J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa – Trainees

1. Definition of J-1 Exchange Visitor Trainees. 22 C.F.R. § 62.4 (c).

A J-1 Exchange Trainee is an individual participating in a structured training program conducted by the selecting sponsor.

2. Purpose of J-1 Visitor Trainee Program. 22 C.F.R. § 62.22 (b).

The primary objective of this program is to enhance the exchange visitor’s skills in his or her occupation and to improve the participant’s knowledge of American techniques, methodologies, or expertise within the individual’s field of endeavor.

Programs are also designed to improve understanding of American culture and society and to enhance American knowledge of foreign cultures and skills through the interchange of ideas between the exchange visitor trainees and their American counterparts.

However, the Exchange Visitor Program cannot be used for ordinary employment or work purposes. For this reason the regulations in this section are designed to distinguish between receiving training, which is permitted, and gaining experience, which is not permitted unless as a component of a bona fide training program.

3. J-1 Visitor Trainee Program Categories. 22 C.F.R. § 62.22 (c).

Training programs are available only in “specialty” and “non-specialty” occupations as designated by the Department of State. J-1 Visitor Trainee programs are not available for “unskilled” occupations.

Trainee programs may be offered in the following occupational categories:

  • Arts and Culture;
  • Information Media and Communications;
  • Education, Social Sciences, Library Science, Counseling and Social Services;
  • Management, Business, Commerce and Finance;
  • Health Related Occupations;
  • Aviation;
  • The Sciences, Engineering, Architecture, Mathematics, and Industrial Occupations;
  • Construction and Building Trades;
  • Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing;
  • Public Administration and Law.

4. Selection of J-1 Visitor Trainees. 22 C.F.R. § 62.22 (j).

J-1 trainees must be fully qualified to participate successfully in the selected training program at a level appropriate for the individual trainee’s career development.

Trainees cannot participate in any J-1 Training Program that would consist of training that is duplicative of the trainee’s prior training and experience.

5. Duration of J-1 Visitor Trainee Status. 22 C.F.R. § 62.22 (k).

The duration of a J-1 Visitor Trainee’s participation in a trainee program will correspond to the length of the sponsor’s program. However, the maximum period of participation in an Exchange Visitor Program for a trainee must not exceed a total of 18 months.

6. J-1 Training Program Sponsor Obligations. 22 C.F.R. § 62.22 (d).

Sponsors of J-1 Exchange Visitor Trainee programs must:

  • Ensure that trainers are competent in the programs offered to each exchange visitor;
  • Ensure that J-1 trainees are properly trained through a structured program of activities, which may include, classroom training, seminars, rotation through several departments, on-the-job training, and attendance at conferences;
  • Develop, prior to the start of training, a detailed training plan geared to defined objectives for each trainee or group of similarly-situated trainees;
  • Ensure the constant supervision and periodic evaluation of each trainee; and
  • Ensure that sufficient plant, equipment, and trained personnel are available to provide the training specified.

J-1 Exchange Visitor Program Sponsors may not:

  • Provide training in unskilled occupations; or
  • Place J-1 trainees in positions which are filled or would be filled by full-time or part-time employees.
  • Use the training program to recruit and train foreign workers for employment in the United States.

7. Third-Party Arrangements with Program Sponsors. 22 C.F.R. § 62.22 (e).

A J-1 Sponsor may utilize the services of a third party in the conduct of its training program. If a third party is utilized, the J-1 Sponsor and the third party must execute a written agreement that outlines the respective obligations and duties of the parties. This agreement must also specifically state that the third party must act in accordance with the regulations governing J-1 Exchange Visitor Program Sponsors. The J-1 Sponsor must ensure that the third party complies with these regulations. If not, the J-1 Sponsor can be liable for any failure on the part of the third party to comply.

8. Alternative Options for Foreign Trainees

The J-1 Exchange Visitor Trainee category should be compared to the H-3 category of temporary workers. Other categories that should be considered for temporary trainees include the B-1 Business Visitor Visa , the F-1 Student Visa, the M-1 Vocational Student Visa, and the Q Cultural Visitor Visa.