United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provide nonimmigrant visas for individuals who would like to come to the United States to study, train, or participate in an cultural exchange program. Most of these visas are obtained by the student at the U.S. embassy in their home county, but it is important for higher education institutions to be well-versed in the visas, in order to stay in compliant with federal immigration policy.
F-1 Student Visas
F-1 student visas are the most common type of visas for private elementary schools, secondary schools and higher education institutions. Administered through the American consulate of the student’s country of origin, the F-1 visa can only be used in scenarios where a student will obtain a degree, diploma, or certificate from a U.S. institution that has been certified through the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Additionally, students must satisfy the following requirements:
- The student must be enrolled as a full-time student at the institution;
- The student must be proficient in English or be enrolled in courses leading to English proficiency;
- The student must have sufficient funds available for self-support during the entire proposed course of study; and
- The student must maintain a residence abroad, and no intention of giving it up.
M-1 Student Visas
Similar to the F-1 visa, the M-1 student visa provides a nonimmigrant visa to students enrolled in a post-secondary learning institution. Unlike the academic F-1 visa, M-1 student visa are for vocational schools. M-1 student visas carry the same requirements of the F-1 visa. Common uses for the M-1 visas include technical training and vocational certifications. FordMurray attorneys recently petitioned for SEVP certification to vocational schools for tai chi, holistic sciences, and a circus academy – all schools that went on to recruit M-1 students.
J-1 and H-3 Visas for Trainees and Interns
While the most popular student visa is the F-1 visa, there are other options available to institutions who would like to sponsor a foreign national for training or education but are not affiliated with a SEVIS certified institution. We provide support for clients who need to bring trainees or interns to the United States on either a J-1 or H-3 visa.
H-3 Training Programs
An H-3 visa allows an employer to create a training program, with the caveat that the visa applicant cannot have the opportunity to obtain the same training in their home country. Under an H-3 visa, training may take place for up to 24 months. Upon completion of the 24 month training, an individual can return to their home country and apply for an additional 24 months training program. One clear handicap to the H-3 visa is participants may not participated in employment that is not directly related to the training. For that reason, H-3 visas are commonly used for companies who are hoping to open a branch of their company in another country and would like to conduct training in the United States.
Employers who use a J-1 visa must go through a pre-approved training program provider — taking the onus of creating the program from the employer. This also avoids the requirement that training be unavailable in the visa applicant’s home country. The J-1 is a shorter-term option, and allows you to stay only for 18 months. There are no options for extensions either, so once the time limit is up, the training must be complete, or, if they are a physician, apply for a Conrad Waiver. J-1 visa applicants must have a professional certificate or degree from an academic institution, in addition to a year of relevant work experience.
Common industries for J-1 training include:
- Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing;
- Arts and Culture;
- Construction and Building Trades;
- Education, Social Sciences, Library Science, Counseling and Social Services;
- Health Related Occupations;
- Hospitality and Tourism;
- Information Media and Communications;
- Management, Business, Commerce and Finance;
- Public Administration and Law; and
- The Sciences, Engineering, Architecture, Mathematics, and Industrial Occupations
If your business or organization is considering sponsoring students or trainees on H-3 or J-1 visas, it is important to have an experienced business immigration attorney on your team. Contact us today for a complimentary consultation to learn more about how we can help you.