Cultural Exchange programming through the American Immigration Council involves a vast network of private for-profit and non-profit organizations across the United States. The American Immigration Council serves as a State Department designated third party sponsor for J-1 trainees and interns.
Whether your organization is new to providing exchange opportunities, or long-time benefactors of the international ties that strengthen U.S.-based companies and non-profits, we are here as a resource for you and the visitor(s) you have invited to intern or train with your professional staff. We assist host organizations through the application process and offer guidance for the duration of the training or internship.
Our trainee and intern program does not recruit potential interns; we rely on and trust your expertise to identify and screen ideal trainees and interns from overseas for participation in your onsite activities. We then work with you to ensure your organization meets the eligibility requirements of a host site and help prepare you for your role as a host organization.
Services we provide to you as your sponsor include facilitating a screening process required by the Department of State so that you may receive interns or trainees with a J visa. Successful placement hosts demonstrate:
- Evidence the organization has been operational for a minimum of 2 years, have at least 6 full-time employees on the site where the exchange visitor received training, and the appropriate facility and equipment to provide the proposed training or internship experience;
- Qualified personnel available to provide daily, on-site supervision of trainees or interns;
- A commitment to mutual exchange, including opportunities for the exchange visitor to share aspects of their home culture, and confirm the number of J-1 participants not exceed 10 percent of the total number of full time staff;
- The ability to make an exchange visitor feel at home in your organization and involve them in relevant, pre-planned cultural opportunities;
- An understanding the exchange visitor will not be engaged in ordinary employment and will not be used to fill a position that could be filled by US-based workers;
- Commitment to fulfilling program requirements, including mid-point and final evaluations;
- A willingness to ensure interns and/or trainees are supported through monetary and/or non-monetary compensation, not only personal or family funds;
- Open communication with our team and willingness to notify the American Immigration Council in the event of changes to the term or content of the training, and any exchange visitor emergency incidents;
- Willingness to accommodate a host site visit from the American Immigration Council or the Department of State upon request.
Finally, please note the content of your internship or training plan should fit within one of our occupational categories:
- Arts and Culture
- Information, Media, and Communications
- Management, Business, Commerce and Finance
- Public Administration and Law
- Social Sciences, Library Science, Non-clinical Counseling, Social Services
- The Sciences, Engineering, Architecture, Mathematics and Industrial Occupations
- Tourism (management-level only)
Our application process may involve several people. At the very least, you, the exchange visitor and our staff have a role to play in the application process. Securing support from an AILA attorney has a proven record of success, but is not required to receive sponsorship. At a minimum, host staff must submit the following information in the online application:
Complete Host Organization Information
Tell us about your organization. Include where the organization is located, what type of business you are operating; who will provide the continuous supervision to the intern/trainee; your website address; when the organization was incorporated; why the organization is offering an internship/training program; and how the internship/training program is different from what the exchange visitor could receive in their home country.
Sign and submit a completed Form DS-7002
This essential form is your guide to the planning and implementation of your internship or training program, and we use it as a key factor to determine eligibility for sponsorship.
J-1 visa regulations are very specific. A J-1 intern or trainee program should never include more than 20% clerical work or be used in place of regular employment. J-1 trainees and interns are not "at will" employees.
Sign and submit an Insurance Declaration Form
Exchange Visitors are required to be covered by insurance in the event of sickness or an accident. Both the host and exchange visitor sign a copy of Insurance Declaration Form found in the online application form.
Review the Financial Support and Budget Form
Consider the expenses required for an exchange visitor to reside in your area for the duration of the program. What kind of compensation is your organization able to provide to support their needs in the United States? You should be familiar with the source of funds supporting your intern or trainee.
Hosting a J-1 exchange visitor is a valuable experience for both the exchange visitor and the host organization. The Internship/Training Placement Plan (DS-7002) is a legal document that outlines what you are offering the exchange visitor. Each section serves a distinct purpose. A strong training plan improves chances of securing sponsorship and a successful outcome at the Consular Office abroad.
The American Immigration Council may work with you to advise on the development and implementation of internship and training programs that include visitors from overseas. We regularly counsel attorneys on this area as well. Feel free to contact us or an AILA lawyer to discuss your internship and training needs.
Host site visits secure participation of smaller host organizations and set the foundation for a positive exchange experience. Host organizations with fewer than 25 employees or less than $3 million in gross annual revenue will be visited by an American Immigration Council representative before we approve sponsorship for the first time.
During the 30-minute visit, a staff member or volunteer representative will have a copy of the proposed Training/Internship Placement Plan (DS-7002) and will ask for a tour of the facility and the trainee/intern’s workspace.
A successful host site visit confirms the organization and supervisory staff are reasonably able to provide structured and guided work-based learning experiences according to the plan. The staff or volunteer will hope to learn that the supervisor understand and will meet their obligations as stated in the DS-7002.
Fees and Timing: The Host Site Visit fee is $500 and should be submitted with the online application as an additional payment option. A representative is expected to complete a host site visit within 30 days of the exchange visitor interview.
When an exchange visitor program is approved, three key players make up the team expected to facilitate a positive experience for everyone involved: the intern/trainee, the sponsor, and the host organization.
As a part of the approval process, each exchange visitor (EV) need to be able to demonstrate they have secured sufficient financial support for the duration of stay with some money remaining for emergency expenses or travel. Our staff review the sponsorship applications with an expectation that the total financial support demonstrated by an EV must equal at least three times (3x) the reasonable rent in the host community and that the host is providing some form of tangible support to the exchange visitor. Hosts ideally provide at least a portion of financial or non-monetary compensation in order to qualify as a host site.
Training and intern programs through the Exchange Visitor Program are never considered regular employment and levels of compensation vary. However, we have yet to review a case involving a graduated intern or eligible trainee offered an unpaid program that meets all of the necessary criteria to satisfy the test for unpaid interns and trainees. Private sector for-profit and non-profit organizations will be evaluated differently when it comes to financial and non-monetary compensation provided to interns and trainees, based on compliance with internship programs under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
We do not expect our exchange visitors to secure access to internship or training opportunities in the United States through personal funds alone. Uncompensated training and internship placements for recently graduated students are not eligible for sponsorship through the American Immigration Council; some form of institutional financial support must be provided from either a host or overseas organization. Internship programs for currently enrolled students from overseas may be unpaid, but should still provide some form of non-monetary compensation as an expression of the organization’s commitment to making the United States a welcoming and supportive environment for international students visiting in a professional environment.
There is no maximum limit to the amount that host organizations provide an intern or trainee. Organizations should be aware that very high remuneration may give the impression of employment or an intention to attract foreign national staff for future employment, rather than facilitating a bona-fide exchange.
Social Security Numbers and Adding EVs to the company payroll:
Trainees and interns can begin their programs prior to receipt of a Social Security number. There is no law preventing host companies from paying trainees or interns while they wait to receive Social Security numbers. If the SSN is significantly delayed, please refer to the Social Security website.
Adding exchange visitors to payroll does not require processing through the e-Verify system, which can often result a false negative result for exchange visitors. Please refer to IRS publication 515 for instructions on filling out a W-4 form for a J-1 exchange visitor.
Cultural exchange programming provides opportunity for collaborative growth and development at every level. Individuals, organizations, inter-regional collaboration and international public diplomacy efforts are enhanced by the Exchange Visitor Program and access to J visas. The American Immigration Council encourages creative and bold professional and cultural programming – try out new opportunities and let us know how it is going along the way!
Participation in program monitoring and evaluation is a key component of securing sponsorship through the Immigration Council. Site supervisors are required, in consultation with your intern(s) or trainee(s), to complete and sign the necessary program evaluations available through the online application system.
- For programs of six months or less, a final evaluation is required
- For programs lasting more than six months, a mid-point and final evaluation are required
- Signatures are required from both intern/trainee and the immediate supervisor
- Evaluation forms are embedded into the exchange visitors’ online file
Training and internship programs can be extended to the maximum program length. Internships can extend up to 12 months and training programs up to 18 months. A request for extension may be submitted no sooner than 30 days before the program end date. To extend a program, fill out the appropriate extension forms found in intern/trainee online application.
The Host Supervisor and Exchange Visitor complete extension request documentation on the online application system to officially request a program extension. You are responsible for assuring the following forms are completed in the online application form:
- Extension request for the supervisor
- Final Evaluation/Extension Request J-1 participant
- A revised DS-7002 detailing activities to take place during the extension period
- Proof of insurance coverage for the exchange visitor and any J-2 dependents during the extension period
Fees and Timing: The Program Extension Fee is $300 and should be submitted with the online extension application as an additional payment option. Extensions must be processed within the 30 days prior to the current program end date, as indicated on the DS-2019.
J-1Exchange Visitors who successfully complete their internship/training program before the program end date on the form DS-2019 should fill out the Leaving Program Without Completion form on your online portal. Please contact our Cultural Exchange Program team directly to discuss any motivation to end incomplete training or internship program. We will work with your staff to provide specific advice on next steps with full consideration of the circumstances.
Fees and Timing: There are no fees associated with ending a program early. Any program ending more than 30 days before the original end date on the DS-2019 should be reported to the American Immigration Council.