J-1 trainee visa: Q&A

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What is the purpose of the J-1 trainee visa?

The purpose of the J-1 trainee visa is to enhance the skills and expertise of J-1 trainees in their particular academic or occupational fields, to improve their knowledge of particular U.S. techniques/methodologies, and to increase their understanding of U.S. society and culture.

Can I participate in the J-1 trainee program?

You can participate in the J-1 trainee program if:

  • You have a degree (or professional certificate) from a foreign post-secondary institution and at least one year of prior related work experience in the particular field, or
  • You have 5 years of experience outside the U.S. in a particular occupational field.

Please note that your education and/or work experience must be from a foreign country.

What level of English do I have to speak to qualify for the J-1 intern visa?

Your level of English must be such that you may function at the training on a day-to-day basis. The sponsoring agency will verify your English level skills (often by giving you an English test or conducting an in person interview in English).

Does my training plan have to be full-time?

Yes. Your training plan must be full-time (at least 32 hours per week).

What does it mean that the program has to provide a bona fide training?

The J-1 training program has to expand on your already existing knowledge or skills and cannot simply duplicate your prior work experience or the knowledge or skills you already have.

What is the list of occupational categories I can participate in as a J-1 trainee?

Below are some occupational categories in which you can participate as a J-1 trainee:

  • Arts and culture
  • Construction
  • Education
  • Hospitality and tourism (please note that there is a special requirement for this category: if the training program will be 6 months or longer, it must contain at least three departmental or functional rotations)
  • Information media and communications
  • Management
  • Business
  • Commerce
  • Finance
  • Public administration
  • Law
  • The sciences
  • Engineering
  • Architecture
  • Mathematics

Are there any programs I cannot participate in as a J-1 trainee?

Yes, below are examples of programs that a J-1 visa holder may not participate in:

  • Unskilled or casual labor positions
  • Programs involving child or elder care
  • Any programs including patient care or contact (e.g. training that would require that you provide medical care, perform therapy, prescribe medication to patients, etc.)
  • Programs in the field of aviation
  • Any program that would put the J-1 trainee program into disrepute

How long can I stay in the U.S.?

The maximum period of time you can stay in the U.S. on a J-1 trainee visa is 18 months (except the J-1 training in hospitality and tourism or agriculture industries, where the maximum is 12 months).

Can I participate in the J-1 trainee program multiple times?

Yes, but any additional J-1 training will have to focus on:

  • Developing of more advanced skills, or
  • Training in a different field of expertise.

Please note that you will only be able to participate in additional J-1 training programs if you have resided outside the U.S. for an aggregate of at least 2 years after you completed the original J-1 program.

What is a Training Plan?

This is a document that must be signed by you, the sponsor, and the host organization. It will contain information such as:

  • Information about you (your current education, experience in the field);
  • Information about the host organization (name, website, your compensation, annual revenue);
  • Field of training;
  • Information about your primary supervisor;
  • Description of your role;
  • What goals or objectives you have;
  • What cultural activities you will engage in; and
  • What specific knowledge or skills will you learn and how exactly you will learn them.

How can I find a training program in the U.S.?

To find a training program in the U.S., you should visit the Department of State website that has a list of authorized sponsors for the J-1 training visa.

Please click here to find out more information about J-1 internship program.

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