Apply for a J-1 Visa: The Trainee Program

Apply for a J-1 Visa: The Trainee Program
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Questions About the Trainee Program

What is the Trainee Program?

Trainee Program

The Trainee Program provides opportunities to receive business training in the U.S. Made available through the J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa, the Trainee Program allows professionals from all over the world to experience U.S. culture and learn valuable business practices.

In the Trainee Program pairs over 9,000 foreign professionals with U.S. businesses. Training is available in the fields of education, hospitality, management, the sciences and more!1

The Holiday Work Program is a part of the J-1 Exchange Program Visa. Through 14 diverse programs, the J-1 visa provides unique cultural exchanges between foreign countries and the U.S. Currently, there are 170,000 monthly participants in the U.S., working, studying and teaching through J-1 programs2. Some of the most popular programs are:

  • The Holiday Work Program, which allows college and university students to work in the U.S. on their summer holiday.
  • The Internship Program, which allows college and university students to intern with a U.S. company.
  • The Student Exchange Program, which allows college and university students to study at a U.S. college or university.

Learn more about the J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa here!

Who qualifies for the Trainee Program?

Trainee Program

To be eligible to apply for the J-1 Visa, Trainee Program you need to fulfill educational and work requirements. You need to have a college or university degree (or a similar degree from an institution of higher education), and one year of relevant work experience. If you do not meet the education requirement, then you need at least five years of relevant work experience.

Steps to follow when applying for the J-1 Visa, Trainee Program:

STEP 1: Apply for and be accepted into the Trainee Program.

You will need to apply for and be accepted into the Trainee Program before you can apply for a J-1 visa. You must find a program sponsor and apply through them. The sponsor will set you up with a U.S. host organization to train with. The program sponsor issues participants a Certificate of Eligibility which they will need in the visa application process.

STEP 2: Receive a Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status and pay the Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee.

You will need to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee of $180 USD upon receiving the Certificate of Eligibility. Be sure to print the receipt after paying this fee; you will need it at the visa interview.

STEP 3: Complete Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application and submit to the U.S. Department of State.

You will need to upload a digital passport-sized photograph with this application. If you have trouble uploading the photograph, you can bring one to the visa interview.

Be sure to print the confirmation page after completing the application; you will need it at the visa interview.

STEP 4: Pay the visa application fee.

The fee is $160.00 USD.

STEP 5: Schedule an interview with a U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where you live.

STEP 6: Collect required documents for your visa interview.

You will be required to bring the following documents to your visa interview:

  • The interview appointment notice
  • A passport that is valid for at least six months past your planned date of departure
  • The confirmation page from your Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application
  • Application fee payment receipt, if you are required to pay before the interview (MRV fee)
  • Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status (issued by your program sponsor)

The U.S. embassy or consulate where your interview will take place may request you provide additional documentation, such as evidence of:

  • The purpose of your trip
  • Your intent to leave the U.S. after your trip
  • Your ability to pay all the costs of your trip

STEP 7: Attend the visa interview.

The visa interview will take place at the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where you live. You will be interviewed by a consular officer who will determine if you are qualified to receive a visa. He or she will review your documentation and visa application, ask you questions about your personal history and the reason for your trip to the U.S.

If the consular officer approves you for a visa, he or she will take your passport and have a visa placed in it. When your passport with visa is ready, you will be notified to pick it up or it will be sent to you.

The consular officer should return Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility to you. You will need this to enter the U.S.

In most cases, you will also have biometrics (fingerprint, photograph and signature) taken during, before or after your interview.

STEP 8: Pay the visa reciprocity fee.

Depending on your nationality, you may have to pay a visa issuance fee if your visa is approved.

What kind of training is available?

Trainee Program

The Trainee Program offers training in the following fields:

  • 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
  • The Sciences, Engineering, Architecture, Mathematics and Industrial Occupations

Do I need to be enrolled in a training program before leaving my country?

Yes. Only after you've been placed in a training program with a U.S. host organization will you be able to apply for a visa and travel to the U.S.

How long before my Trainee Program starts can I arrive in the U.S.?

With a J-1 visa, you can arrive in the U.S. up to 30 days before the start of your program. If you wish to travel in the U.S. more than 30 days before the start of your program, you must obtain a visitor visa. However, this is discouraged as you will have to adjust your status and if there is a delay, you may miss the start of your program.

What is the Trainee Program's maximum length?

The maximum duration of the Trainee Program is 18 months.

How many hours per week will I have to work in my internship?

Training programs are full-time, a minimum of 32 hours of work per week.

How can I extend my Trainee Program?

J-1 participants should contact their designated program officer to extend their status. Generally, extensions are not granted if it means the participant will stay in the U.S. beyond program's maximum length (18 months).

What are my host organization's responsibilities?

Along with abiding all federal state and local employment laws, your employer must ensure that you obtain skills and knowledge related to the field of your training.

What happens if I quit my training or am terminated before my program ends?

If you withdraw are terminated from your program, you must notify your program sponsor immediately. Your sponsor will enter this information into SEVIS and you are expected to depart the country immediately.

Can I bring my family with me to the U.S.?

The J-2 visa is available for family members of J-1 visa holders participating in the Trainee Program. The spouses and children of J-1 interns may accompany them to the U.S. on the J-2 visas. They are even permitted to work during their stay by applying for an Employment Authorization Document, commonly known as a work permit.

What are the other programs of the J-1 Exchange Visa?

The other J-1 Exchange Visa programs are:

1 retrieved Oct. 18, 2012,
2 retrieved Oct. 14, 2013,


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