Overview of the H3 Trainee Visa Application Process

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Getting an H3 trainee visa is a two-step process:

  • Once a foreign national is offered a training position with a US company or US government agency, the US sponsor has to file Form I-129, Petition for Non-immigrant Worker, with the USCIS.
  • After the visa petition is approved, the foreign national has to submit his/her application for an H3 trainee visa to a US consulate.

After this application is approved, the foreign national can use his/her visa to enter the US as a H3 trainee visa holder.

Applying to Change Status to H3 Trainee Visa from Inside the US

If the foreign national is visiting the US at the time that a US company or US government agency offers the individual a training position, the US sponsor must still file Form I-129, Petition for Non-immigrant Worker with the USCIS. In this case, as the applicant has already entered the US on another visa, it is not necessary to file a new visa application at a US consulate overseas.

If the foreign national has an accompanying spouse or children, then a they cannot file Form I-129 but a separate Form I-539 has to be filed on their behalf.

Steps to be Taken by the Sponsor

Once a foreign national is offered a training position, the US company, organization or government agency must file a visa petition with USCIS. The visa petition is filed on Form I-129 along with the H supplement. Since the US sponsor is responsible for filing the petition, the sponsor is known the “petitioner”.

After assembling the visa petition, including all forms and supporting documents, as well as the USCIS filing fee, the petitioner must mail it to the USCIS regional service center that has jurisdiction over the petitioner’s place of business. If the foreign national will be coming from outside the US, the petitioner must send duplicate versions of the form. You cannot visit regional service centers in person.

Awaiting a Decision on the Visa Petition

Within a few weeks after mailing in the petition, the petitioner will receive a written confirmation that the papers are being processed, as well as a receipt for the fee. USCIS will assign the petition a thirteen-digit receipt number, which the petitioner can use to track the case status.

H3 trainee visa petitions are generally approved within two to four months. Form I-797 Notice of Action will be sent to the petitioner, showing the petition was approved. If the foreign national plans to submit the visa application at a US consulate abroad, USCIS will also notify the consulate of the foreign national’s choice and send the consulate a complete copy of the file.

Steps to be Taken by the Trainee

When the trainees apply for a visa at a US Consulate, USCIS will notify the petitioner that an H3 trainee visa petition has been approved by issuing an Approval Notice on Form I-797. The petitioner is then required to forward the Form I-797 Approval Notice to the trainee so that he/she can use it to apply for a visa – normally in his/her home country.

Entering the US on a H3 Trainee Visa

While entering the US, the border officer will examine the paperwork, may ask some questions and, if all is in order, approve for entry. The officer will stamp the passport and provide the foreign national with a white card called an I-94, Arrival-Departure Card. It will be stamped with a date showing how long the trainee may remain in the US. Normally, the trainee will be permitted to remain up to the expiration date listed on the Form I-797 Approval Notice, and requested by the Petitioner on Form I-129.

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