Cultural Exchange (Q-1) Visa
The "Q-1" visa is for certain international cultural exchange programs designed to provide practical training and employment, and sharing of the history, culture, and traditions of participants home country in the United States. The training/employment must be approved in advance by the office of the Department of Homeland Security, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on the basis of a petition, Form I-129Q filed by the U.S. sponsor.
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides two nonimmigrant visa categories for persons to participate in exchange visitor programs in the United States. The "J" visa is for educational and cultural exchange programs designated by the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, and the "Q" visa is for international cultural exchange programs designated by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
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The "Q" international cultural exchange program is for the purpose of providing practical training and employment, and the sharing of the history, culture, and traditions of the participant's home country in the United States.
"Q" exchange visitors will be paid by their employing sponsor at the same rate paid to local domestic workers similarly employed.
The "Q" exchange visitor must be at least 18 years old and be able to communicate effectively about the cultural attributes of his or her country. Participants in the "Q" program must have the designated sponsoring organization file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The employer, otherwise known as the sponsor, must be able to designate an employee within the organization who is qualified to serve as a liaison with USCIS and who will be able to administrate the participant's program. The employer must also demonstrate that it will provide the participant with comparable wages and working conditions to workers similarly employed within the geographic area. The employer must also demonstrate that the organization has the financial ability to pay the participant's wages. This can be demonstrated by providing the organization's financial documents such as the organization's annual report, most recent income tax return, or accountant report.
Port of Entry
Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The Bureau of Customs and Border Protection has authority to deny admission. Also, the period for which the bearer of an exchange visitor visa is authorized to remain in the United States is determined by the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, not the consular officer. At the port of entry, a Bureau of Customs and Border Protection official validates Form I-94, Record of Arrival-Departure, which notes the length of stay permitted.
Stay and Extensions
The Q alien is admitted in the United States for the duration of approved international cultural exchange program or fifteen months, whichever is shorter. Extension can be granted the alien who has not completed his fifteen months stay in the United States.