Trainee Visa


The J-1 and H-3 visas for training programs are sometimes overlooked by companies seeking international talent, though they can serve a valuable purpose for building up an overseas or international operation. The attorneys at Palm Global have worked with international companies to provide U.S. training to foreign students, recent graduates, and blossoming professionals to then use at a branch, subsidiary, or affiliate overseas.

The “J-1” Visa for Trainees & Interns

The J-1 visa for exchange visitors is expansive and covers several groups of foreign nationals, including trainees and interns. Like all other J-1 categories, these individuals must be fluent in English, have sufficient funding for the program, possess medical insurance, and maintain a residence abroad.

To qualify as a J-1 Intern, the foreign national must be enrolled in a college-level institution outside the United States (or have graduated within the past year). J-1 Trainees, on the other hand, already possess their college degree and have at least 1 year of work experience. In either case, the proposed internship or training program in the U.S. must be directly related to the foreign national’s field of study. If an internship, the maximum stay is 12 months. J-1 Trainees can be admitted for a maximum of 18 months but must remain outside the U.S. for 2 years between training programs.

Occupational categories that will qualify for an internship or training program are limited to: (1) agriculture, forestry, and fishing; (2) arts and culture; (3) construction and building trades; (4) education, social sciences, library science, counseling, and social services; (5) health-related occupations; (6) hospitality and tourism; (7) information media and communications; (8) management, business, commerce, and finance; (9) public administration and law; and (10) the sciences, engineering, architecture, mathematics, and industrial occupations. 

The “H-3” Trainee Visa

The H-3 visa classification is intended for trainees and foreign nationals engaged in special education exchange programs. The H-3 Trainee visa is granted to individuals coming to the United States to receive training in any endeavor (other than medical) that is otherwise unavailable in the home country. H-3 Trainees are subject to a two-year maximum stay. Like the J-1 visa for interns, the H-3 is not intended as a vehicle for extended employment in the United States – it is to provide training for employment the beneficiary will take upon returning home.

Consequently, an H-3 petition must be accompanied with evidence that the proposed training program is not available in the trainee’s home country, that the trainee will not fill a position usually filled by a U.S. worker, and that the training program will not constitute productive employment unless incidental and necessary to the training program. Each H-3 petition must contain a detailed statement from the employer that expressly defines the particulars of the training program and the subsequent career advancement expected overseas.

An H-3 Special Education Exchange Visitor program is specifically for individuals receiving practical training and experience in the education of children with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. These petitions must contain similar supporting evidence for the training program, with the additional requirement that the trainee have formal education in special education. Only fifty of these special H-3 visas are available each year and they come with a maximum stay of eighteen months.

H-3 visa holders may bring their spouses and children under twenty-one through the H-4 visa classification. These dependents are not permitted to work in the United States.