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The U.S. H3 Trainee visa and how it compares to J1 Trainee

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 by

H3 Trainee USCIS page screenshot

H3 Trainee page

The H3 Trainee visa is usually not terribly useful to students and young people beginning their career – which is our target audience. But since the existence of two different kinds of “trainee” visas is a source of confusion, and people ask, let us mention the H3 visa too.

So first of all, why would anyone use the H3 Trainee visa instead of J1 Trainee visa? The thing is, the J1 Trainee visa can only be used for training in occupational fields specifically listed [scroll down for the list] in the Code of Federal Regulations. If you need training in a different field, you are out of luck.

The H3 Trainee, on the other hand, allows – as the USCIS calls it – “any field of endeavor”, although that “any” doesn’t extend to medical training. So that’s terrific, right? Why would anyone waste time with the limited J1 visa when this wonderfully open one exists.

Well, all that glitters isn’t necessarily gold. The first condition that makes the H3 Trainee visa of limited use is that the training must not be available in the trainee’s home country. This immediately rules out many common “fields of endeavor” and it can be hard to convince the USCIS that your intended training is really unavailable back home.

Second unpleasant limitation is that the trainee must “not engage in productive employment unless such employment is incidental and necessary to the training”. That pretty much rules out being “employed” as a trainee, as is common with the J1 Trainee variety. This is also why we said that H3 is not terribly useful to students and young people, because they usually need their training/internship to be paid to help cover their living expenses.

So what is this H3 Trainee really good for? What we have seen it used for, and what you can see mentioned on the Internet, is training at a US company that either plans to open a branch in your home country and they need to train you to be the first employee there. Or you already work at such a branch, but they want to train you in the mother company in the USA for a higher-level position. Especially in the first case, the company can easily prove that since it doesn’t yet have an office in your country, it – logically – can’t train you there. We have seen this more than once! And as a career move, it’s not that bad of an idea to help an American company open a branch back home instead of trying to work for them in the USA!

And finally, for the sake of completeness, there’s a special kind of H3 visa, which is still called just H3. And that’s “Special Education Exchange Visitor”. It is for people training to provide education to children with disabilities. This visa is capped at mere 50 (fifty) per fiscal year.

Fields allowed by 22 CFR ยง62.22(c)(2) for the J1 Intern/Trainee program

  1. Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing;
  2. Arts and Culture;
  3. Construction and Building Trades;
  4. Education, Social Sciences, Library Science, Counseling and Social Services;
  5. Health Related Occupations;
  6. Hospitality and Tourism;
  7. Information Media and Communications;
  8. Management, Business, Commerce and Finance;
  9. Public Administration and Law; and
  10. The Sciences, Engineering, Architecture, Mathematics, and Industrial Occupations.

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