Companies that maintain an established international cultural exchange program are eligible to utilize the Q visa. This visa allows a foreign applicant to live and work or train in the United States for up to fifteen months. (Qualified applicants from Ireland and the United Kingdom may obtain a two month period of stay.)
How does a company qualify as an international cultural program?
Not every company with a cultural component is eligible to sponsor workers under the Q visa program. All of the following criteria must be met and fully documented:
- The culture sharing must take place in a school, museum, business, etc., where the public, or a segment of the public sharing a common cultural interest, is exposed to aspects of a foreign culture as part of a structured program. Activities which take place in a private home or an isolated business setting to which the public does not have direct access do not qualify.
- The program must have a cultural component which is an essential and integral part of the participant's employment or training.
- The program must be designed, on the whole, to exhibit or explain the attitude, customs, history, heritage, philosophy, traditions, and/or other cultural attributes (arts, literature, language) of the alien's country of nationality.
- Structured instructional activities, such as courses or lecture series, addressing the above subjects, are deemed acceptable cultural components.
- The participant's employment or training in the United States may not be independent of the cultural component of the international cultural exchange program. Instead the applicant is, as DHS phrases it, the "vehicle" used to achieve the program's cultural objectives. The sharing of the culture of the Q nonimmigrant's country of nationality must result from his or her employment.
How does an Employer qualify for Q Visa sponsorship?
The petitioning employer can be a US or foreign entity, corporation, non-profit or private company. In order to qualify, they must be able to demonstrate the following:
- Maintains an established cultural exchange program (as defined above)
- Has designated a qualified employee to administer the program and to liaise with DHS
- Is actively doing business in the United States
- Will offer the Q visa applicant comparable wage and working conditions to those similarly employed
- Has the financial ability to remunerate the applicant
How does an applicant qualify for Q Visa sponsorship?
The applicant's primary goal must be to share the history, culture and traditions of his or her home country, through work or training at the company. He or she must show non-immigrant intent, i.e. the intent to return to their home country at the termination of their Q status. Additionally, it is wise to show prior educational or work experience which demonstrates that the applicant is a good fit for the work or training program in question.