H-3 Visa (for Trainees or Special Education Exchange Visitors)

DESCRIPTION:

The H-3 visa is a nonimmigrant visa which allows foreign nationals to enter the U.S. to receive training in a U.S. company or organization.  However, the foreign national may not travel to the U.S. for a graduate program or medical training, and the training cannot be available in the trainee’s home country.  The H-3 nonimmigrant visa category allows foreign nationals to travel temporarily to the United States as either a:

 

  • Trainee to receive training in any field of endeavor, other than graduate medical education or training, that is not available in the foreign national’s home country; or
  • Special Education Exchange Visitor to participate in a special education exchange visitor training program that provides for practical training and experience in the education of children with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities.

 

NOTE:  No more than fifty H-3 visas may be approved in a fiscal year under the Special Education Exchange Visitor category.

 

The type of training programs that successfully lead to H-3 visas usually exist in one of two situations:

  • A multinational company with branches in various countries wishes to train employees in the mother country in the U.S. for a higher position before sending them to work elsewhere; or
  • A U.S. company plans to open a branch in a foreign country and they need to train the individual to be the first employee there.

 

The H-3 visa is a single intent visa, and therefore is not protected under the Dual Intent Doctrine.  The concept of “dual intent” allows H-1B and L professionals to enter the U.S. while simultaneously seeking lawful permanent resident status (green card status).  The H-3 visa applicant, however, has to demonstrate that s/he does not intend to immigrate to the United States.  Therefore, H-3 beneficiaries may not pursue permanent residence in the United States while in H-3 status.

 

Spouses and Children:

The spouse and minor children of an H-3 employee are authorized to live in the United States in H-4 status.  They may accompany or join the principal visa holder in the United States for the duration of his/her stay.  Accompanying spouses and children are entitled to study in the United States, but are not permitted to work.

 

 

REQUIREMENTS for H-3 visa:

Aside from the stringent program requirements concerning the training program and professional staff, the basic requirements for the H-3 visa are that the foreign national does not have the opportunity to receive similar training in his/her home country; and needs this training to advance his/her career outside the U.S.  The H-3 visa holder cannot be productively employed during the program, unless necessary for the training.

 

TRAINEES category:

To qualify for an H-3 visa, the “trainee” must be invited by an individual or organization for the purpose of receiving training, in any field including, but not limited to:

  • Agriculture
  • Commerce
  • Communications
  • Finance
  • Government
  • Transportation
  • Other Professions

 

Trainee (visa applicant) requirements:

  • The H-3 visa applicant must possess the necessary background and experience to successfully complete the U.S. training program;
  • The H-3 visa applicant may be required to meet certain health and character requirements.

 

Training Program (sponsor) requirements:

  • The training must be formally structured and directly related to the applicant’s career, which they must intend to pursue outside of the U.S.;
  • The training will benefit the beneficiary in pursuing a career outside the U.S.
  • The proposed training is not available in the foreign national’s native country;
  • The foreign national will not be placed in a position which is in the normal operation of the business and in which U.S. citizens and resident workers are regularly employed; and
  • The foreign national will not engage in productive employment unless such employment is incidental and necessary to the training.

 

Each H-3 petition for a trainee must include a statement that:

  • Describes the type of training and supervision to be given, and the structure of the training program;
  • Sets the proportion of time that will be devoted to productive employment;
  • Shows the number of hours that will be spent, respectively, in classroom instruction and in on –the-job training;
  • Describes the career abroad for which the training will prepare the foreign national;
  • Indicates the reasons why such training cannot be obtained in the foreign national’s country and why it is necessary for the foreign national to be trained in the United States; and
  • Indicates the source of any remuneration received by the trainee and any benefit which will accrue to the employer/organization for providing the training.

 

A training program may not be approved which:

  • Deals in generalities with no fixed schedule, objectives or means of evaluation;
  • Is incompatible with the nature of the petitioner’s business or enterprise;
  • Is on behalf of a foreign national who already possess substantial training and expertise in the proposed field of training;
  • Is in a field in which it is unlikely that the knowledge or skill will be used outside the United States;
  • Will result in productive employment beyond that which is incidental and necessary to the training;
  • Is designed to recruit and train foreign nationals for the ultimate staffing of domestic operations in the United States;
  • Does not establish that the petitioner has the physical plant and sufficiently trained manpower to provide the training specified; or
  • Is designed to extend the total allowable period of practical training previously authorized a nonimmigrant student.

 

SPECIAL EDUCATION EXCHANGE VISITOR category:

To qualify for an H-3 visa, the “special education exchange visitor” must be traveling to the U.S. to participate in a special education program that provides for practical training and experience in the education of children with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities.

 

Special Education Exchange Visitor (visa applicant) requirements:

  • The H-3 visa applicant must be nearing the completion of a baccalaureate or higher degree program in special education; or
  • The H-3 visa applicant must have already earned a baccalaureate or higher degree in special education; or
  • The H-3 visa applicant must have extensive prior training and experience teaching children with physical, mental or emotional disabilities.

 

Training Program (sponsor) evidentiary requirements:

  • The training facility must have professionally trained staff;
  • The training must be structured for providing education to children with disabilities, and for providing training and hands-on experience to participants in the special education exchange visitor program.

 

Each H-3 petition for a special education exchange visitor must include a description of:

  • The training the foreign national will receive;
  • The facility’s professional staff; and
  • The foreign national’s participation in the training program (any custodial care of children by the special education exchange visitor must be incidental to training).

 

 

PROCESSING:

  • The sponsoring U.S. employer or organization is responsible for filing Form I-129, Petition for Non-immigrant Worker;
  • The H-3 visa applicant is responsible for scheduling an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where they live and submitting all preliminary paperwork and paperwork and fees (non-immigrant visa application (MRV) fee, and reciprocity fees where applicable);
  • The processing time for H-3 petition is about four to six weeks, and it takes two to four months to process the H-3 visa application.

 

Getting an H-3 trainee visa from abroad is a 4-step process:

  • File Form I-129, Petition for Non-immigrant Worker: Once a foreign national is offered a training position, the sponsoring U.S. employer or organization must file Form I-129, Petition for Non-immigrant Worker, with the USCIS Regional Service Center that has jurisdiction over the place where the training will be offered.
  • Within a few weeks after mailing in the petition, the petitioner will receive a written confirmation that the application is being processed, as well as a receipt for the fee. USCIS will assign the petition a 13-digit receipt number, which the petitioner can use to track the case status.
  • 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 U.S. Consulate abroad, USCIS will also notify the consulate of the foreign national’s choice and send the Consulate a complete copy of the file.

 

  • Complete the online nonimmigrant visa application, Form DS-160: After the H-3 Petition is approved, the H-3 visa applicant should file the Form DS-160, Application for Nonimmigrant Visa, with a nearby U.S. Consulate.
  • Submit the DS-160 electronically (via the Internet) to the Department of State, and print out the application form confirmation page to bring to your interview. The online DS-160 can be accessed at the Consular Electronic Application Center website.
  • Upload a digital photograph while completing the online Form DS-160. Please refer to photograph requirements  for detailed guidance.
  • Pay the non-refundable non-immigrant visa application (MRV) fee of US$190.

 

  • Schedule a Consular Interview: The next step is to schedule an interview with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where applicant lives.
  • Wait times  for interview appointments vary by location and season, which can be anywhere from a few days to 2 weeks;
  • USCIS will also notify the U.S. Consulate of the applicant’s choice and send the Consulate a complete copy of the file;

 

  • The Consular Interview: After the visa petition is approved, the foreign national has to submit his/her application for an H-3 Trainee visa to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  The applicant must bring the following documents to the H-3 visa interview:

 

Form I-797, Notice of Approval:

  • Applicant should bring a copy of the I-797, Notice of Approval, if possible;

 

Valid Passport:

  • Passport must be valid for travel to the United States with minimum validity of six months beyond the intended period of stay in the United States;

 

Marriage Certificate:

  • Must present if married and traveling to the U.S. with spouse;

 

Birth Certificate(s):

  • Long form birth certificate for the applicant and each accompanying relative;

 

Non-immigrant Intent:

  • The H-3 visa applicant must submit proof of employment on return to their home country or other foreign destination upon completion of the training program;

 

Visa Application:

  • Applicant must have already submitted an online electronic application form, DS-160, Non-Immigrant Visa Electronic Application; and
  • The applicant must bring print out the confirmation page containing the bar code and bring this page to the visa interview. It is no longer necessary to provide a printed application form to the Consular Officer during the visa interview;

 

Non-immigrant Visa Application Fee (MRV) Receipt:

  • The applicant must pay the application fee and bring receipt to the interview.

 

NOTE:  A Reciprocity Fee may apply, depending on the applicant’s country of citizenship.  Check the U.S. State Department’s Reciprocity Fees website for details.

 

Getting an H-3 trainee visa while in the U.S.:

This applies to foreign nationals who are visiting the U.S. at the time that a U.S. company or organization offers them a training position.  In this case, as the applicant has already entered the U.S. on another visa, and it will not necessary to file a new visa application at a U.S. consulate overseas.

 

NOTE:  If the foreign national has an accompanying spouse or children, the sponsoring U.S. company or organization must file a separate Form I-539, Application to Extend or Change Nonimmigrant Status on their behalf.  The I-539 must be submitted before the expiration date on the applicant’s Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record.

 

  • File Form I-129, Petition for Non-immigrant Worker: Once a foreign national is offered a training position, the sponsoring U.S. employer or organization must file Form I-129, Petition for Non-immigrant Worker (along with the H supplement) with the USCIS Regional Service Center that has jurisdiction over the place where the training will take place.
  • Form I-129 must be submitted before the applicant’s I-94 expires;
  • If the foreign national is traveling with family, it is best if the I-129 and I-539 forms are filed together, so that they may be adjudicated on or about the same time. All the dependents can be filed on one I-539.  The filing fee for Form I-539 is $370.00.
  • Within a few weeks after mailing in the petition, the petitioner will receive a written confirmation that the application is being processed, as well as a receipt for the fee. USCIS will assign the petition a 13-digit receipt number, which the petitioner can use to track the case status.
  • Form I-797, Notice of Action will be sent to the petitioner, showing the petition was approved.

 

  • H-3 Status change: The foreign national will receive only H-3 status, not the H-3 visa.  The H-3 visa is the physical stamp that’s placed in the passport, and it is what the foreign national will need if s/he ever needs to re-enter the U.S.  Visas are never issued in the U.S., they are issued exclusively by U.S. Consulates in other countries.  The H-3 visa status entitles the holder to remain in the U.S. with H-3 privileges until the H-3 status expires.

 

 

Spouses and Children:

  • The spouse and minor children of an H-3 employee are authorized to live in the United States in H-4 status;
  • The spouse and children are permitted to study in the U.S. while on H-4 status without having to apply for an F-1 visa.
  • The spouse and children are not permitted to work while on H-4 status.
  • The H-3 visa holder and family can travel in and out of the U.S. or remain in the U.S. continuously while the H-3 status is valid.
  • If the H-3 visa holder applies for a change of status for a job, the employer will need to file Form I-539, Application to Extend or Change Nonimmigrant Status, for the spouse and/or children.

 

Restrictions:

  • The H-3 visa cannot be used to for a graduate program or medical training;
  • The H-3 trainee must “not engage in productive employment, unless such employment is incidental and necessary to the training;”
  • If the H-3 visa holder remains in the U.S. for the maximum period of 2 years, s/he may not seek an extension, change of status, or readmission to the U.S. in H or L status until having been outside the U.S. for six months;
  • H-3 visa holder’s family members may not be employed in the U.S.; and
  • Only 50 foreign nationals per year may enter into the U.S. in the Special Exchange Visitor category.

 

Issues of Intent:

  • Unlike H-1B and L visas, H-3 visas are considered single intent, not dual intent visas;
  • In order to be issued an H-3 visa/status, the applicant bears the burden of proving that s/he has non-immigrant intent by showing that s/he:

(1) has a residence abroad;

(2) has no immediate intention of abandoning that residence;

(3) intends to depart the U.S. upon the termination of the visa; and

(4) will have a job waiting upon returning to his/her home country.

 

Program Qualification:

Unfortunately, very few training programs meet USCIS’s strict qualifications. Many people find it cheaper and easier to apply for a B-1 business visitor visa, especially if the training program lasts for less than six months (the maximum stay on a B-1 visa).

 

There is no premium processing for H-3 visas.

 

Duration:

Although the H-3 visa is valid for a maximum of 2 years (trainee) or 18 months (special education worker), admission as an H-3 nonimmigrant is generally authorized for 1 year (Form I-94).  The validity of an H-3 visa (the sticker in the passport) refers to the time in which an applicant may apply to enter the U.S. at a port of entry for admittance into the U.S.  The 2-year or 18-month H-3 visa sticker in the passport has no bearing on the length of time for which the alien may be admitted.

 

Upon completion of the period of stay the H-3 visa holder is supposed to leave the U.S. as extensions for this visa are not granted.

 

Read more about H-3 status and Visatopia’s H-3 services:

 H-3 Visa Frequently Asked Questions

H-3 Visa Flow Chart