A Q-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa designed to enable foreign nationals to participate in an international cultural exchange program. Its aim is to allow foreign aliens to enter the U.S. and share their history, culture and traditions. The purpose of this visa for applicants is practical training and employment. Some immigrants who successfully complete an international cultural exchange program in the U.S. eventually go on to apply for immigrant category visas. There are relatively few Q visas awarded, with an average of just 2,000 visas issued per year throughout the 2015–2019 period. Applicants need to ensure they have the right support to increase their chances of receiving a visa.
Q Visa Overview
There are actually two separate nonimmigrant visa categories available for persons who wish to participate in exchange programs in the U.S. The J visa applies to people who are participating in exchange programs designated by the Department of State. The Q visa, on the other hand, is aimed at programs approved by the Secretary of Homeland Security.
Only qualified employers administering cultural exchange programs, or designated agents, are able to petition for a visa for qualifying Q nonimmigrants. Programs must be employment-orientated and come with an essential cultural element.
The length of a Q visa will be either the defined length of the cultural exchange program or 15 months (whichever period is shorter). It is not permitted to apply for a green card or other immigrant visa during this time because nonimmigrant visas require all applicants to pledge to return to their home countries upon completion of their respective programs.
How To Apply For A Q Visa
The applicant for a Q visa must be part of a program that meets the eligibility criteria set out for a Q visa. Additionally, all applicants must be at least 18 years old, qualified to perform the training/service/labor required and be able to communicate the cultural attributes of the applicant’s home country. Employers petitioning for a Q visa are strongly advised to enlist the help of an experienced immigration attorney to support them throughout the process.
Complete A Petition With Form I-129
A qualifying employer, or their designated agent, must file Form I-129 with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The form requires that the position is clearly and accurately defined. Additional documentation proving that the employer is maintaining an established cultural exchange program must be provided.
Examples of acceptable additional documentation include brochures, copies of the curriculum and anything that exudes the cultural benefits of the program. An immigration attorney will be able to support employers in this regard. Finally, the employer must submit evidence that the activities of the program are taking place in an establishment where the general public, or a segment of the public, are able to benefit from exposure to the culture of the foreign applicant.
This may include a museum, business or school. Employers are also required to submit evidence that they are actively doing business in the U.S. and can support the applicant with appropriate wages and working conditions. Again, an immigration attorney will be able to advise on what is considered to be appropriate evidence.
Apply For The Visa At A U.S. Embassy
Once the petition has been filed, the USCIS will determine whether the petition has been successful. If the petition has been successful, the applicant is invited to apply for a Q-1 nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate post.
Applicants will need to file Form DS-160. This form will request personal information, background checks and an outline of the purpose of the applicant’s visit. The visa application fee for a Q-1 nonimmigrant visa is $190, as of this writing. This fee should be paid alongside the filing of Form DS-160. Finally, all applicants will be required to schedule an interview at their nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
Wait To Receive Your Q Visa
The average processing time for a Q-1 visa application is 15 days to three months. It depends entirely on the current workload of the U.S. embassy in question. This period may be longer depending on how long it takes for applicants to schedule their interview. If the waiting time exceeds the three-month mark, the applicant is entitled to contact the embassy for an update on their application.
Reach Out To An Experienced Immigration Attorney
There are so few Q visas awarded per year because the USCIS is extremely strict when it comes to the types of programs that qualify for this visa category. Employers who seek to make a Q visa petition should contact an experienced immigration attorney first. An immigration attorney from Pride Immigration will be able to guide you through the process and advise you on the right documentation to provide as part of your petition.
Applicants should also reach out to an immigration attorney for advice on what they need to do to increase the chances of their visa application being approved. Contact Pride Immigration to get started with the process of applying for a Q-1 nonimmigrant visa.
Beeraj Patel, Esq.
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