Applying for an H-3 Visa for Foreigner Work Training

An overview of the application process for an H-3 temporary work training visa.

Foreign nationals who come to the United States for the purpose of job training by a U.S. company or government agency may apply for a temporary trainee visa (H-3).  H-3 visa holders are not allowed to work for any company other than the company providing the training. The main objective of the program should be training and not the work. For a full description of the basic requirements, see the article: "H-3 Visa Eligibility for Temporary Trainees."

H-3 Visa Application Process

Before you can apply for an H-3 visa, you will need to have been offered a training position by a U.S. company (whether related to the company where you now work or not) or a U.S. government agency. After that, getting your H-3 visa will involve between one and three steps, as follow:

  • The company or agency where you will receive training must submit a visa petition on Form I-129 (issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or USCIS), and pay a nonrefundable fee. If you are already in the U.S. in lawful status (most likely with another form of visa), the petition can ask that your status be immediately changed to H-3 worker, in which case you won't need to do anything further. However, if you are applying from within the U.S., and a spouse or children are with you, they will have to submit Form I-539 to USCIS asking for a change of status. The company or agency will need to include various docuemnts with the I-129, especially if you are inside the U.S. (such as proof of your intent to return to your home country and proof of your current lawful status). If you're outside the U.S., it will need to include a copy of your valid passport, with an expiration date far enough in the future that it covers your whole stay in the U.S. plus six months. 
  • If you are currently outside the United States, then you must wait for USCIS to approve the I-129 petition. After that, you will need to schedule an interview at a U.S. consulate in your home country. (However, if you are Canadian, you can skip this step.) Your H-3 visa should be issued at or soon after this interview.
  • With your visa (or if you're from Canada, your visa petition approval notice from USCIS) you can enter the U.S. and claim your H-3 status.

Documents Needed

When applying for an H-3 visa at a U.S. consulate, you will need to bring the following documents:

  1. USCIS approval notice for Form I-129 (issued on Form I-797), together with copies of the I-129 petition and supporting materials.
  2. Proof of having completed the online Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application.
  3. Proof of your strong ties to your home country, which will motivate your timely return. These can include, for example, deeds or leases for a house or apartment, your written statement explaining that close relatives are staying behind (with their birth or marriage certificates), and a letter from your employer stating that a job awaits you upon your return. 
  4. Your passport, valid for at least six months beyond your expected return date.
  5. One color photo of you and each family member applying with you, in U.S. passport style.
  6. If spouse and children (unmarried, under age 21) are to accompany you, documents verifying the family relationship, such as original marriage and birth certificates.

At the consulate, you will be expected to pay a machine-readable visa fee, and possibly a reciprocity fee, depending on agreements between your country and the United States. For the latest fees, see the "Fees for Visa Services" page of the U.S. State Department's website.

Extension Rules

H-3 trainee visas are usually issued for the duration of the training program, not to exceed two years. But if your original stay was for less than two years, your employer can ask for an extension on your behalf, to bring the total time up to two years.

The application process is very similar to the first one: Your employer files Form I-129 with USCIS, along with the approval notice from your first visa, a copy of your U.S. income tax return from the previous year, and a copy of your Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record. You must also submit Form I-539 for any family members. If, however, you leave the U.S. for a brief trip after this exension is approved, you will need to visit a U.S. consulate before your return, to get your visa revalidated.

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