As an employer, you know that today’s economy is undoubtedly global. This means that connecting with talent outside of the US is just as important as finding strong candidates within the country. In fact, securing talent from around the world can give you an edge in a global market, setting you up for international business connections. At Global Internships, we can help you cultivate this international community by outlining the J-1 visa employer requirements.
As an official J-1 visa sponsor, we are committed to matching bright young candidates with enriching opportunities at companies like your own. Read on to learn if you are eligible to be a J-1 visa host company, and learn how to become eligible if not.
Can I Hire Someone with a J-1 Visa?
If you’re asking “can I hire someone with a J-1 visa?” The short answer is “yes!”
The J-1 visa is a document used by cultural exchange visitors which allows them to reside in the U.S. for the duration of their program. Participants can fill a variety of roles (au pair, camp counselor, or researcher to name a few), but as a company, you are most likely to work with J-1 visa interns and trainees.
While it is very possible to work with J-1 visa-holders as a U.S. employer, there are certain regulations with which you must comply. In this article, we will focus on the requirements J-1 visa host companies must meet to work with this population. But before we get into the details, we’ll share a bit more information about the difference between these two categories and the benefits of working with each group.
Interns, Trainees: the Good, the Benefits, and the Difference
So, what’s the difference between a J-1 visa intern and a trainee? Mainly, the participant’s current educational status. Trainees are professionals (who have a degree, certificate, or equivalent work experience) and are looking to gain valuable training and exposure to U.S. culture. Interns, however, are college students, university students, and very recent graduates. This group is also looking for exposure to U.S. culture and experience in their field.
The value of the J-1 visa internship program for exchange visitor participants is clear, but why should your company consider implementing internship programs? We have plenty of reasons to share.
First, it’s important to note that the cultural exchange program is unique in that you can connect with both new (interns) and established (trainees) talent. This means that you can decide which avenue is most beneficial for your brand–perhaps both.
The Scoop on J-1 Visa Interns
Seeking interns can help you:
- Increase brand visibility
By advertising an internship on major websites (think sites like Linkedin), more people will learn about your company. Tons of new grads are looking for entry-level positions, so posting about your internship should generate plenty of online traffic.
- Discover new talent
Hiring an intern to work for your company will give you months to get to know the candidate and discover if they are compatible with your organization. If they are compatible and you have international offices in their home country, consider hiring them abroad upon their required return home.
- Improve your office environment
College students and recent graduates may approach the workplace with more enthusiasm than your long-term employees. This is sure to boost everyone’s morale.
- Introduce new perspectives
By adding international interns to your staff, you will be enriching your workplace with a new variety of cultural perspectives. Not only will interns bring ideas from their country of residence to your company, but as young adults, they may bring a different, youthful perspective. A diversity of ideas will serve to grow your company.
- Foster your staff’s leadership abilities
Introducing interns to your team will give your long-term staff members a chance to step up and exercise their leadership skills. Teaching is a wonderful way to learn and improve your abilities–it’s an all-around win!
Now that we’ve made a case for the benefits of hiring interns new to the workforce, let’s cover what more seasoned individuals can bring to your brand.
The Scoop on J-1 Visa Trainees
First, trainees will likely require less support in adjusting to a professional workplace than fresh-out-of-school interns will. More experienced trainees should be able to settle into a new position effortlessly, with knowledge of how to navigate the office landscape, thoroughly complete assignments, and communicate with supervisors.
Beyond the reduced mentoring trainees require, they can be immense assets to your company. Depending on how long the trainee has been in the industry, they will have global connections that will expand your company’s international network.
On behalf of your brand, a trainee may be able to reach out to a key individual with whom they have a professional relationship. That will get you halfway to global collaboration.
J-1 Visa Internship Sponsors
In order for individuals to become Exchange Visitors and receive a J-1 visa, they must have a sponsor. These J-1 visa sponsors are responsible for helping visitors through various tasks (like securing their visas and insurance). We will walk you through how to find and choose sponsors for your company’s exchange program.
Working with 3rd Party Sponsors
Generally, J-1 visa employers choose to work with U.S.-government-approved, official 3rd party sponsors (like us!). Working with a 3rd party sponsor is ideal because we are experts at supporting J-1 visa interns. Wondering what exactly we do? Check out the list below.
- Provide visa assistance
Navigating the J-1 visa application process can be tricky if you are not well-versed in the procedures. Fortunately for you, we are! We will support your J-1 visa interns through the process, from the DS-2019 to the embassy interview.
- Ensure proper insurance coverage
Exchange visitors in the U.S. must have the proper insurance coverage. We verify that all participants do. If not, we will help them find new coverage.
- Evaluate English proficiency
J-1 visa holders must have a certain level of English proficiency to complete an internship program. We evaluate participants’ abilities to ensure they are prepared for life in the U.S.
- Lend support during the program
Our support does not end when J-1 visa holders arrive in the U.S. We remain a resource for interns, answering questions about visas, international travel, and everything in between.
- Monitor regulation compliance
Beyond answering participant concerns, we also ensure that they are completing the program they signed up for. If not, we will inform the Department of State.
Working with 3rd party sponsors is the best choice for many employers because it allows them to focus on delivering an incredible internship program. Why worry about the administrative details when we can do it for you?
Becoming a J-1 Visa Sponsor
However, some employers do find it worthwhile to become an official J-1 visa sponsor. According to the Code of Federal Regulations, “reputable organizations that are United States Persons” are eligible to apply to become official sponsors. However, these employers must meet a few requirements.
- Sponsor applicants must be able to show that they can follow all J-1 visa rules, regulations, and requirements specific to sponsors in the Code of Federal Regulations.
- Applicants also must meet certain financial requirements.
- Potential sponsors also must have over three years of experience working in the field of international exchange. If this is your company’s first time hosting interns, you’re not yet eligible to be a sponsor.
If you feel that your company does meet these eligibility criteria to sponsor J-1 U.S. visas for foreign interns as a company, then you will need to pay an application fee and fill out the DS-3036 form. You will need to include your company’s contact information (addresses, phone numbers, etc.) as well as the details about which types of exchange visitors you would like to sponsor. The categories are:
- Alien Physician
- Au Pair
- Camp Counselor
- Government Visitor
- International Visitor
- Research Scholar
- Short-term Scholar
- Student, College/University
- Student, Secondary
- Summer Work/Travel
Employers who wish to work with trainees or interns must also select the occupational categories they will work within (agriculture, communications, arts, etc.). Finally, employers will need to answer questions about program activities, objectives, funding, supervision arrangements, and related programs. The application also requires supporting documents. These differ based on which types of exchange visitors employers plan to host.
J-1 Visa Rules for Employers: Maintaining a Good Workplace
Whether or not employers choose to become a sponsor or work with a 3rd party organization, they will have to meet certain J-1 visa employer requirements to host an intern or trainee. We outline a few of these requirements in the table below.
Student interns cannot participate in programs that:
- Include unskilled or casual labor
- Require child, elder, or any type of patient care (this includes everything from physical therapy to social work)
- Are in the field of aviation
What it means:
Interns can participate in a wide range of programs. However, they are not foreign physicians and as such cannot provide patient care. Additionally, they cannot participate in piloting programs or programs based around labor (like on-site construction).
Student interns cannot participate in positions that could reflect badly on the Exchange Visitor Program or the Department of State
What it means:
If your company is completing work that is not legal in the US, you will not be eligible to host student interns.
Student interns must not participate in programs that will be more than 20% clerical work. Interns must receive tasks that contribute to program goals.
What it means:
Clerical work includes tasks like answering phones and emails or fixing printers. While interns can certainly help with these tasks, they are not administrative assistants and their program duties should reflect the position they applied for. If the role for which you are seeking interns exceeds 20% clerical work, you will not be eligible to host.
Hospitality and Tourism internship programs must contain at least three rotations (of department or function).
What it means:
If your company is hosting a hospitality or tourism intern, they will not be completing the same tasks for their entire U.S. stay. Instead, these trainees must receive three distinct program sections throughout their residency.
These are all reasonable requirements to ensure the safety and enrichment of exchange visitor participants. When employers want the best for the interns and trainees they are hosting, it is not difficult to meet the above J-1 visa employer requirements.
You must also provide your interns or trainees with a suitable office space and an on-site supervisor. Additionally, as a J-1 visa employer, you must meet a minimum staff headcount and fill out the required documentation.
But wait, there’s more! Other J-1 visa company requirements are:
- Letting sponsors know (promptly!) about any changes in or concerns about the approved training/internship placement plan
- Contacting sponsors immediately in the event of an emergency involving an intern or trainee
- Abiding by all relevant laws (including occupational, health, and safety)
- Following all J-1 visa host company rules and regulations created by the program sponsor
- Maintaining adequate (preferably better than adequate!) resources, trained personnel, equipment, and more available to interns and trainees
- Providing consistent, quality supervision and mentoring to interns and trainees from experienced staff working for your J-1 visa employer
- Ensuring that your interns and trainees have a valuable, learning experience. They should be gaining knowledge from planned, structured activities. This can include:
- Training in the classroom
- Rotating through multiple departments
- Training while working
- Attending conferences
- Completing a DS-7002 form. This is an internship/training placement plan and we will cover it in-depth shortly.
If your company checks all the boxes of the above J-1 visa rules for employers then, congrats, you are ready to host exchange visitors! Read on to learn more about the process of creating a quality program for them.
DS-7002: A Form for Every J-1 Visa Company
So, what’s a DS-7002?
A DS-7002 is simply a form where J-1 visa employers write out their J-1 visa internships plan. The first section of the form asks for your run-of-the-mill details: employer name, ID number, address, phone number, website, etc. There are also sections for the exchange visitor and sponsor to record their own information.
The main part of the DS-7002 is the planning section. The form includes 7 boxes with room for J-1 visa host companies to record the details of their training or internship program (or training phase). Read these below.
- Describe the trainee or intern role (could be for the whole program or the specific phase you are outlining)
What will the intern or trainee do each day? With which department will they work? What skills will they use?
- Describe the specific goals and objectives of the program or phase.
What should interns or trainees expect to gain from this program?
- List the names and qualifications of individuals who will provide daily supervision.
Who will be overseeing interns or trainees each day? What makes them qualified to do so?
- Describe the cultural activities planned for the intern or trainee.
Where will your J-1 visa host company take interns or trainees for cultural enrichment (sports games, museums, conferences, etc.)?
- Write what specific skills, knowledge, or techniques interns will gain.
What exactly will interns or trainees learn through your J-1 visa program?
- Describe how specifically supervisors will teach this knowledge.
How will supervisors teach these skills? Will it be through designated workshops or on-the-job training?
- Describe how you plan to measure the intern or trainee’s growth and learning.
How will you measure the growth of your interns or trainees from the start to end of the program?
If you have more specific questions about the DS-7002, we will be happy to answer these for you. This is our area of expertise!
Running Virtual Internships
Perhaps after reading this article, you realize that your company is not quite ready to play host to J-1 visa interns or trainees. However, you would still like to provide opportunities to international candidates. Consider virtual student internships.
The programs are a convenient option because they do not require anyone to secure a visa (no one is traveling, after all). However, this doesn’t mean that all plans go out the window. At Global Internships, we still require host companies to create a plan for virtual internships. This ensures that all parties have the best experience possible.
A big perk of virtual internships is how they can widen your talent pool. When travel is not required, J-1 visas no longer pose a barrier and talented individuals who were previously ineligible may apply. Additionally, virtual internships are more flexible than in-person ones and can therefore attract talented students working around course schedules.
If virtual internships sound like a good fit for your company, contact us to learn more about how we can support you in this process.
Connecting Talent with Experts
International interns and trainees can be an asset to any organization. We hope that this article made it clear how to follow rules and regulations to become a J-1 visa host company.
At Global Internships, we strive to connect top talent with industry leaders for mutually beneficial programs. Interns should have ample opportunity to gain marketable skills, while companies broaden their global network.
If you have more questions about J-1 visa requirements for employers, do not hesitate to reach out to us!