H-3 Visa Roadmap

The H-3 status is designed to allow foreign nationals to participate in a training program in the U.S. that is hosted by a person, business, or organization. The trainees then return to their positions abroad where they can put their newly gained knowledge into practice. The training must be of a type not available in the home country and can be in virtually any field, including finance, government, transportation, agriculture, commerce, communications, or manufacturing. There are, however, special restrictions for the medical field which will be discussed below.

Trainees can be paid, but the training cannot be exclusively “on-the-job” training and the salary must be appropriately low. Unlike some other H visa categories, general H-3 training visas are not subject to a numerical cap (H-3 visas for special education exchange visitors have a limit of 50 per fiscal year). It is also important to know that once an H-3 trainee has reached the maximum period of stay, he or she generally cannot obtain H or L status without first having spent six months outside the U.S.

H-3 Requirements

The main requirement for the H-3 trainee is that he or she maintains a residence abroad with no intention of abandoning that residence to pursue permanent residence in the U.S.

The petitioning U.S. host is required to demonstrate the following:

  • The proposed training is not available in the applicant’s home country.
  • Upon completion, the training will benefit the trainee’s career outside the U.S.
  • The trainee will not simply perform the tasks of regular employees in the normal operation of business.
  • Any productive work performed by the trainee must be incidental and necessary to the training.

The training program submitted with the H-3 petition must cover the following points:

  • The type of training and supervision to be given (e.g. classroom instruction, shadowing of employees, etc.), and the structure of the training program;
  • The proportion of time devoted to productive employment;
  • The number of hours spent in the classroom and with on-the-job training;
  • The career abroad for which the training will prepare the trainee;
  • The reasons why the training is not available in the trainee’s home country and why the training must occur in the U.S.; and
  • The source of the trainee’s pay (if any) and whether the host company will derive any benefits from providing the training.

In addition, the H-3 petition must demonstrate that:

  • The training is compatible with the nature of the host’s business or enterprise.
  • The training is not designed to recruit and train foreign nationals for the ultimate staffing of U.S. operations or to replace U.S. workers.
  • The host has the resources and manpower to provide the specified training.
  • The trainee does not already possess substantial training and expertise in the field (exceptions are possible where the petitioner can demonstrate that the foreign national needs training in applying his or her existing knowledge and expertise to the petitioner’s proprietary or unique products).
  • The training is not designed to extend the maximum allowable period of practical training for a foreign student.

Documentation

The H-3 applicant must provide the following documents for the H-3 petition:

  • Copy of valid passport.
  • Copies of educational degrees and transcripts with certified English translation.
  • Resume or CV.
  • Copies of the passport biographic pages of any accompanying dependents (spouse and/or children).

Upon approval of the H-3 petition, prospective trainees applying for an H-3 visa stamp at a U.S. consulate abroad will also need:

  • Completed DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Application (filed online).
  • Valid passport.
  • I-797, Notice of Action (i.e., the I-129/H-3 approval notice).
  • Proof of nonimmigrant intent (e.g. lease agreements, property titles or deeds, mortgages, foreign employment offer upon completion of the H-3 training, bank statements, proof of continued school enrollment, and evidence of family and other ties to the home country).
  • Long form birth certificate and other biographic documentation as required by the Consulate (e.g. passport-style photos, marriage certificate, etc.).

The petitioning host organization must submit the following items with its H-3 petition:

  • The necessary forms (at a minimum: Form I-129 with H-Supplement).
  • A detailed description of the training program that discusses all relevant points and requirements.
  • Proof that the training program is not available in the trainee’s home country (e.g. letters from companies or government officials in the home country).
  • Basic information about the company, such as organizational charts, corporate tax returns, financials, and website excerpts.

A detailed support letter that discusses the training program’s objectives, the petitioner’s business, and the prospective trainee’s background.

Admission

Admission is usually granted for the duration of the training program but never for longer than 2 years. Special education exchange visitors are limited to a maximum of 18 months. Extensions are possible where the maximum period of stay has not been reached yet, as long as the total time in training doesn’t exceed 2 years (or 18 months). Once the H-3 trainee has reached the maximum period of stay, he or she cannot seek readmission, a change of status, or an H3 extension without first having resided six months outside the U.S. Any time in H-1B, H-2, and/or L status counts toward the H-3 maximum. Exceptions are possible for applicants who did not reside continually in the U.S. and whose employment in the U.S. was seasonal or intermittent or for an aggregate of six months or less per year.

Family

The H-3 trainee’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 are eligible to apply for H-4 status in order to accompany or join the H-3 trainee in the U.S. Children and spouses in H-4 status may attend school but are not permitted to work while in the U.S. Alternatively, dependents who plan to stay in the U.S. for only a brief period may apply for—or use an existing—B-1/B-2 visitor visa.

Strategies/Options

Medical Students and Nurses

Foreign physicians seeking any type of graduate medical education, training, or residency do not qualify for H‑3 status. However, medical students who are actively enrolled in medical school abroad and wish to work as an extern during their school vacation can apply for an H-3 externship at a hospital that has been approved by the American Medical Association or the American Osteopathic Association for an internship or residency program.

Nurses qualify for H-3 status under the following conditions:

  • The nurse does not have H-1B status;
  • The petitioner can demonstrate that there is a genuine need for the foreign nurse to receive a brief period of training;
  • The training is unavailable in the nurse’s home country;
  • The training is designed to benefit the nurse and employer abroad upon the nurse’s return;
  • The nurse holds a full and unrestricted nursing license in the country where the nursing education was obtained (or the nursing education was obtained in the U.S. or Canada); and
  • The petitioner certifies that, under local laws, the foreign nurse is fully qualified to engage in training and the petitioner is authorized to provide such training.

Additionally, petitioners for medical students and/or nurses must satisfy all other H-3 requirements.

Special Education Exchange Visitors

A narrowly defined subcategory of H-3 visas is available to foreign nationals who wish to obtain practical training and experience in the education of children with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. The H-3 petition must be filed by a U.S. facility that has professionally trained staff and a structured program not only for providing education to children with disabilities but also for providing training and hands-on experience.

The H-3 petition for special education exchange visitors must include:

  • A detailed description of the training program, the facility’s professional staff, and the foreign national’s participation in the program; and
  • Evidence that the applicant holds a bachelor’s degree in special education, is nearing completion of such a degree or has extensive prior training and experience in teaching special needs children.

Special education exchange visitors may hold H-3 status for a maximum of 18 months. Unlike general H-3 trainees, they are not prohibited from engaging in actual productive employment at their host facility, but any custodial care of children must be incidental to the training. Finally, there is an annual quota of 50 visas for this H-3 subcategory.

J-1 or B-1 in Lieu of H-3

Both the H-3 and the J-1 visas were created to allow foreign nationals to participate in training programs in the U.S., and many training assignments could be accomplished in either J1 or H3 status. The J-1 application process does not require petition approval from USCIS in advance of the consular appointment to obtain the visa, and there is no requirement to show that the training is unavailable in the home country. However, many J1 trainees with certain skill sets must return to their home country for two years before they can apply for an H or L visa or for permanent residence, whereas H-3 trainees only need to leave the U.S. for six months upon maxing out on their H-3 status before applying for an H or L visa. Whether an H3 or a J1 visa is the better choice depends on the foreign national’s situation and goals.

Under certain circumstances, a person otherwise eligible for H-3 status may also obtain a B-1 visa instead. To pursue this route, the trainee must not receive any salary or remuneration from a U.S. source other than an expense allowance or other reimbursement incidental to the training in the U.S. A typical scenario is where the trainee’s foreign employer has a factory or facility in the U.S. where the employee needs to learn new policies, procedures or skills which will then be brought back and applied to the employee’s work abroad.

Legal and policy sources:

Immigration policies and regulations are complex and frequently subject to change. The information contained in this roadmap is intended to provide you with a general overview and may not address your particular circumstances and needs. Serotte Law will assist you with the application and documentation process and answer any questions you may have about the H-3 classification. Request a consultation or give us a call at 888-875-8110.

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