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Q : Cultural Exchange

Section 208 of the 1990 Act created nonimmigrant status Q, an "alien having a residence in a foreign country which he has no intention of abandoning who is coming temporarily (for a period not to exceed 15 months) to the United States as a participant in an international cultural exchange program designated by the Attorney General for the purpose of providing practical training, employment, and the sharing of the history, culture, and traditions of the country of the alien's nationality and who will be employed under the same wages and working conditions as domestic workers. The Q-1 classification applies to participants in an international cultural exchange program approved by the Attorney General for the purpose of providing practical training, employment, and to share the history, culture, and traditions of the alien's home country.

Including more than one alien in a petition

Aliens who will apply for their visas at the same consulate or, if they do not need visas, will enter at the same port of entry may be included in one petition if they will be involved in the same international cultural exchange program.

Petition Document Requirements

A U.S. employer or foreign employer may file the I-129 Q-1 petition; however, a foreign employer's petition must be signed by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident employed by the qualified employer on a permanent basis in an executive, managerial, or supervisory capacity for the prior year. The petition must be filed with evidence the employer:

  • Maintains an established international cultural exchange program. This may be demonstrated by submitting copies of catalogs, brochures or other types of material which illustrate that:
    • The cultural component of the program is designed to give an overview of the attitude, customs, history, heritage, philosophy, tradition and/or other cultural attributes of the participant's home country, and;
    • The program activities take place in a public setting where the sharing of culture can be achieved through direct interaction with the American public or a segment thereof.
  • Has designated a qualified employee to administer the program and serve as liaison with INS;
  • Will offer the alien wages and working conditions comparable to those accorded local domestic workers similarly employed; and
  • Has the financial ability to compensate the participant(s), as shown by a copy of the employer's most recent annual report, business income tax return or other form of certified accountant's report.

A petition for international cultural exchange is approved for a period of 15 months plus 30 days for departure at the end of the program. A new petition must be filed each time the qualified employer wishes to sponsor an exchange visitor, although it may replace or substitute a participant's name on a previously approved petition for the remainder of the program.

The beneficiary must be at least eighteen years of age, qualified to perform the service or labor, have the ability to effectively communicate about the culture of the person's country and, if previously a Q nonimmigrant, must have been outside the United States for the immediate prior year.