H-3 Visa Eligibility for Temporary Trainees

The H-3 visa allows foreign workers to live and work temporarily in the U.S. for the purpose of job training.

The H-3 visa is useful for a limited group of people; namely, those who have been invited to participate in a work training program in the United States. It allows them to come to the U.S. for the training program, and to work legally in the U.S. for the company that is offering the training, so long as that work is incidental to the training program.

Their spouses and unmarried, minor children may accompany them to the U.S., but may not accept employment here. Children are expected to attend school, and adults can attend school part-time, under the terms of the H-4 visa.

The H-3 visa can be approved for the length of time needed to complete the training program, although no more than two years are normally permitted.

Who Is Eligible?

The training may be offered by a U.S. branch of your own company or by an unrelated U.S. company. However, the training must be unavailable in your home country.

There are no limits on the number of people who can be granted H-3 visas each year. That’s good news, because it means you won’t face a long wait for an available visa if you apply in this category.

Regulations published by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recognize some specific types of trainees as potentially H-3 eligible. These include medical interns or residents who are attending a medical school abroad, if the student will engage in employment as an extern during his or her medical school vacation; and licensed nurses who need a brief period of training that is unavailable in their native country. (See 8 C.F.R § 214.2(h)(7).) The H-3 is not, however, available to physicians wanting to receive graduate medical education or training.

The H-3 visa can also be used by 50 special education exchange visitors per year -- that is, people coming to the U.S. for a special education training program on how to teach children who have physical, emotional, or mental disabilities. (See 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(h) (7)(iv).) The requirements for this group are slightly different than for other trainees.

Will You Succeed in Obtaining an H-3 Visa?

You qualify for an H-3 visa if you are coming to the U.S. for on-the-job training to be provided by a U.S. company. Productive employment in the U.S. can be only a minor part of the total program. The purpose of the training should be to further your career in your home country. Similar training opportunities must be unavailable there.

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

You must also possess the necessary background and experience to complete the U.S. training program successfully. Obviously, however, this should be the first time you’ll receive this particular type of training. And, as with many nonimmigrant visas, you are eligible for an H-3 visa only if you intend to return to your home country when the visa expires.

Training programs supporting H-3 visas exist most often in two situations. A multinational company with branches in various countries might train employees in its U.S. branches before sending them to work elsewhere. Or, a U.S. company may wish to establish a beneficial business relationship with a foreign company. A good way to do this is by bringing in some of the foreign company’s personnel and teaching them about the U.S. business. These people then develop personal ties with the U.S. company.

Assistance With The Process

You can’t apply for an H-3 visa without having an employer first -- and it’s in your employer’s interest to hire a lawyer to help. A lawyer can help make sure that your application gets done right the first time (including by writing a complete cover letter explaining why you qualify) and gets decided on before the training program begins.

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