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The J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa

Introduction and background

The J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa Program is part of the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961. The purpose of the Act is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchanges. The Department of State facilitates activities specified in the Act, in part, by designating public and private entities to act as sponsors of the Exchange Visitor Program. Educational and cultural exchanges assist the Department of State in furthering the foreign policy objectives of the United States.


The purpose of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa Program is to provide foreign nationals with opportunities to participate in educational and cultural programs in the United States and return home to share their experiences, and to encourage Americans to participate in educational and cultural programs in other countries.

It is the “Trainee/ Intern” category of the J-1 visa that HRC uses to accomplish its goal of providing individuals from overseas with Career opportunities in the US. There are many regulations involving the types of education and on-the-job training (work) that are acceptable from a J-1 visa point of view. Many of these regulations deal with the career programs. Career programs must be learning-focused (i.e. must contain “learning goals”), they must be appropriate to the education and level of experience the individual has attained, and they must utilize the trainee in such a capacity that he or she will not be working in a job that could be occupied by a U.S. citizen. Below are the most important J-1 regulations.


J-1 visa training categories


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

Definitions of intern and trainee

For purposes of completing Form DS-7002, the DoS requires that the sponsor classify the participant as either “intern” or “trainee”. Below are the definitions:

Intern: a foreign national who either:

1.    Is currently enrolled in and pursuing studies at a degree- or certificate-granting ministerially recognized post-secondary academic institution outside the United States or

2.    Graduated from such an institution no more than 12 months prior to his/her exchange visitor program begin date

Trainee: a foreign national who has either:

1.    A degree or professional certificate from a foreign post-secondary ministerially recognized academic institution and at least one year of prior related work experience in his/her occupational field acquired outside the United States or

2.    Five years of work experience outside the United States in his/her occupational field


When a candidate can be categorized in the intern or trainee category they are theoretically able to participate in a J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa Program. However, in order to safeguard the quality of HRC’s candidates and to maximize the high rate of successful hires, HRC International has set a few additional requirements.


For interns: 6 months relevant work experience in the hospitality industry.

For interns and trainees: hrc attitude, committed and motivated

Participant selection criteria

Sponsors or any third party acting on their behalf must ensure that participants have verifiable English language skills sufficient to function on a day-today basis in the training environment. English language proficiency must be verified by either:

  • A recognized English language test
  • Signed documentation from an academic institution or English language school
  • Interview conducted in-person, by video conference, by webcam or by phone

Categories of exchange visitors:


  • Professors and research scholars
  • Short-term scholars
  • Trainees and Interns
  • College and university students
  • Teachers
  • Secondary school students
  • Specialists
  • Physicians
  • International visitors
  • Government visitors
  • Camp counselors
  • Au pairs

Internship programs and training programs

Depending on the classification “intern” or “trainee”, the candidate participates in an “internship” or “training program”. Definitions are as follows:

Internship Program:
A structured and guided work-based learning program as set forth in an individualized Training/Internship Placement Plan (T/IPP) that reinforces a student’s or recent graduate’s academic study, recognizes the need for work-based experience, provides on-the-job exposure to American techniques, methodologies, and expertise, and enhances the Intern’s knowledge of American culture and society.

Training Program:
A structured and guided work-based learning program set forth in an individualized Trainee/Internship Placement Plan (T/IPP) that enhances a trainee’s understanding of American culture and society and enhances his/ her skills in his/her occupational field through exposure to American techniques, methodologies, and expertise.

What’s the difference?

Internship programs provide participants entry-level training and experience with the intent to build on their academic experience by developing practical skills.

Training programs provide participants training and experience with the intent to enhance their (existing) skills.

All internship and training programs

  • Must be full-time (minimum of 32 hours a week
  • Must not duplicate the participant’s prior work experience or training
  • Must not place participants in unskilled or casual labor positions
  • Must not include more than 20% clerical work (tasks such as data entry, filing, typing, mail sorting and other general office tasks)
  • In “Hospitality and Tourism” category which last longer than 6 months must contain at least 3 departmental or functional rotations

Additional training and internship program participation.

Foreign nationals who enter the United States under the Exchange Visitor Program to participate in training and internship programs are eligible to participate in additional training and internship programs under certain conditions. For both trainees and interns, additional training and internship programs must address the development of more advanced skills or a different field of expertise.

Interns may apply for additional internship programs if they:
(1) Are currently enrolled full-time and pursuing studies at degree- or certificate-granting post-secondary academic institutions outside the United States; or,
(2) Have graduated from such institutions no more than 12 months prior to the start of their proposed exchange visitor program. A new internship is also permissible when a student has successfully completed a recognized course of study ( i.e., associate, bachelors, masters, Ph.D., or their recognized equivalents) and has enrolled and is pursuing studies at the next higher level of academic study.

Trainees are eligible for additional training programs after a period of at least two years residency outside the United States following completion of their training program.
Participants who have successfully completed internship programs and no longer meet the selection criteria for an internship program may participate in a training program if they have resided outside the United States or its territories for at least two years.

If participants meet these selection criteria and fulfill these conditions, there is  no limit to the number of times they may participate in a training and internship program. But remember, participants cannot duplicate previous training; the new program must address the development of more advanced skills or a different field of expertise.