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The Q-1 Visa Cultural Exchange Program: Application and Eligibility

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By: Tigran Kirakosyan

The Immigration Act of 1990 established the Q-1 nonimmigrant visa. This cultural exchange visa is designed to allow foreign nationals to share their country’s history, culture, language and traditions with Americans. Employers may to apply for a Q-1 visa for certain eligible employees.

The Purpose of the Q-1 Visa

Congress created the Q-1 visa so that people who know their country’s culture can introduce it to the American public. The Q-1 visa allows visa holders to temporarily work in language centers, amusement parks, museums, historical centers, and other work locations.

How Employers Apply for Q-1 Visas

Employers must petition US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to obtain Q-1 visas for foreign employees.

Employers must demonstrate that:

  • They actively do business in the US

  • They have a cultural exchange project for the requested stay period

  • They can finance the project

  • Employee’s working conditions and wages are like domestic employees

  • employer-designated

  • The supervisor manages the employee directly

  • A work location is open to the American public

  • Employee’s main responsibility is to present their country’s culture

Under the Q-1 visa, foreign employees can remain in the US for 15 months. They must leave the US at the end of that period, unless their employer petitions USCIS to move them to a new project.

Employee Eligibility for Q-1 Visas

To be eligible for a Q-1 visa, foreign nationals must meet all the following criteria:

  • Be at least 18 years old

  • Have foreign residence with no intention to abandon it

  • Be able to effectively communicate their country’s culture to the American public

  • Continually work on the cultural exchange project throughout their stay in the US

Q-1 visa holders can apply for a change of status and remain in the US on a different visa after their project is complete. If they leave the US instead, these employees must spend a year outside the country before they can re-enter on a new Q-1 visa.


Q-1 visas are a little-known sponsorship option for cultural exchange positions. Contact our experienced team of attorneys for help filing a Q-1 visa, or any related questions.

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