Two: USCIS Process Form I-129

    Once the USCIS receives Form I-129, the employer or its agent will receive the following in return:

    • A receipt notice confirming the petition was received;
    • A notice to appear for an interview, if required;
    • A biometric services notice, if applicable; and
    • A notice of decision, Form I-797, Notice of Action.
  3. Step Three: Q1 Visa Applicant Submits Form DS-160

    The Q1 visa applicant must complete Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 and pay the fee. This involves uploading a photo of the applicant that conforms to the U.S. Department of State photograph requirements. Once Form DS-160 is submitted, the employee must download and print the confirmation page showing Form DS-160 was completed and the filing fee paid. The confirmation page will need to be brought to the visa interview at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy.

  4. Step Four: Attend Interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate

    After a Q1 visa applicant pays the application fee and submits DS-160, the applicant must schedule an interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate near them.

    The Q1 applicant must bring the following documents with them to his or her interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate:

    • Receipt notice Form I-797, confirming petition Form I-129 was received;
    • Form DS-160 confirmation page;
    • Documentation evidencing the applicant’s educational qualifications and previous work experience;
    • Proof that the applicant intends to return to their home country after the conclusion of the exchange program;
    • Valid passport;
    • Photo that meets photograph requirements;
    • Visa application fee receipt;
    • Visa interview confirmation letter.

    Additional documentation may be required, depending on the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the applicant’s interview is scheduled.

    At the end of the applicant’s interview, the interviewing officer will inform the applicant whether or not he or she is approved for the Q1 visa. If approved, the Q1 visa applicant will be informed of next steps.

  5. Step Five: Enter the United States

    After a Q1 visa is approved by a consular officer, the visa holder must travel to a U.S. port-of-entry and request permission to enter the United States under the visa. Approval of a visa by a consular officer does not guarantee entry into the United States. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at the port of entry will permit or deny entry after reviewing the Q1 visa holder’s passport and visa. Individuals who are approved to enter the United States will receive an admission stamp or paper Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record.

Can the family of the Q1 visa holder accompany them to the United States?

No. The Q1 visa does not permit the spouse or child(ren) of the Q1 visa holder to come to the United States to be with the Q1 visa holder for the duration of their stay in the U.S. Family members must independently qualify, apply for, and receive a visa in order to come to the United States at the same time as the Q1 visa holder.

Can Q1 visa applicants permanently live in the United States?

No. The Q1 visa is not permanent. Additionally, Q1 visa holders are not generally permitted to obtain a green card by adjusting their status. This is because the Q1 visa requires that applicants prove their intent to return to their home country following the completion of the cultural program.

How long are Q1 visas valid?

The maximum amount of time a Q1 visa holder may remain in the United States is 15 months. The cultural program may be shorter than 15 months. In such a case, the Q1 visa holder will be permitted to stay in the United States only for as long as the length of the program.

For programs shorter than 15 months, the Q1 visa holder and their employer may apply for an extension. Extensions will not permit the Q1 visa holder to stay beyond the 15 month maximum stay. After 15 months, the Q1 visa holder must leave the United States for at least one year before they are eligible for the Q1 visa again.

How much does it cost to get a Q1 visa?

  • DS-160 fee is $160
  • Potential biometrics fee is $85
  • Form I-129 is $460
  • Medical exam costs vary.

Sweta Khandelwal

Sweta completed her Masters in Law from the University of California, Los Angeles and her JD from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University in India and has been practicing law for 15+ years getting visas, green cards, and citizenship for 1000+ clients, 100+ companies across 50+ nationalities.

Sweta has been recognized as a ” Super Lawyer, Rising Star,” and as amongst the ” Top 40 under 40″ immigration attorneys in California (American Society of Legal Advocates). She is also the recipient of the Advocacy Award by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Sweta is also a chartered accountant — the equivalent of a CPA. This makes her uniquely positioned to understand the immigration needs of her business clients in the broader context of their corporate objectives.

Sweta is actively involved with immigration issues and immigrant communities in various capacities. She has assumed key roles at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), both at the local and national level. She has been a past chair at the Santa Clara Valley Chapter at AILA and has also been involved in various practice area committees at AILA National. Sweta has addressed multiple conferences/forums in the United States and worldwide on immigration and business issues.