Hosting an International Intern or Trainee is Easier Than You Think


3 minutes

Congratulations on your decision to hire an international intern or trainee! Hosting an international student, graduate, or professional from another country not only gives them an incredible opportunity to learn about living and working in the United States, but it also provides you and your colleagues with new perspectives and intercultural insights. Many InterExchange host employers tell us that they learn as much as they teach!

Hosting international interns and trainees is an incredible experience!
Hosting international interns and trainees is an incredible experience!
Image courtesy of Prager Metis

So how does it work?

You might be asking yourself, “Does my intern or trainee need a visa? What kind?” “Am I eligible to host?” “How much does it cost and who pays for the process?” “How does the intern/trainee get a visa?” and “What do I need to do?

Your international intern or trainee needs a J-1 Visa.

The short answer is, yes, your international intern or trainee will need a J-1 Visa in order to legally participate in an internship or training program with your company in the U.S.

Even if the internship is unpaid and/or short term, a J-1 Visa is still required, as ESTA is not a legal option for unpaid internships.

A J-1 Visa is a cultural exchange visa!

Keep in mind, though, that the J-1 Intern and Trainee visas are not work or employment visas. They are cultural exchange visas, the purpose of which is to enhance the skills and expertise of exchange visitors through guided training–not ordinary employment. So, if you are looking to fill a labor need, a work visa would be more appropriate than the J-1 Intern or Trainee Visa. You can find more details about the various U.S. employment visas at the State Department website.

Your intern or trainee is a cultural exchange participant
Your intern or trainee is a cultural exchange participant
Courtesy of Monika Lipinska

This sounds like a lot of work. Do I need to do this whole process myself?

Absolutely not! InterExchange makes hiring international interns and trainees simple, and we will assist you throughout the entire process.

Before applying for the visa, participants must apply for sponsorship.

Before anyone can apply for a J-1 Visa, they first need to apply for J-1 Visa sponsorship with a U.S. Department of State-designated J-1 Visa sponsor organization, such as InterExchange. Per the official J-1 Visa website, “foreign nationals must be sponsored by one of the State Department-designated sponsors.”

One cannot apply directly for the J-1 Visa without first applying with a program sponsor. Since the J-1 is a cultural exchange visa, program sponsors, like InterExchange, are responsible for screening and selecting participants for the program, as well as supporting them during their entire program stay.

Therefore, your company would be the host employer who provides the on-site training, but you will not have to sponsor the visa directly yourself, as would be the case if you hosted candidates with other types of visas.

Your intern or trainee will apply for sponsorship through InterExchange
Your intern or trainee will apply for sponsorship through InterExchange
Courtesy of Alice Ronzano

InterExchange is here to help you and your intern or trainee through this process!

Applying to host international candidates through InterExchange is fast and easy with user-friendly online application and quick 10-day processing time. We’re here to help you and your intern or trainee navigate the process so that you can both have a meaningful exchange experience.

Once your international intern or trainee applies to InterExchange and is approved for J-1 Visa sponsorship, InterExchange will issue the required documentation needed to apply for the J-1 Visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in his or her home country.

This documentation includes the DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility and the DS-7002 Training/Internship Placement Plan, which indicates where and when the internship/training program will take place and outlines the training you have agreed to offer. Without these sponsor-provided documents, he or she cannot be granted a visa.

Have a question about whether the J-1 Visa is right for your hiring situation? We’re here to help!

Allison Allison

Allison joined the InterExchange team in 2011 and holds a B.A. in International Affairs and an M.A. in Higher Education. She oversees the daily operations of the Career Training USA program where she has the privilege of working with students and professionals from around the world pursuing U.S. internships and training programs. Allison is originally from Massachusetts and studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Career Training USA
Career Training USA

J-1 Visa sponsorship and support for international interns and trainees

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U.S. Department of State-Designated J-1 Visa Sponsor
Alliance for International Exchange
Exclusive partner of the Erasmus Student Network for J-1 Visa sponsorship of internships in the U.S.
European-American Chamber of Commerce New York
Generation Study Abroad
Global Ties U.S.
International Au Pair Association
WYSE Travel Confederation