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H-3 – Trainee or Special Ed. Exchange Visitor (8 CFR 214.2(h)(7)(i))

Portions of the content on this page are available as public information on the USCIS website.

Criteria for Eligibility

The H-3 nonimmigrant visa category allows U.S. businesses to sponsor foreign nationals to come to the United States temporarily as a:

  • Trainee to receive training in any field of endeavor, other than graduate medical education or training, that is not available in the alien’s home country; or
  • Special Education Exchange Visitor to participate in a special education exchange visitor training program that provides for practical training and experience in the education of children with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities.

For Trainees, the H-3 visa is designed to provide foreign nationals with job-related training for work that will ultimately be performed outside the United States. In order to obtain H-3 classification, a U.S. employer must demonstrate the following:

  • The proposed training is not available in the foreign national’s native country;
  • The foreign national will not be placed in a position which is in the normal operation of the business and in which U.S. citizens and resident workers are regularly employed;
  • The foreign national will not engage in productive employment unless such employment is incidental and necessary to the training; and
  • The training will benefit the beneficiary in pursuing a career outside the United States.

For Special Education Exchange Visitors, there is a numerical limit (or “cap”) on the number of H-3 special education exchange visitors. No more than 50 may be approved in a fiscal year.

A petition requesting an H-3 “special education exchange visitor” must be filed by a facility which has professionally trained staff and a structured program for providing education to children with disabilities, and for providing training and hands-on experience to participants in the special education exchange visitor program.

Application Process

The petitioning employer must file a petition for a nonimmigrant work visa with USCIS. The petition must include a detailed explanation of how the position and the foreign national meets the requirements.

If the H-3 petition is approved, USCIS will issue an I-797 Approval Notice. If the foreign national is inside the United States in another nonimmigrant status, they can file their H-3 petition as a change of status petition. This means that upon approval of the H-3 petition, the foreign national will automatically be in H-3 status.

Applying for a Visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate

If the foreign national is outside of the United States, they will need to apply for an H-3 visa in their passport before they can enter the United States in H-3 status. To apply for the H-3 visa, the foreign national will need to complete the U.S. Department of State’s online visa application—DS-160, pay the visa fee, and schedule the visa appointment with a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. If the visa appointment is successful, the foreign national will receive the H-3 visa in their passport. They will be able to enter the United States using the H-3 visa in their passport and the I-797 Notice of Approval from USCIS.

Validity Period

If the petition is approved, the trainee may be allowed to remain in the United States for up to 2 years. If the trainee petition is approved for a Special Education Exchange Visitor, the trainee may remain in the United States for up to 18 months.

Family of Visa Holder

Dependents of H-3 visa holders (spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21) may apply for the H-4 visa. The H-4 visa status allows dependents of the H-3 visa to live in the United States and attend school, but not to work.

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