The exchange visitor program is administered by the United Stated Department of State. The purpose of the program is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchanges. At the conclusion of their program, exchange visitor program participants are expected to return to the home countries to utilize the experience and skills they have acquired while in the United States.
The Department of State has a Private Programs Division and an Academic and Government Programs Division. The Private Sector Programs Division includes the alien physician, au pair, camp counselor, summer work/travel, and training exchange visitor categories. The Academic and Government Programs Division includes the student program category, which accommodates programs for both secondary (high school) and post-secondary (college/university students) at undergraduate and graduate levels, degree and non-degree tracks, the professor, research scholar, short-term scholar, specialist, teacher, and Government Visitor and International Visitor categories.
A qualified training program is one intended to provide exchange visitors the opportunity to enhance their skills in their chosen career field as a trainee or intern to improve their knowledge of American techniques, methodologies, or expertise within their field of endeavor. The training or internship must not duplicate the participant's prior training and experience.
The Department of State designates public and private entities to act as exchange program sponsors. The program participant may undergo a program directly for the sponsor or at a host organization approved by the sponsor.
Use of the exchange visitor program for ordinary employment or work purposes is strictly prohibited. Sponsors may not place trainee or intern participants in positions that are filled or would be filled by full-time or part-time employees.
A structured and guided work-based learning program as set forth in an individualized Training/Internship Placement Plan that reinforces a student’s or recent graduate’s academic study, recognizes the need for work-based experience, provides on-the-job exposure to American techniques, methodologies, and expertise, and enhances the Intern’s knowledge of American culture and society.
Training and internship programs may be in any of the following occupational categories:
All exchange visitor (J visa) trainee and intern visa applicants must first apply to a sponsor organization that has been approved by the State Department to issue a form DS-2019. This form will be necessary to obtain the visa at a United States consulate. When applying for the actual visa, applicants must be able to show:
An exchange visitor is required to return to their home county for a least a two-year period before changing his or her status to that of H, L, K, or lawful permanent resident if:
There are five separate bases to obtain a waiver of the two-year home residency requirement:
For detailed information respecting waivers, see the United States Department of State.