J-1 Trainee Visa And J-1 Intern Visa:

How Can You Benefit From J-1 Program?


The J-1 visa category encompasses a wide range of foreign national exchange visitors, including, but not limited to, trainees, interns, teachers, professors and research scholars, au pairs and foreign medical graduates who are coming temporarily to the U.S. as a participant in a designated exchange program for a certain specific purpose.

Two very popular J-1 programs include the J-1 Trainee program and the J-1 Intern program.

Training Programs and Internships are allowed in the following occupational categories.

  • Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing;
  • Arts and Culture;
  • Construction and Building Trades;
  • Education, Social Sciences, Library Science, Counseling and Social Services;
  • Health Related Occupations;
  • Hospitality and Tourism;
  • Information Media and Communications;
  • Management, Business, Commerce and Finance;
  • Public Administration and Law; and
  • The Sciences, Engineering, Architecture, Mathematics and Industrial Occupations.
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A. The J-1 Trainee Program

The J-1 Trainee program allows participants to stay in the U.S. for up to 18 months, giving them the opportunity to enhance their skills in their chosen career field through participation in international internships and professional training opportunities. The J-1 Trainee Program is intended to benefit professionals who wish to gain knowledge about American techniques, methodologies, or expertise within their field of endeavor.

Training programs can range anywhere from a few months up to 1 year.  However, a Training Program designated as a “Management” Training may be up to 18 months in length.

1. J-1 Trainee Visa Eligibility

In order to be eligible to seek a J-1 Trainee Visa, the following important conditions, among others, must be satisfied:

a.The foreign national must have at least a 2-year degree or professional certificate from a post-secondary institution with at least one year of experience in the desired occupational field (both the degree and experience must be obtained from outside the U.S.) OR

The foreign national must have five years of experience, outside the U.S., in the desired occupational field;

b.The foreign national must be able to show proficiency in the English language.


While immigration regulations determine the minimum requirements for the J-1 Trainee & Internship programs, the Department of State has given the Program Sponsors significant leeway in determining how they will evaluate and administer the program.

For example, in determining English proficiency, some program sponsors simply determine proficiency through the interview, while others have the applicant take an online Test or will accept the results of standard English proficiency tests.

Program Sponsors are also permitted to add reasonable restrictions and or rules in order to use their services. For example, individual Program Sponsors may have a standard minimum age or age limitations (no less than 20 years old and no more than 35 years old.

2. Restrictions on The J-1 Trainee Program

There are certain restrictions for those participating in the J-1 Trainee Program. A J-1 visa trainee is prohibited from:

a.Having any direct patient care or contact;

b.Being involved in child- or eldercare;

c.Working in unskilled jobs;

d.Performing more than 20% clerical or office support work;

e.Working in positions that would normally replace a full-time or part-time employee.

Additionally, once a participant has completed a Trainee program, the participant is barred from participating in the J-1 Trainee program for at least 24 months.

NOTE: If eligible, the J-1 trainee would not be barred from later participating as a J-1 Intern.

The J-1 Trainee Program may be a viable alternative for F-1 OPT holders who have missed the H-1B Cap.

If the F-1 student and employer can show that the applicant will be involved in a bona fide training program and will be not be replacing a U.S. worker, that the training will be distinct from any training or work experience gained while on OPT and that the applicant is otherwise eligible (has a degree and/or work experience from abroad), then the F-1 Trainee Visa may be a great option

C. The J-1 Intern Visa

Through the J-1 Intern program, current foreign college/university students or recent graduates can stay in the U.S. for up to 12 months, giving them the opportunity to receive real-world entry-level experience while at the same time gaining exposure to U.S. culture.

1. J-1 Intern Visa Eligibility

In order to be eligible to seek a J-1 Intern visa , the following important conditions, among others, must be satisfied:

a.The foreign national must be currently enrolled in a post-secondary degree or certificate-granting academic institution outside the U.S. OR

The foreign national must have graduated from such an institution within 12 months of the program start date; and

b.The foreign national must be able to show proficiency in the English language.

J-1 Trainee or Intern participants can extend their stay in the U.S. up to the maximum allowable time.

For example: Paul is a J-1 Trainee who has been in the U.S. for 4 months. His program will end in 2 months. The Host Company has offered to extend his training for 6 months. If Paul and the Host Company submit another DS-7002 to the Program Sponsor and can show that the additional training period will be distinct from the initial training period, they can extend the DS-2019 for 6 months up to the allowable 12 months. If the remaining training can be classified as “Management Training”, it can be extended up to the maximum 18 months.

2. Restrictions on The J-1 Intern Visa

There are certain restrictions on the J-1 visa for internship. A J-1 intern is prohibited from:

a.Having any direct patient care or contact;

b.Being involved in child- or eldercare;

c.Working in unskilled jobs;

d.Performing more than 20% clerical or office support work.

For example: Gianna is a college graduate and is currently a J-1 Intern. Her J-1 internship will end in a few weeks. She would like to do another internship in the U.S., which is easily distinguishable from the first internship. If the start date for the 2nd internship is within 1 year of her graduation date, she is still eligible for the J-1 Intern Visa Program.

Once a participant has completed an Intern program, the individual is barred from participating in a J-1 Trainee program for at least 12 months.  However, the Intern can participate in an additional J-1 Intern program as long as he or she still qualifies.

The 2nd internship period should be clearly distinguishable from the 1st period.

D. The J-1 Application Process

Unlike the vast majority of other visa categories, to qualify for the J-1 Trainee or Intern visa, the foreign national exchange participant must be sponsored by an approved Program Sponsor. The Program Sponsor is generally not the entity for whom the Trainee or Intern will be working for—that is the “host company”.

Most J-1 Applicants are offered a training position in the U.S. by a Host Company first. After being offered a Training or Intern position, potential J-1 Visa Program participants must.

a.Find a suitable Program Sponsor – Program sponsors are public or private entities designated to act as exchange “sponsors” by the Department of State facilitate the entry of foreign nationals into the U.S. as exchange visitors. These sponsors are charged with screening and selecting exchange program participants and their hosts and monitoring the participants’ stay in the U.S. as well as ensuring that they are maintaining status.

They supervise the J-1 visa application process and are the main point of contact throughout the exchange program process. The participants are placed or work at “host” institutions. Some Program Sponsors can also assist foreign nationals in finding a Host Company in the U.S.

b.Follow the Application procedure as outlined by the Program Sponsor – Each Program Sponsor has created its own application process whereby they can collect the required information from both the participant and the “Host Company.”

c.All Host Companies must submit a DS-7002 Training Plan to the Program Sponsor. The Training Plan outlines the details of the proscribed training plan, laying out the overall goals of the training program as well identifying who will be supervising and mentoring the Trainee or Intern.

d.Obtain the DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility, from the Program Sponsor. Once a Program Sponsor decides to approve the applicant, they must issue a DS-2019 which contains the applicant’s SEVIS Number and information about the Training or Internship.

e.Apply for the J-1 visa at a U.S. Consulate. Prospective participants must apply for the J-1 Visa at a US Consulate.  In addition to providing the DS-2019, the applicant must show that he or she is eligible for a J-1 visa.

NOTE: Applicants in the U.S. in valid status are allowed to file a Form I-539, Application to Change Status, to change their status to J-1.  This route is strongly not recommended by Program Sponsors because of significant delays in I-539 processing.


a.Administrative Fees: Program Sponsors will charge a fee to process its application and issue the DS-2019.

b.Government/Filing Fees:

i.SEVIS Fee: Participants must pay the I-901 Fee or the “FMJ” Fee before the consular interview.

ii.Visa Fees – All visa applicants are required to pay the Visa Fee before the interview.

If the applicant is in the U.S. and files a Change of Status application, the applicant must pay the relevant I-539 filing fee.

E. J-1 Home Residency Requirement

Under certain prescribed conditions, foreign nationals entering the U.S. on a J-1 visa program will be subject to a two-year home-country physical presence requirement, commonly known as the “J-1 Home Residency Requirement”. What this means is that the foreign national will be required to return to their home country at the end of their exchange visitor program and stay there for at least two years before they can obtain certain types of nonimmigrant visas (H, L or K) or legal permanent residency in the U.S.  A Trainee or Intern will be subject to the J-1 Home Residency Requirement.

  1. The J-1 visa holder’s expenses or the program itself is funded in whole or part by the U.S. government or the government of the applicant’s country.
  2. The relevant Occupational Code for the Participant’s Training or Internship is listed in the Exchange Visitor Skills List.

The J-1 Home Residency Requirement does not prevent the participant from obtaining another J-1 visa, an F-1 visa, or other types of employment visas including the O-1, E-3 visa, E-1/E-2 visas and several other nonimmigrant visa types. It does, however, prevent these individuals from applying for a change of status to any nonimmigrant visa category in the U.S.

A waiver of the J-1 Home Residency Requirement is available in certain circumstances.

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F. Dependents of the J-1 Visa Holder

The spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age of a J-1 visa holder are entitled to J-2 visa classification.

The spouse J-2 visa holder may obtain work authorization and engage in productive employment after obtaining the appropriate from USCIS. However, the J-2 spouse must show that his or her income is not being used to support the principal J-1 foreign national.

Note: If the J-1 visa holder is subject to the J-1 Home Residency Requirement, the J-2 visa holder(s) will also be subject.  The J-2 visa holder will continue to be subject to the requirement unless and until the J-1 holder obtains a waiver or completes the requirement.


The J-1 Visa for Trainees and Interns offers an amazing pathway for professionals and recent graduates to obtain exposure to a professional environment and real-world experience while at the same time being exposed to all the great things American culture has to offer.

If you have any questions regarding the J-1 visa for Trainees or Interns, contact our experienced immigration attorneys immediately for a FREE Immigration Consultation.

We’ll analyze your specific situation and recommend the most effective strategy based on our attorneys’ near 100% success rates.

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