9 FAM 402.15
(U) International cultural exchange participants – Q Visas
(Office of Origin: CA/VO)
9 FAM 402.15-1 (U) Statutory and Regulatory Authorities
9 FAM 402.15-1(A) (U) Immigration and Nationality Act
INA 101(a)(15)(Q) (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(15)(Q).
9 FAM 402.15-1(B) (U) Code of Federal Regulations
8 CFR 214.2(q); 22 CFR 41.57.
9 FAM 402.15-2 (U) Overview
(U) The Q visa classification was created at INA 101(a)(15)(Q) by section 208 of the Immigration Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-649 of November 29, 1990) specifically for participants in international cultural exchange programs. The Secretary of Homeland Security was granted authority to approve cultural exchange programs to provide practical training, employment, and the sharing of the history, culture, and traditions of the applicant participant’s country of nationality. A Q applicant must be the beneficiary of a petition approved by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) prior to visa issuance.
9 FAM 402.15-3 (U) Classification Symbols
(U) 22 CFR 41.12 identifies the following Q visa classification symbols for international exchange visitors in accordance with INA 101(a)(15)(Q):
Participant in an International Cultural Exchange Program
9 FAM 402.15-4 (U) Requirements for Q Classification
(U) The four main elements for qualifying for Q nonimmigrant status are an:
(1) (U) Eligible Petitioner (see 9 FAM 402.15-5 below);
(2) (U) Approved International Cultural Exchange Program (see 9 FAM 402.15-6) below);
(3) (U) Eligible participant (see 9 FAM 402.15-7 below); and
(4) Approved petition (see 9 FAM 402.15-8 below).
9 FAM 402.15-5 (U) Eligibility of Petitioner
a. (U) The petitioner must be either a qualified employer or its designated agent.
b. (U) Qualified employer: A qualified employer is a U.S. or foreign firm, corporation, non-profit organization, or other legal entity including its U.S. branches, subsidiaries, affiliates, and franchises, which administers a designated international cultural exchange program. To establish eligibility as a qualified employer, an employer must:
(1) (U) Have the ability to maintain an established international cultural exchange program;
(2) (U) Have designated a qualified employee as a representative responsible for administering the program and serving as liaison with DHS;
(3) (U) Currently be doing business (i.e., the regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods and/or services, including lectures, seminars, and other types of cultural programs) in the United States (the employer must therefore have employees and not merely be an agent or office.) See 8 CFR 214.2(q)(1);
(4) (U) Certify that the participant wages and working conditions are comparable to those accorded local domestic workers similarly employed; and
(5) (U) Must have the financial ability to remunerate the participant.
c. (U) Designated Agent: To qualify as a petitioner, a designated agent of the qualified employer must be:
(1) (U) Employed by the qualified employer on a permanent basis in an executive or managerial capacity; and
(2) (U) A U.S. citizen, a legal permanent resident, or an individual provided temporary residence under INA 210 or INA 245A. See 8 CFR 214.2(q)(1).
9 FAM 402.15-6 (U) approved International Cultural Exchange Program
(U) The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designates an international cultural exchange program through the Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, process. (See 9 FAM 402.15-8 below.) The program must meet the following requirements:
(1) (U) The culture sharing must take place in a school, museum, business, or other establishment 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;
(2) (U) The program must have a cultural component which is an essential and integral part of the participant’s employment or training. It must be designed, overall, to exhibit or explain the attitude, customs, history, heritage, philosophy, traditions, and/or other cultural attributes (arts, literature, language) of the applicant’s country of nationality. Structured instructional activities, such as courses or lecture series, addressing the above subjects, are deemed acceptable cultural components; and
(3) (U) The applicant’s employment or training in the United States may not be independent of the cultural component of the international cultural exchange program. It must serve as the vehicle to achieve the objectives of the cultural component of the program. The sharing of the culture of the Q nonimmigrant’s country of nationality must result from his or her employment or training with the qualified employer in the United States.
9 FAM 402.15-7 (U) Eligibility of Participants
a. (U) Participant Requirements: Participants in Q cultural exchange programs must meet the following requirements:
(1) (U) The applicant must be at least 18 years of age at the time the petition is filed;
(2) (U) The applicant must be qualified to perform the service or labor or receive the training stated in the petition;
(3) (U) The applicant must have the ability to communicate effectively about the cultural attributes of his or her country of nationality with the American public; and
(4) (U) If the applicant has previously spent 15 months in the United States as a Q nonimmigrant, then he or she must have resided and been physically present outside the United States for the immediate prior year. (See 9 FAM 402.15-12 below.)
b. (U) Country of Applicant’s Nationality: The country of nationality is the country of which the applicant was a national at the time he or she applied for status as an international cultural exchange visitor.
9 FAM 402.15-8 (U) DHS Petition Adjudications
9 FAM 402.15-8(A) (U) DHS Responsible for Adjudicating Q Petitions
a. (U) By mandating a preliminary petition, Congress placed responsibility and authority with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to determine whether the foreign international cultural exchange visitor meets the required qualifications for Q status.
b. (U) You generally must not request the Department to provide status reports on petitions filed with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), nor must you contact DHS directly for such reports. As an alternative, you may suggest that the applicant communicate with his or her petitioner. You should email VO/F if you receive a case with public relations significance.
9 FAM 402.15-8(B) (U) Same Petition Used for Approval of Program and for Participants
(U) A qualified employer or its designated agent must file a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, with the appropriate USCIS Service Center. This petition is filed for the dual purpose of obtaining approval of an international cultural exchange program and for conferring Q status on the program’s participants. The petition for Q nonimmigrants will be considered only if the employer’s concurrent petition for the approval of the international cultural exchange program is granted. After the approval of the initial petition, the qualified employer must file a new petition each time the employer wishes to bring in additional international cultural exchange visitors.
9 FAM 402.15-8(C) (U) Multiple Beneficiaries
(U) The petitioner may include more than one beneficiary on the petition. The petitioner must provide the date of birth, nationality, education, job title description for each beneficiary along with a certification that he or she can perform the work. See 8 CFR 212.2(q)(4). If an employer wishes to employ additional Q-1 beneficiaries other than those specified on the original petition, a new petition must be filed.
9 FAM 402.15-8(D) (U) Substituting Beneficiaries
a. (U) A qualified employer may replace or substitute participants on a previously approved petition for the remainder of the program. The substituting participant(s) must meet the qualification requirements described in 9 FAM 402.15-7 above.
b. (U) Substitution Requests for Participants Already in the United States: To be eligible for substitution through consular processing, the original worker must not have been admitted into the United States on their issued Q visa. In cases where the petitioner wishes to substitute a participant who was already admitted into the United States, they must file an amended I-129 petition with USCIS.
c. (U) Substitution Requests for Participants Who Have Not Entered the United States: To substitute a participant who has not been admitted into the United States, the petitioner must provide written notification to the consular section. This notification must name the participants being replaced and state the name, date of birth, country of nationality, level of education, and position title of each prospective participant and must certify that he or she is qualified to fill the position described in the approved petition. The petitioner must also indicate the beneficiary's wages and certify that the beneficiary is being offered prevailing wages and working conditions.
d. (U) If the request to substitute one participant for another is approved, you must both revoke the issued visa in the NIV system and physically cancel the visa foil of the substituted participant. This will ensure that the total number of beneficiaries issued under the approved I-129 will not exceed the maximum number approved by USCIS.
e. (U) In cases where a participant who was issued a Q visa was subsequently denied admission into the United States in Q status, the petitioner may substitute another participant for that participant per the guidance listed above (paragraphs c and d), if the replacement participant is not already in the United States.
9 FAM 402.15-8(E) (U) Services in More Than One Location
(U) The beneficiary may engage in employment or training in different locations for the same employer. In such a case, the petition must include an itinerary with the dates and locations of the services, labor, or training to be performed.
9 FAM 402.15-8(F) (U) Services for More Than One Employer
(U) The employee may provide services or labor for, or receive training from, more than one employer. Each employer must file a separate petition with the jurisdictional USCIS Service Center. An individual may work or train part-time for multiple employers provided that each employer has an approved petition for the individual. For the issuance of a single visa to the beneficiary of more than one Q petition see 9 FAM 402.15-10(E) below.
9 FAM 402.15-8(G) (U) Change of Employers
(U) If a Q nonimmigrant in the United States seeks to change employers, the new employer must file a petition. The total period the Q nonimmigrant may stay in the United States remains limited to 15 months. (See 9 FAM 402.15-9 below.)
9 FAM 402.15-9 (U) Validity of Approved Petition and Length of Stay
a. (U) Petition Validity: An approved petition for a beneficiary classified under INA 101(a)(15)(Q) is valid for the length of the approved program or for 15 months, whichever is shorter.
b. (U) Length of Stay: A beneficiary may be admitted to the United States during the validity period of the petition. The beneficiary’s total period of stay in the United States in Q-1 visa status may not exceed 15 months.
c. (U) Extension of Stay: The authorized stay of an individual in Q status may be extended by DHS, up to the 15-month limit. However, a new petition must be filed and approved for each extension.
9 FAM 402.15-10 (U) Issuing Q Visas
9 FAM 402.15-10(A) (U) Residence Abroad
(U) A Q nonimmigrant must establish to your satisfaction that he or she has a residence outside the United States which he or she has no intention of abandoning. Q visa applicants are subject to INA 214(b).
9 FAM 402.15-10(B) (U) Verifying Petition Approval
a. (U) The Petition Information Management Service (PIMS) or the Person Centric Query Service (PCQS) are the resources available to you to confirm that a petition has been approved. Posts may use an approved Form I-129 or Form I-797 presented by the applicant at post as sufficient proof to schedule a visa interview or may schedule an interview based on the applicant’s confirmation that the petition has been approved, but an L visa must not be issued to a potentially eligible applicant unless the petition is approved in PIMS or PCQS.
c. (U) If PIMS does not contain the petition approval, post can check PCQS (found in the CCD under the Other Agencies/Bureaus tab) for confirmation that USCIS has approved the petition before sending an email to KCC to confirm that such petition has been approved and is in PIMS. In PCQS, under Search Criteria, select Receipt Number; then enter the number from the Form I-797; e.g., EAC1234567890. Select Receipt Number in the search type and select CLAIMS 3 as the system. Navigate to the CLAIMS 3 record and confirm USCIS approved the petition along with the validity dates. The presence of a CLAIMS 3 record alone is not indicative of its approval. If post finds a petition approval in PCQS that was not in PIMS, the post should send an email to PIMS@state.gov as follows: "Petition with Receipt Number EAC1234567890 was found in PCQS but not in PIMS." In the event the case is not available within two days, post should contact the KCCFPM@state.gov mailbox. You may not issue an L visa to an eligible applicant without verification of petition approval either through PIMS or PCQS.
d. (U) If you are unable to immediately locate information on a specific petition either through PIMS or PCQS, you must send an email to PIMS@state.gov. KCC will research approval of the petition and, if able to confirm its approval, will make the details available through the CCD within two working days. If the petition is not available prior to visa interview, you may submit requests to KCC no more than five working days prior to the scheduled interview date. You must check PIMS before submitting a request to PIMS@state.gov. KCC will check the USCIS CLAIMS database and will upload the CLAIMS report into PIMS so that you can proceed with the scheduled interview. You must conduct a PIMS query before sending in these special requests, to avoid overburdening KCC.
9 FAM 402.15-10(C) (U) Effect of an Approved Petition on Visa Adjudication
a. (U) An approved petition is prima facie evidence that the requirements for visa classification, which are examined by a USCIS adjudicator during the petition process, have been met. However, the approval of a petition by USCIS does not relieve the applicant of the burden of establishing visa eligibility. While most petitions are valid, you should confirm that the facts in the petition are true during the visa interview. Remember that USCIS interacts solely with the petitioner; the interview is the first point during the petition-based visa process where a USG representative can interact with the beneficiary of the petition. Additionally, you benefit from cultural and local knowledge that adjudicators at USCIS do not possess, making it easier to spot exaggerations or misrepresentation in qualifications.
b. (U) You must suspend action on an application and submit a report to the approving USCIS office via the Kentucky Consular Center (KCC) if you know or have reason to believe that an applicant applying for a visa under INA 101(a)(15)(Q) is not entitled to the classification as approved. For more information on returning a Q petition to USCIS for reconsideration and revocation see 9 FAM 601.13.
9 FAM 402.15-10(D) (U) Validity of Q Visas
a. (U) The validity of a Q visa may not exceed the period of validity of a petition approved to accord Q status. If the period of reciprocity shown in the reciprocity schedules is less than the validity period of the approved petition or extension of stay, reciprocity shall prevail.
b. (U) Posts are authorized to accept and issue visas to qualified applicants up to 90 days in advance of applicants’ beginning of status as noted on the Form I-797. Post must inform applicants verbally and in writing that they can only use the visa to apply for reentry to the United States starting ten days prior to the beginning of the approved status period noted on their Form I-797. In addition, such visas must be annotated, “Not valid until (ten days prior to the petition validity date).”
9 FAM 402.15-10(E) (U) Issuing Single Q Visa Based on More Than One Petition
(U) If the applicant is the beneficiary of two or more Q petitions and does not plan to depart from the United States between engagements, you may issue a single Q visa valid until the expiration date of the last expiring petition, reciprocity permitting. The required annotation from all petitions shall be placed on the visa (see 9 FAM 402.15-10(H) below).
9 FAM 402.15-10(F) (U) Limiting Q Visas
(U) You may restrict visa validity in some cases to less than the period of validity of the approved petition or authorized period of stay (for example, based on reciprocity or the terms of an order waiving a ground of ineligibility). In any such case, in addition to the annotations described in 9 FAM 402.15-10(H) below, you must insert the following:
"PETITION VALID TO (date)."
9 FAM 402.15-10(G) (U) Reissuing Q Visas
(U) When a Q visa is limited by reciprocity to a period of validity less than the validity of the petition or authorized period of stay, you may reissue the visa any number of times within the period allowable using the same still-valid petition. If an application or reciprocity fee is prescribed by the reciprocity schedule, posts must collect the fee for each reissuance of the Q visa.
9 FAM 402.15-10(H) (U) Annotating Q Visas
(U) You must annotate the number of the applicant’s approved petition on the visa, followed by the name and location of the applicant’s employer.
9 FAM 402.15-11 (U) Dependents of International Cultural Exchange Visitors are Classifiable B-2
(U) INA 101(a)(15)(Q) does not provide derivative status for the spouse and children of international cultural exchange visitors. Therefore, a spouse, child, or other applicant who wishes to accompany or follow to join a Q nonimmigrant must independently qualify for a different visa classification, such as B1/B2.
9 FAM 402.15-12 (U) Limitation on Readmission
a. (U) When a nonimmigrant has spent the maximum allowable period of stay in the United States in Q status, they may not be issued a visa or be readmitted to the United States under the Q visa classification, nor may a new petition, extension, or change of status be approved for them under INA 101(a)(15)(Q), unless the individual has resided and been physically present outside the United States for the immediate past year.
b. (U) Brief trips to the United States for business or pleasure do not interrupt the one-year period abroad, but do not count towards fulfillment of that requirement. Periods when the individual fails to maintain status will be counted towards the applicable limitation; an individual may not circumvent the limit by violating his or her status.
9 FAM 402.15-13 (U) Other Employment Restricted
(U) An individual in Q status may be employed only by the petitioner or petitioners through which he or she attained Q status. Employment outside the specific program described in the approved petition(s) is in violation of the individual’s Q nonimmigrant status.