The Exchange Visitor Program is carried out under the provisions of the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961, as amended. The purpose of the Act 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. International educational and cultural exchanges are one of the most effective means of developing lasting and meaningful relationships. They provide an extremely valuable opportunity to experience the United States and our way of life. Foreign nationals come to the United States to participate in a wide variety of educational and cultural exchange programs.
In carrying out the responsibilities of the Exchange Visitor Program, the Department designates public and private entities to act as exchange sponsors. Designated sponsoring organizations facilitate the entry of foreign nationals into the United States as exchange visitors to complete the objectives of one of the exchange visitor program categories, which are:
- Au pair
- Camp Counselor
- Student, college/university
- Student, secondary
- Government Visitor
- International Visitor (reserved for U.S. Department of State use)
- Alien physician
- Research Scholar
- Short-term Scholar
- Summer work/travel
The J-1 training program provides exchange visitors the opportunity to enhance their skills in their chosen career field through participation in a structured training program and to improve their knowledge of American techniques, methodologies, or expertise within their field of endeavor. Such training shall not duplicate a trainee participant’s prior training and experience
Effective in 2007, the J1 Trainee has been split into Trainees and Interns categories. There are new eligibility criteria for both trainees and the companies that train them. It changes the maximum length of stay in some cases. The new rule also requires a placement plan, signed by trainee, training supervisor, and visa sponsor on government form DS-7002.
Interns are individuals who are either currently enrolled in and pursuing academic studies abroad, or who have graduated from an overseas institution no more than 12 months prior to the start date of his or her exchange visitor program. An intern program has a maximum length of twelve months.
Trainees are individuals who have either a degree or professional certificate from a post-secondary academic institution abroad and at least one year of related work experience acquired outside the United States, or have five years of related work experience acquired outside the United States. A trainee program has a maximum length of eighteen months, except; Hospitality and Tourism, which is limited to twelve months.
Foreign nationals with degrees from the United States will not qualify for the internship category
of the J-1 visa. They will qualify for the training category if they have five years of related work
experience acquired overseas.
A host organization conducts training or internship programs on behalf of ECA designated
program sponsors. A host organization must sign a written agreement with the program sponsor. Host organizations that have not successfully participated in the J visa sponsor’s training or internship programs must be visited by a representative of the visa sponsor prior to approval of a DS-2019. Companies with 25 or more employees or with at least three million dollars in annual revenue are exempt from this mandatory visit.
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is designed to help the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State better monitor school and exchange programs and F, M and J category visitors. Exchange visitor and student information is maintained in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). SEVIS is an Internet-based system that maintains accurate and current information on non-immigrant students (F and M visa), exchange visitors (J visa), and their dependents (F-2, M-2, and J-2). SEVIS enables schools and program sponsors to transmit mandatory information and event notifications via the Internet, to the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State (DOS) throughout a student or exchange visitor’s stay in the United States.