Written by attorney Wendy Renee Whitt

H-3 Training Visa Overview

The H-3 nonimmigrant visa category is for an alien coming temporarily to the United States as trainee to receive training, other than graduate or medical education training, that is not available in the alien’s home country. H-3 visas are a good alternative to J-1 Exchange Visas if the training program duration is longer than 18 months or if the trainee does not have the required degree or experience. H-3 status may be granted for up to two years. The training must not be available in the participant’s home country, yet at the same time, it must benefit the trainee in pursuing a career outside the U.S.

The training program must be rigidly structured and detailed. It is common to receive requests for additional evidence from USCIS regarding the training plans, so it is best to provide extensive details on the program at the outset of the case. There is no limit to the number of H-3 visas issued each year (except for those issued under a separate special education program not applicable to your company). However, due to the strict evidence requirements, generally less than 3,000 such visas are approved annually.

The first step in obtaining an H-3 visa for a trainee is to file a petition with USCIS. The petitioner will be required to establish the following:

· The training is not available the foreign national’s home country

· The trainee will not be placed in a position which is in the normal operation of the business

· The trainee will not engage in productive employment unless it is incidental and necessary to the training

· The training will benefit the trainee in pursuing a career in his or her home country

It can take several months for USCIS to process the petition. Premium processing is available and means USCIS guarantees 15 calendar day processing to those petitioners or applicants who choose to use the service. If the processing time exceeds 15 days, USCIS will refund the Premium Processing Service fee, and the case will continue to receive expedited processing.

Once the petition is approved, the trainee must apply to the nearest U.S. embassy for a visa to travel to the U.S. The visa applicant would have to prove he or she intended to return home once the training is complete and a background/security check would be conducted. If the trainee is already in the U.S. and in legal status, he or she may be able to adjust status to H-3 without returning home. Visa issuance fees (which vary from embassy to embassy) may apply to overseas applicants. Additional fees are required for applicants to adjust status in the U.S. instead of returning home for processing. There can be some negative consequences to the individual when adjusting status from one visa category to another, so consulting with an immigration attorney on each such case is recommended.

Disadvantages: The amount of evidence required to establish a training program is considerable. USCIS often requests additional, sometimes irrelevant evidence during the adjudication process. Unless the premium processing fee is paid, adjudication can take several weeks to several months.

Advantages: Long length of stay allowed. No degree or education required for trainee; trainee does not need to have English skills. A blanket petition covering all trainees may be filed so long as all the trainees are attending the same program and all are outside the U.S. The U.S. company is allowed to pay the trainee directly. H-3 visas may be used by any U.S. company on behalf of any foreign individual, regardless of the trainee’s connection to a foreign employer. An approved H-3 petition can smooth the way for the applicant during the visa application process.

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