H-3 Visa to the U.S. as a Temporary Trainee: Who Qualifies?

The H-3 nonimmigrant visa can be used by people who have been invited to participate in a training program in the United States.

By , J.D.

The H-3 nonimmigrant visa is useful for a limited group of people; namely those who have been invited to participate in a training program in the United States. The training may be offered by a U.S. branch of their own company or by an unrelated U.S. company. However, the training must be unavailable in the worker's home country.

There are no limits on the number of people who can be granted H-3 visas each year.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS)'s regulations (8 C.F.R. § 214.2(h)) recognize some specific types of trainees as potentially H-3 eligible, including certain medical interns or residents; licensed nurses who need a brief period of training that is unavailable in their native country; and special education exchange visitors. The requirements for the latter group are slightly different than for other trainees.

Key Features of the H-3 Visa

Some of the advantages and disadvantages of the H-3 visa include:

  • The H-3 visa holder can participate in a training program offered by a U.S. company and work legally in the U.S. for the company that is doing the training, so long as that work is incidental to the training program.
  • The visa holder can work only for the employer that admitted him or her to the training program and acted as petitioner/sponsor for the H-3 visa.
  • The H-3 visa can be approved for the length of time needed for the worker to complete the training program, although no more than two years are normally permitted. Extensions of one year at a time may be allowed, but only if the person has not yet finished the original training, and only within the overall two-year maximum.
  • The visa does not allow any grace period for travel, so ideally the trainer should build this time into the program description.
  • 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 visa is valid.
  • Visas (H-4) are available for an accompanying spouse and minor children (unmarried and under age 21).
  • Spouses and children may not accept employment in the United States. Children are expected to attend school, and adults can attend school part-time under the terms of the H-4 visa.
  • If the training in H-3 status lasts more than two years, then the person cannot change to H or L visa status until having been outside the U.S. for six months. Other changes of status are allowed, but must be requested before the H-3 visa has expired.

Qualification Criteria for an H-3 Visa

A person may qualify for an H-3 visa if 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 a career in the person's home country. Similar training opportunities must not be available there.

Unfortunately, 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).

The applicant must also possess the necessary background and experience to complete the U.S. training program successfully. Obviously, however, this should be the first time he or she will receive this particular type of training. And, as with many nonimmigrant visas, the applicant are eligible for an H-3 visa only if he or she intends to return to the home country when the visa expires.

The type of training programs that successfully lead to H-3 visas usually exist in one of two situations. Either a multinational company with branches in various countries wishes to train employees in its U.S. branches before sending them to work elsewhere; or, a U.S. company wishes to establish a beneficial business relationship with a foreign company.

You're Interested in an H-3 Visa: What's Next?

For details about what to expect and do during the H-3 visa application process, see the book U.S. Immigration Made Easy (Nolo). You might also wish to consult an immigration attorney for a full personal analysis of your eligibility, and for help with the application process.

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