J-1 Visas for exchange visitors, trainees and interns
What is the Exchange Visitor (J-1) visa?
The J-1 visa is for foreign nationals who will visit the United States as exchange visitors under an
exchange visitor program accredited by the Department of State. Under a pre-approved Exchange
Visitor Program, the J-1 visa holders can receive training and participate in internships to develop their
careers. For trainees, the J-1 visa is valid for up to eighteen (18) months and for interns, the J-1 visa is
valid for up to twelve (12) months.
Trainee and intern visas under the J-1 category are available for all genuine students, scholars, trainees,
professors, teachers, research assistants, specialists or leaders in a specialized field of knowledge or skill.
The applicant for the J-1 status is the US-based organization which is the “host” organization or program
sponsor. Examples of host organizations are the American Field Service, the Rotary Club, or Youth for
How is the J-1 visa different from the H-3 trainee visa?
The H-3 visa includes a certification that the training program is not available in the home country of the
applicant. The J-1 visa is primarily for cultural exchange through exposure to American technology,
methods and techniques. The H-3 visa training must be in an academic institution, but the J-1 visa is a
work-based training. A US Company or business may apply for recognition as an H-3 training provider. A
host organization must apply at the Department of State for accreditation and approval as a J-1 training
The H-3 visa is only for those who have an academic or vocational degree, certificate or diploma. The J-1
visa may be obtained by a person who may not have an academic degree, certificate or diploma but may
have the equivalent in work experience.
Who is considered an “intern” or “trainee” for the purposes of the J-1 visa?
An intern is a foreign national who is currently enrolled full-time and actively pursuing studies under a
degree or certificate program in a college or university outside the US; an intern may also be a student
who has recently graduated from college or university with a degree or a certificate having been issued
twelve months before beginning the exchange visitor program. The intern must be willing to participate
in a structured and work-based program in the specific academic field where he or she has obtained a
degree, a certificate or a diploma.
A trainee is a foreign national who has a degree or professional certificate from a foreign college or
university and has had at least twelve months’ related employment experience outside the US or, if the
person has no degree from a foreign college or university, the person has had five years’ work
experience outside the US in the occupation he or she wishes to train in prior to applying for the intern
or trainee visa.
If I am granted a J-1 visa, can I bring my spouse and children?
Yes, principal J-1 visa holders may bring along their spouse and their children. The children will be
allowed to study, and the spouses will be eligible to work once they obtain an employment
authorization. The only limitation is that the spouses who work must not work to support the principal
What kind of training programs are eligible under the J-1 visa?
The training program must be one that allows an increase in mutual cultural understanding between the
US and the country of the J-1 applicant. It must bridge the gap between theoretical or academic learning
and practical work experience. It must be a true learning experience that is integral to the education of
the intern or trainee.
What kinds of work-related training are not eligible under the J-1 visa?
The internship or training cannot involve unskilled labor. It cannot involve child care or elderly care or
any work that includes providing therapy, medication or medical care. It cannot involve any work
involving physical therapy, psychological counseling, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, social work,
speech therapy or early childhood education. The training program cannot include clerical work or
routine administrative work.
The work-based training program must be full-time, that is, for at least 32 hours each week. And the
training must last for a minimum of 3 weeks but must not be longer than 23 months. However, the
work-based training or internship must not provide regular employment, nor must it be used to fill full-
time or part-time positions in the US host organization that can be occupied by US workers.
The training program must develop new or advanced skills in an occupational field. The development of
new or advanced skills is through the exposure of the trainees to American techniques, methods and
technology. It must also enhance an understanding of American culture and society.
What documents should be prepared and presented by the host organization?
Technically, the host organizations apply for the J-1 trainee visas. The host organization will submit a
Form DS-2019 and provide the description of the US training program or internship. They must certify
that the training and internship is appropriate and consistent with the objectives of the internship or
training program detailed in the J-1 program application and description.
They must certify that the trainees and interns have been selected, placed, oriented, supervised and
evaluated. They must undertake to assist the trainees by providing facilitators, counselors and
information resources. They must certify that they have adequate resources, equipment and trained
personnel to provide the training, and that their personnel are experienced and knowledgeable.
They must specify the number of hours of classroom training, seminars, rotation through different
departments, on-the- job training, conferences and other learning activities. The host organization also
undertakes to enroll the exchange visitors in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System
What documents should the intern or trained prepare and present?
The trainee or intern must present copies of their foreign national’s diploma or transcript from a foreign
university. They can present proof their enrolment in a foreign university and copies of their resume.
There must be proof of health insurance coverage, a letter of offer of training or internship.
In case the intern or trainee is not enrolled at a college or university or does not possess a degree,
certificate or diploma, they must provide proof and confirmation of their past work experience in a
specific field. They must present certificates of past employment from past foreign employers. The
employer of the intern or trainee must provide basic information about their company including the
post occupied by the intern or trainee, the salary and a description of his duties.
The trainee or intern must also present other documents that prove their non-immigrant intent. That is,
that at the end of their training or internship, they will depart the US, return to their home countries
and share the knowledge and training they received there.
They must also present documents that prove that they have sufficient funds to cover the expenses for
the training program such as expenses for transportation, room, board and living expenses. If a stipend
will be provided by the host organization, this must be clearly stated in the application.
Not sure if you should apply for a J-1 or an H-3 visa? Not sure if the training you propose to obtain in
the US falls under either category? Do you need immigration advice or legal assistance? Call our friendly
and experienced immigration lawyers at Lluis Law today.