Welcome to the CETUSA J-1 Intern & Trainee Supervisor Orientation!

We are excited to have you as a part of our program, hosting an international intern or trainee. Your role is vital in ensuring compliance with U.S. Department of State regulations and creating a rewarding career training experience for your international apprentice(s). We look forward to working together to provide a valuable cultural exchange experience for our Exchange Visitor program participant(s)!

1

Read through the Supervisor Orientation

Start by thoroughly reviewing the supervisor orientation that outlines the expectations, responsibilities, and guidelines for supervisors on the J-1 Intern/Trainee program. Take your time to understand the content and make note of any important information. 

2

read through the host company resources

Familiarize yourself with the resources available for host companies. These resources include handbooks, training materials, program documents, and Department of State regulations. The link to the host company resources can be found at the bottom of the orientation.

3

complete the “confirmation of understanding” form

Once you have thoroughly reviewed both the supervisor orientation and host company resources, proceed to fill out the “Confirmation of Understanding” form located at the bottom of the orientation. This form includes important regulatory and program reminders.

Introduction

As stated in 22 CFR 62.22, the primary purpose of both Trainee and Internship programs is to enhance the skills and expertise of Exchange Visitors in their academic or occupational fields through participation in structured and guided work-based training and internship programs; and, to improve a participant’s knowledge of American techniques, methodologies, and technology. A key goal of the Fulbright-Hays Act, which authorizes the J-1 programs, is that the exchange visitor will return to their home country upon completion of their program and share their experiences with their countrymen.

Your business plays a crucial role in advancing the priorities of U.S. foreign policy through its participation in the Exchange Visitor Program. The J-1 program has several key objectives, which include:

  • Cultivating positive international relationships.
  • Establishing a global network of individuals who appreciate American values and culture.
  • Exposing U.S. residents to fresh ideas and perspectives from around the world.
  • Offering foreign nationals valuable educational and cultural experiences in the U.S., which they can take back to their home countries.
  • Encouraging educational and cultural exchanges between the U.S. and other nations.
  • Fostering mutual understanding among individuals from different countries through cultural and educational exchanges.

As stated in 22 CFR 66.22, these programs are strictly designed for on-the-job training and supervised learning; they are not meant for ordinary employment or merely gaining additional work experience. There is a difference between training and gaining additional work experience which is not allowed on this visa program. Training is structured and guided learning where the participants will learn and develop new skills. Work, or ordinary employment, fulfils a core function at a business with minimal supervision. The J-1 Trainee/Intern visa is a cultural exchange visa; it is not a work visa. Participants accepting employment outside of an approved training/internship while on the program is strictly prohibited and illegal.

Your company should not make employment offers to participants to prolong their stay in the U.S. CETUSA does not condone change of status applications with immigration authorities.

  • 22 CFR 62 Exchange Visitor Program Regulations (Program Regulations): The U.S. government regulations guiding our program management. Paragraph 22 CFR 62.22 – Subpart B pertains to J- 1 Trainee/Intern visa categories.
  • United States Department of State, or U.S. State Department, is an executive department of the U.S. federal government responsible for the nation’s foreign policy and international relations. The Exchange Visitor Program is overseen by the U.S. Department of State.
  • Sponsor Organization: A legal entity designated by the Secretary of State to conduct an exchange visitor program. CETUSA is a designated sponsor for J-1 Trainee/Intern programs.
  • Exchange Visitor: A foreign national who has been selected by a sponsor to participate in an exchange visitor program, and who is seeking to enter or has entered the United States temporarily on a non-immigrant J-1 visa or who has obtained J-1 status in the United States based on a Form DS-2019 issued by the sponsor.
  • J-1 Trainee: A trainee must be a foreign national who:
    • Has a degree or professional certificate from a foreign post-secondary academic institution and at least one year of prior related work experience in his or her occupational field outside the United States; or
    • Has five years of work experience outside the United States in the occupational field in which they are seeking training.
    • The maximum duration allowed by the U.S. Department of State for the training program is 18 months. Training in the field of Hospitality and Tourism or Agriculture is limited to 12 months.
  • J-1 Intern: Intern must be a foreign national who:
    • Is currently enrolled in and pursuing studies at a foreign degree- or certificate-granting post-secondary academic institution outside the United States; or
    • Has graduated from such an institution no more than 12 months prior to their exchange visitor program start date.
    • The maximum duration allowed by the U.S. Department of State for an internship in any occupational field is 12 months.
  • J-2 Dependent(s): a spouse or unmarried children (under the age of 21) of a J-1 Trainee/Intern who accompany or later join the J-1 participant(s) in the United States. They apply for a J-2 visa.
  • Program Applicant: a program candidate who is applying for a J-1 Trainee/Intern visa with CETUSA program sponsorship.
  • Program Participant: a sponsored program applicant who has received their Form DS-2019 from CETUSA and is either applying for the J-1 Exchange Visitor visa or has arrived on the program.
  • Host Company: a sponsor-approved business in the U.S. that conducts J-1 Trainee/Intern programs for Exchange Visitors on behalf of a designated sponsor, pursuant to an executed written agreement between the two parties.
  • Site of Activity: The physical, geographic host company location where an Exchange Visitor participates in his or her exchange program. Site of activity must be correctly entered in SEVIS.
  • SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System): An online system that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) uses to maintain information on the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. Your DS-2019 is generated through the SEVIS system and we are required to keep SEVIS records up to date if there are changes to your address, financial information, or training program.
  • United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS): a federal government agency which exclusively focuses on immigration and citizenship services.
  • DHS (Department of Homeland Security): a federal government agency charged with protecting the borders of the United States and its territories. USCIS is a component of DHS.
  • United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP): a federal law enforcement agency of DHS and is the country’s primary border control organization. It is charged with regulating and facilitating international trade, collecting import duties, and enforcing U.S. regulations, including trade, customs, and immigration.
  • Port of entry: a designated location where an Exchange Visitor enters the U.S. territory. It is a point where immigration and customs officials inspect and authorize the entry of foreign travelers and their belongings into the country. In the United States, ports of entry can be located at airports, seaports, and land borders, and are typically staffed by officers from U.S.
  • Customs and Border Protection (CBP): At a port of entry, travelers are required to present their travel documents, including passports and visas, and may be subject to additional questioning and inspection.
  • Form I-515A: if you enter the U.S. without your required documents or with unsigned or missing information, the CBP officer may issue you a Form I-515A, which allows you temporary entry to the U.S. for 30 days. Issuance of I-515A is at the discretion of the CBP officer. Within 30 days, you must submit your I-515A and supporting documents to the U.S. government, otherwise your SEVIS record will be terminated.
  • Grace Period: USCIS allows participants a 30-day travel period commonly referred to as the “Grace Period”. During the 30-day grace period (before and after the participant’s program dates), participants are not in J-1 visa status and are under the jurisdiction of USCIS. Participants are not authorized to start or continue training plan activities within their Host Company. Participants are encouraged to travel within the U.S, but it is not recommended they travel beyond the U.S. borders as they may not be permitted reentry.
  • J-1 visa stamp: a nonimmigrant visa document issued by the U.S. government to exchange visitors who come to the United States for a specific educational, cultural, or professional exchange program.
  • Form SSA-5: a one-page application form used by the Social Security Administration (SSA) in the United States to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN).
  • SAVE: or Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, is a web-based system which allows government agencies to verify the immigration status of non-U.S. citizens and their eligibility to receive Social Security Numbers (SSNs).

Passports, Visas, Form DS-2019, and Arrival/Departure Records (admission stamp or Form I-94) are official travel documents that participants coming to the U.S. must have in their possession to show their country of citizenship and legal status in the U.S. as J-1 Exchange Visitors. Program participants will receive many important program documents, and it’s important for you to know about the following documents and how they relate to your responsibilities as a host company.

  • Passport: participants should have a valid passport for the duration of their training program. The name listed on the passport should match the name on their Form DS-2019.
  • Form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for J-1 Exchange Visitor Status): once applicants are approved for sponsorship, CETUSA issues their Form DS-2019, which allows them to apply for the J-1 visa. This document also permits participants to train/intern with your company. In addition, it provides information about your business and site of activity, identifies CETUSA as the program sponsor, and states the time period that the participant is legally permitted to train/intern in the U.S.
  • The J-1 Visa: the J-1 visa stamp is issued in participants’ passports if they are approved for the J-1 visa by a consular officer at a U.S. Consulate abroad. The J-1 visa allows participants to enter and re-enter the U.S. to complete their training/internship program. The visa does not determine the length of time individuals may legally remain in the U.S. The visa expiration date is the last day that participants can use their visa to enter the U.S. Therefore, their visa expiration date might be different from the dates on their Form DS-2019. The program end date in Section 3 of their Form DS-2019 is the last day they can train with your host company.
  • I-94 Arrival/Departure Record: upon entry, participants are issued a Form I-94 Arrival/Departure record. This document serves as proof of legal entry into the U.S. and is required for various purposes, such as applying for a Social Security number or a driver’s license. The CBP website allows participants to download their Form I-94 within hours of their U.S. arrival. If their information isn’t reflected 48 hours after U.S. arrival, it is possible there is a system error, or the data is there, but formatted differently than it was entered. CETUSA provides instructions to participants on how to address issues with retrieving their Form I-94. CBP troubleshoot tips can be found here.
  • Form DS-7002 Training Plan: this document outlines the training/internship program that your company will provide. The training plan must be followed closely, and any changes to the plan must be approved by CETUSA before implementing them.
  • Host Company Agreement: a fully executed agreement outlining the relationship between CETUSA and your company while hosting the program.

CETUSA can sponsor training or internship programs in a variety of industries and businesses, within the following occupational fields:

  • Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing
  • Education, Social Sciences, Library Science
  • Information Media and Communications
  • Public Administration and Law
  • Arts and Culture
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Management, Business, Commerce, and Finance
  • The Sciences, Engineering, Architecture, Mathematics, and Industrial Occupations

CETUSA does not hold the designation to sponsor programs in Construction and Building Trades, Health- Related Occupations, or Counseling or Social Services.

The following types of programs are not eligible for sponsorship: unskilled or casual labor positions, positions that require or involve childcare or elder care, or in clinical or any other kind of work that involves patient care or patient contact. This includes any work that would require trainees or interns to provide therapy, medication, or other clinical or medical care (e.g., sports or physical therapy, psychological counseling), nursing, hairdressers, dentistry, veterinary medicine or animal care, social work, speech therapy, early childhood education. Quick service restaurants and other counter service positions are also prohibited.

CETUSA can sponsor training and internship programs outside its own organization if a business meets program requirements and agrees to facilitate training according to program regulations and foster cultural exchange in their workplace.

As a designated program sponsor, CETUSA is required to screen and closely monitor a Host Company that intends to host J-1 program participants. An eligible Host Company must provide the participants with in-office, supervised training at their business location. The supervisor is one of the most important people in the participants’ programs; they should be interested in providing a professional mentorship in facilitating a cultural exchange with the participants and Host Company staff.

Not every company is eligible to host a J-1 Trainee or Intern. CETUSA applies stringent criteria when screening potential hosts to ensure compliance with program regulations. Companies that have negative publicity, poor employee reviews, history of lawsuits, or otherwise that could bring the Exchange Visitor Program or the Department into notoriety or disrepute will not be approved for CETUSA sponsorship.

Host Company responsibilities include: 

  • Abiding by U.S. Department of State regulations.
  • Having sufficient resources, facilities, equipment, and qualified personnel available for training the program participants.
  • Providing continuous onsite supervision and mentoring to the program participants.
  • Abiding by all federal, state, and local occupational health and safety laws.
  • Abiding by all CETUSA program regulations.
  • Providing participants with full-time training hours (32-40 hours a week).
  • Providing professional level positions that do not involve more than 20% of clerical duties.
  • Not placing the program applicants in unskilled or casual labor positions as defined in 22 CFR 62.22.
  • Completing, signing, and following the Training/Internship Placement Plan, Form DS-7002.
  • Completing mandatory Midpoint and Final Evaluations on time.
  • Assisting CETUSA in communicating with the program participants, if requested.
  • Ensuring the program participants obtain skills, knowledge, and competencies through structured and guided activities, which may include classroom training, seminars, departmental rotations, on-the-job training, and other similar activities.
  • Notifying CETUSA immediately of any concerns, changes in, or deviations from the Training/Internship Placement Plan.
  • Notify CETUSA immediately in the event of any emergency involving the program participants or if they leave the program for any reason.
  • Not using this program for the following purposes: a substitute for ordinary employment or work, displacement of American workers, duplicating a participant’s prior work experience, or a means for the participants to change their J-1 status to another visa status.
  • Notifying CETUSA if program participants accept work outside their J-1 programs.
  • Providing a valid copy of your company’s Worker’s Compensation Policy confirming coverage for the participants and appropriate renewal of the policy upon its expiration. If applicable, providing CETUSA evidence of state exemption from the requirement coverage.
  • Reporting and paying applicable state, federal, and local employment taxes as required in the IRS Employer Tax Guide and Publication 515 and recognize that program participants are considered non-resident aliens who are not subject to Social Security and Medicare (FICA) taxes or federal unemployment tax (FUTA).
  • Allowing CETUSA to conduct a site visit, if necessary, under U.S. Department of State regulations.
  • Organizing and encouraging cultural activity opportunities for the program participants including but not limited to holiday celebrations, team building activities, potlucks, local festivals, performances, etc.
  • Immediately reporting any safety concerns to CETUSA Staff.

Any involvement with a staffing/employment agency to recruit, screen, orient, place, evaluate, or train trainees or interns, or in any other way involve such agencies in in the J-1 Trainee/Intern program is strictly prohibited. 

SEVIS stands for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, which is a web-based system used by the U.S. government to manage and track data on non-immigrant students and exchange visitors (F, J, M visa categories), as well as their dependents, who are participating in educational and cultural exchange programs in the U.S. 

When a participant’s application for sponsorship is approved, CETUSA submits their program information to SEVIS and creates a PDF record, Form DS-2019 “Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status,” for the participant’s program, which they also need to apply for their J-1 visa.

CETUSA is granted access to SEVIS by the U.S. government under conditions to maintain the accuracy of its participants’ SEVIS records, with a requirement to update if changes occur in:

  • Form DS-7002 Training/Internship Placement Plan: changes in the training site address or the supervisor, changes in the training duration or content of the training.
  • Changes to the participant’s living address or contact information.
  • Program termination or program shortening.
  • Substantial changes in funding.

These reporting obligations are designed to ensure that the U.S. government has accurate and up-to-date information on J-1 Trainees/Interns participating in exchange programs, and that these individuals are complying with the terms of their visas. Failure to comply with SEVIS reporting requirements can result in penalties and other sanctions for designated sponsors.

CETUSA takes every measure to ensure integrity of its participants’ SEVIS records and requests that you help us maintain compliance by prompt notification should any program changes occur.

Placement Services: for questions about the available CETUSA positions on our website, applicants, or Host Company eligibility criteria, please contact:

Program Administration: for questions about the application review process, please contact:

Program Monitoring: for questions or concerns during your participant’s program, please contact:

CETUSA Emergency Hotline: 1 (877) 261-6576

Supervisor Responsibilities

One of the key components of a successful training or internship program is mentorship. The Form DS-7002 requires, at minimum, that host companies appoint a main point of contact and a phase supervisor.

Main Program Supervisor/POC

The main program supervisor is the person who oversees the entire program. This individual may be from the HR department or the same person responsible for the participant’s daily supervision. They act as the primary point of contact for participants, ensuring the program follows established requirements and complies with regulations.

This supervisor bears the responsibility of offering comprehensive program oversight, ensuring adherence to program requirements, providing ongoing guidance and support to participants, and delivering timely responses and updates to CETUSA. Their role is fundamental to the overall success of the program. 

Primary Phase Supervisor

The primary phase supervisor is the person who will supervise the participant(s) during a specific phase of their program. This individual is entrusted with the responsibility of offering on-site supervision, guidance, and mentorship throughout the duration of the designated program phase.

Their primary objective is to ensure that the participant(s) under their supervision are progressing toward their goals, acquiring new skills, and gaining comprehensive knowledge aligned with the program’s objectives. They play a crucial role in shaping a positive and constructive learning experience, ensuring that participants not only meet but exceed the objectives set for their specific program phase.

The DS-7002 Training/Internship Placement Plan is a crucial document in the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program, designed for individuals seeking training and internship opportunities in the United States. 

The DS-7002 outlines the specific details of the proposed training or internship, including the objectives, tasks, and skills that the participant is expected to acquire during their stay. The plan typically includes information about the training site, the qualifications of the supervisor, and the educational and professional background of the participant. This document plays a crucial role in demonstrating to the U.S. Department of State that the exchange program is focused on providing a valuable learning experience for the participant, rather than serving as a form of employment.

Supervisors play a pivotal role in overseeing participants’ daily activities to ensure the agreed-upon training and hands-on experience are effectively integrated into their professional development. They are responsible for providing guidance, constructive feedback, and regular check-ins to assess the participant’s progress.

In addition to the day-to-day oversight, supervisors play a pivotal role in creating an open and supportive communication channel. They should make themselves readily available for guidance and feedback, establishing a mentorship dynamic that encourages participants to seek advice and clarification. 

This proactive approach fosters a dynamic learning environment, allowing participants to translate theoretical knowledge into practical skills. Through active supervision, mentors contribute to participants exceeding their educational and career objectives during their training program.

In addition to the mandatory midpoint and final evaluations, supervisors are expected to maintain a consistent and proactive approach by providing participants with regular feedback and checking in on their goals and training program progression. This ongoing feedback is crucial to the participant’s continuous improvement and ensures that they stay on track with their learning objectives.

By fostering a dynamic and interactive relationship, supervisors contribute to a supportive learning environment, allowing participants to receive guidance and make necessary adjustments throughout the entirety of the training program. This continuous engagement reflects a commitment to the participant’s development, emphasizing not only formal assessments but also the day-to-day guidance crucial for a successful and enriching training experience.

Supervisors play a crucial role in facilitating participants’ integration into the local culture and community during their program. Supervisors help participants navigate the nuances of their new surroundings. This involves not only offering practical guidance on local resources but also providing invaluable insights into the cultural fabric of the community. By sharing information about local customs, traditions, and social norms, supervisors empower participants to adapt more easily and engage meaningfully with the local community.

Supervisors also take an active role in enriching participants’ cultural experience by sharing details about various local events and activities. Whether it’s local festivals, community gatherings, or recreational opportunities, supervisors ensure that participants are well-informed about the array of experiences available to them.

This approach encourages participants to explore and embrace the cultural diversity of the United States but also fosters a sense of belonging within the local community. 

Supervisors have the responsibility of guaranteeing that the host organization adheres to the regulations stipulated by the U.S. Department of State within the framework of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Intern/Trainee Programs. This includes adhering to program duration limits, providing required documentation, and reporting any changes or issues that may arise to CETUSA. 

Supervisors must promptly report any changes or issues that may arise during the course of the program to CETUSA. This includes both positive developments and challenges that may require attention. 

Supervisors are responsible for proactively addressing and resolving challenges or conflicts that may arise throughout the participant’s program. This includes issues related to the assigned training tasks, communication dynamics, and various other aspects that may impact the participant’s overall experience. 

One facet of this responsibility involves addressing challenges related to the training tasks assigned to participants. This may involve providing additional clarification on expectations, offering resources, or adjusting the scope of tasks to better align with the participant’s progress. Supervisors should contribute to an environment where participants feel supported and encouraged to overcome obstacles, fostering a more enriching and effective learning experience.

Supervisors are also responsible for addressing communication-related challenges. Whether they stem from cultural differences, misunderstandings, or logistical issues, supervisors play an important role in facilitating effective communication. CETUSA is available as a resource to help address any issues that arise on program. 

Supervisors play a pivotal role in fostering the professional development of participants. They actively facilitate networking opportunities, connecting participants with influential figures within the organization and industry. These connections not only expand participants’ professional networks but also provide valuable insights, mentorship, and exposure to diverse perspectives, contributing significantly to their overall professional growth and development.

In addition to networking, supervisors assess participants’ individual strengths and areas for development and guide them toward relevant skill-building opportunities. This can be through workshops, training programs, or hands-on projects. This approach ensures that participants not only excel in their current responsibilities but also acquire a skill set aligned with their career aspirations. 

If your participant is currently on the program, skip to the “on program” section at the bottom of the page.

Program Requirements

The Exchange Visitor Trainee/Intern program categories are privately funded programs and do not receive any financial assistance from the government. The funding to support visitors on a J-1 visa primarily comes from fees and payments made by the program applicants to CETUSA for the programs for which they are sponsored.

CETUSA must ensure that program applicants have sufficient funds to meet their living expenses for the duration of the program. The minimum funding requirements for CETUSA Trainee/Intern program participants are:

  • $2,000 arrival / emergency funds, available at the time of arrival to cover start-up living expenses. These costs include but are not limited to temporary lodging, first month’s rent, rental security deposit, mobile phone, transportation, food, and supplies.
  • $2,000 per month on the program (stipend, scholarship, personal savings, or a combination thereof).
  • An additional $1000 per month for each J-2 Dependent (if applicable).

The required funding may be assessed at a higher rate for programs located in cities with higher cost of living.

The rules of the program allow for participants to receive a stipend or other forms of compensation, such as wages or salary, for the purpose of offsetting their living expenses while participating in their exchange visitor program.

CETUSA strongly encourages all host companies to provide compensation to their participants. However, some internships may either be paid, partially paid, or unpaid. Unpaid programs may not exceed six months in program length and will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Please review the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) guidelines when considering unpaid or less-than minimum wage internships. FLSA guidelines require all for-profit businesses to pay a minimum wage stipend to non-students.

If the stipend does not meet the $2,000 per month requirement, the program applicants are required to show proof of personal savings, grant, or a scholarship to offset the difference.

Since the program participants are not allowed to be employed outside their training or internship program, it is imperative to help them meet their $2,000 per month living budget. The below table demonstrates the minimum hourly rate and how the guaranteed number of training hours can help meet the living minimum.

Hours per Week 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40
Stipend $14.42 $13.99 $13.57 $13.19 $12.82 $12.47 $12.15 $11.83 $11.54

It is up to the discretion of your company which benefits to offer to your participants, considering their temporary status in the U.S. If your company is offering temporary workers accrued paid time off (PTO) for holidays, sick days, or vacation time you may consider offering this benefit to your trainee/intern. However, there is no such requirement and other programs like 401(K) retirement plan or incentive stock options (ISO) are not appropriate due to the short-term nature of this visa program.  

All aspects of the program that may affect the income earned such as overtime, vacation time, sick time, and paid holidays must be disclosed on the Supplemental Placement Information page of the Form DS-7002 Training/Internship Placement Plan. 

It is not uncommon for stipend increases to take place during the program, as the minimum wage continues to rise to help offset the cost of living. However, you must notify CETUSA of any decrease or increase in stipend equal to or greater than 25% of the original stipend amount.  

If you decide to offer more advanced training because your participants have exceeded the training expectations and are ready to take on more complex training which may result in a higher pay rate, CETUSA must first evaluate and approve modifications to the training plan, and update and re-sign the participant’s Form DS-7002, and then update SEVIS with the changes.

CETUSA participants are made aware that very few Host Companies will have employee housing available and generally, the company’s staff cannot help them in their housing search. By joining the program, they accept responsibility to arrange their housing; they are recommended to begin their housing search prior to arrival and secure temporary accommodations ahead of time.

A housing cost range of $600–$1,000 is provided for shared living accommodations and likely the same amount in security deposit with a remark that in some areas, the housing costs will be higher than $1,000 per month. The participants are encouraged to ask CETUSA staff to provide a rent estimate for the area prior to their arrival. They are also provided with detailed information on various housing options and rental terms, as well as guidance on how to contact prospective landlords. CETUSA staff discusses housing arrangements with each program applicant during a video conferencing call prior to finalizing application review.

If employee housing is available, or if your company is arranging housing, a Housing Addendum must be completed to capture the housing details. CETUSA will then share those details with the applicant and require their written acknowledgement of the housing terms.

If no employee housing is available, our program participants may contact you to check if you know of any available housing in the area. CETUSA is also committed to helping program participants identify options if they experience trouble locating housing.

CETUSA is required to ensure that all program participants (as well as their accompanying spouses and dependents) have adequate insurance coverage for the complete duration of their programs.

Accident and Sickness insurance is included in their program package. CETUSA is not their insurance provider but will enroll them in an insurance policy before their program start date. The accident and sickness insurance does not cover pre-existing conditions. If a participant has a pre-existing condition, we recommend that they look into purchasing additional insurance coverage or discuss the possibility of being added to your company insurance policy.

Your business is not required to offer the participants comprehensive health insurance, but you may choose to do so. The participants, however, may not waive the accident and sickness coverage included in their program fee since it covers what is required under the federal regulations for the program.

Since J-1 participants are considered temporary employees of your business, they should be covered by your company’s workers’ compensation policy in the event of a work-related injury or illness. If your business is not required to carry a worker’s compensation policy, you must submit proof of exemption along with proof of alternative insurance coverage.

Contact your insurance provider to ensure that your J-1 participants will be covered by the policy to avoid any legal or financial liabilities.

Prior to choosing program dates, it’s imperative that the Host Company and the applicant discuss any processing times and potential delays with CETUSA . It is important to consider the requirements of the program and application, and how long it will realistically take to complete. In addition, there may be other circumstances that delay program start dates. These include, but are not limited to, delays gathering documentation from different entities (universities, banks, etc.), long visa appointment wait times, visa denials, and flight availability. If these delays present themselves, the participant’s program dates will be adjusted.

The maximum duration allowed by the U.S. Department of State for the intern program in any occupational field is 12 months. The maximum duration allowed by the U.S. Department of State for the trainee program is 18 months. However, training in the field of Hospitality and Tourism or Agriculture is always limited to 12 months.

The program dates are indicated in section 3 of the participant’s Form DS-2019. This means that the trainee/intern is allowed to participate in training or internship activities only within those dates. They are not authorized to pursue J-1 training or internship activities before or after their program dates.

The program dates on the DS-7002 Training/Internship Placement Plan will always match the program dates on the Form DS-2019. If dates are adjusted, the Host Company and participant will receive copies of the updated documentation.

Section 212(e) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, also known as the Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement referenced in the immigration regulations, means that those J-1 or J-2 visa holders who are subject to this requirement cannot become permanent residents in the U.S., change status in the U.S., or be eligible for employment-based or family-based visa sponsorship in H, L, or K visa status until they return to their country of last permanent residence for at least two years cumulatively or receive a waiver of this requirement.

The U.S. Consular officer and/or the DHS officer at the port of entry will decide whether this requirement applies, and the notation(s) can be found on a participant’s Form DS-2019 in the bottom left corner and/or on the visa page of their passport. CETUSA does not have any influence on this determination. To see how and if the 212(e) rule may apply, please review the CETUSA Host Company Resources.

Program Application

The application for sponsorship requires both the applicant, and the host company to submit their respective documents to demonstrate program eligibility. CETUSA host company screening methods include, but are not limited to:

  • Host Company Agreement: the host company representative must sign an agreement, provided by CETUSA, that outlines host company responsibilities, conditions, and program information. If there are multiple locations where the participants will be training, each location will require its own host company agreement.
  • Workers’ Compensation Policy: the host company must provide a copy of their Worker’s Compensation policy and confirm that it will cover the participants. Otherwise, evidence of exemption or an alternative policy must be provided.
  • Proof of Business: CETUSA must ensure that the host company has been in business for at least 12 months. The host company may be required to provide a copy of a business, accreditation, or other industry-specific license.
  • EIN Verification: the host company must provide their Employer Identification Number in order to verify status with the Secretary of the State website.
  • Host Company Interview: the host company supervisor(s) are required to complete a host company interview with CETUSA. The interview will be conducted over the phone, and the time will be spent confirming program information/regulations, confirming the host company’s information, and if necessary, discussing further questions.
  • Site Visit: a site visit must be conducted by a CETUSA representative if the host company’s annual revenue is less than $3 million, its staff is less than 25 employees, or if CETUSA feels a site visit is warranted. The site visitor must verify that the host site has adequate facilities, training equipment, and qualified staff to supervise the participant’s training.
  • Accreditation: CETUSA may verify that the host company is accredited or licensed in their industry, if applicable.
  • Evaluations: if the host company has previously hosted J-1 participants, CETUSA will review past participants’ program evaluations before approving sponsorship for new applicants.

After verifying the documentation by both host company and applicant, CETUSA will review the application in detail to determine whether the application can be approved for sponsorship. This involves evaluating the applicant’s skills and experience, their English knowledge, as well as their goals and objectives for the program. CETUSA’s staff will meet with the applicant in a video conferencing call to review the program terms and conditions. On average, application review takes 7-10 days.

Once CETUSA has approved the applicant for sponsorship, CETUSA will issue and email an acceptance packet to the participant containing the original Form DS-2019, along with a fully executed Form DS-7002, and other supporting documents. After this stage, the visa scheduling process will begin.

Form DS-7002, also known as the Training/Internship Placement Plan, is an important program document in the J-1 visa program, because it helps to ensure that J-1 visa holders are participating in a legitimate training or internship program that meets the program requirements set by the U.S. Department of State. CETUSA is responsible for ensuring the participant’s activities are consistent as outlined in the Form DS-7002, and the participant’s SEVIS record which every sponsor is required to maintain.

By completing the Form DS-7002, the host organization agrees to a preset training or internship syllabus and providing the J-1 visa holder with a structured and supervised training program that is designed to enhance their skills and knowledge in their chosen occupational field. This document serves as a contract between CETUSA, the host company, and the trainee/intern for the duration of the program.

Any changes to the Form DS-7002 must be approved by CETUSA in writing as further action on the sponsor’s behalf is required for compliance purposes.

Failure to comply with the requirements set forth on the Form DS-7002 could result in withdrawal of the J-1 visa program sponsorship for the host organization and could jeopardize the J-1 visa status of your participants.

We recommend investing time in developing a detailed training plan because it demonstrates program legitimacy and compliance and can positively influence the J-1 visa interview results by providing the consular officer with a clear understanding of the program’s objectives and the applicant’s intended skills and knowledge acquisition.

In the CETUSA Host Company Resources, you will find a document that will help guide you through the development of a DS-7002 Training/Internship Placement Plan.

Hospitality & Tourism Programs

Compared to programs in other occupational categories, Hospitality & Tourism programs have more elaborate rules that must be followed to ensure compliance.

Hospitality programs of more than 6 months require at least three different departmental or functional rotations and/or phases. Training plans should be progressive with advanced training aspects, focusing on leadership and management skills.

Participants cannot train in unskilled or casual labor positions. The following positions are prohibited on the J-1 trainee and intern programs: bartending, bussing/food running, cleaning, valet, fast casual and counter service roles, housekeeping or hotel cleaners, drivers, cashiers, service attendants, stockroom workers, or any other activity outlined in 22. C.F.R. 62 Appendix E.

The U.S. Department of State has provided additional guidance that expands on expectations for the type of program your company should deliver. The guidance directives can be found here, and they provide examples of appropriate content for training plans.

Almost all J-1 exchange visitor participants must schedule an in-person interview appointment with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad, except for Canadian citizens, who apply for admission to the U.S. as J-1 non-immigrants at a U.S. port of entry. Typically, the wait for a visa appointment is 2 days to 6 weeks, but sometimes the wait can be longer. 

J-1 visa applicants whose program begin dates are within 60 days may qualify for an expedited visa appointment and are encouraged to submit their urgent appointment request.

The consular officer is required by law to view each J-1 visa applicant as a potential non-immigrant to the United States. During a non-immigrant U.S. visa interview, the consular officer will evaluate the applicant’s eligibility for the visa by reviewing their application, supporting documentation, and responses to interview questions. Visa applicants must demonstrate strong ties to their home country, a clear purpose of travel with supporting documentation, financial means to support themselves, intention to return home, and admissibility to the U.S. (i.e., not having any disqualifying factors, such as a criminal record or previous immigration violations). The consular officer will evaluate applicant responses and documentation to determine whether they meet the eligibility requirements for the specific visa category they are applying for.

CETUSA provides thorough guidance on the visa application process, but it has no control or influence of the consular decision to grant or deny visa. A visa denial may result in the trainee/intern’s inability to arrive on the program.

At the end of a participant’s visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, the consular officer will inform them whether their visa application is approved or denied.

  • Visa Approval: if a participant’s visa is approved, a consular officer should explain how and when their passport and visa will be returned to them. If your company is providing airport pick up for the participant, you must coordinate with them for their arrival date and time. 
  • Visa Denial: as per U.S. immigration and visa law guidelines, a visa must be denied if a participant cannot establish their eligibility, either because the application does not meet the requirements of an established visa category, or because there are grounds for ineligibility based on other aspects of the participant’s background. The participant will be informed why they are ineligible to receive a visa. For additional information about visa denials, please go to the following website.
  • Administrative Review: in rare cases, the visa appointment ends with the case moved to an “administrative review” status. It is a process that can occur after a U.S. visa application is submitted and involves additional screening by U.S. government agencies to ensure that the applicant does not pose a security or other type of risk to the U.S. During administrative review, the applicant’s application and supporting documentation may be subject to further scrutiny, and the review process may take additional time.

Program Arrival and Onboarding

The way participants are received by you and your staff can quickly set the tone for their overall experience. Program participants who feel welcomed by a company right from the start are more likely to place value on projects and tasks and feel a sense of purpose within the organization’s structure. It is likely that the participants will experience culture shock, and you should take that into consideration during the first few weeks of their program. 

Culture shock can be best defined as a natural response to stress upon immersing oneself in a new environment. The new environment makes new demands for which the participants are not ready. They neither have ready answers, nor do they know what the appropriate response should be. This drastic change creates stress. There is a chance that your participants have never been to the U.S. before, and everything around is new to them. The participants are likely to miss their home, family, and friends. They might also be adjusting to communicating in the English language and learning new local and industry-specific vocabulary. Participants will require additional time and patience from you and the rest of your staff while they adjust to life in the U.S.

We suggest that you:

  • Plan a lunch in the conference room with all employees and participants to welcome the newest additions to the company.
  • Invite your participants to lunch away from the office atmosphere.
  • Send out an email or announcement to all employees including a short bio of the new participants and a list of the departments in which they will be receiving their training/internship.
  • Encourage your employees to personally introduce themselves to the participants throughout their first day or week.
  • Create a welcome letter or card to place on the new participant’s desk to make them feel welcome.
  • Help set up transportation (bus passes, etc.) to/from the training site of activity.
  • Create a welcome packet with company information and employment forms.

If your company has a pre-employment drug test or background check screening policy for new hires, please advise the trainee/intern to arrive a few days in advance of their begin date to complete these requirements.

At the start of the program, every host company must conduct a formal orientation to welcome their participants and introduce them to your staff, policies, and procedures, company culture, and local community. An outline of the orientation may include:

  • Welcome and Introductions: the orientation session should start with a warm welcome to the participants and introductions of key personnel, including their role and responsibilities in the company.
  • Overview of the Company: the host company should provide an overview of the company’s history, mission, vision, and values. This will help the participants understand the company’s culture and how they fit into the organization.
  • Organizational Structure: the host company should provide a clear understanding of the organizational structure, including the hierarchy of positions and departments, reporting lines, and communication channels. This is especially important for participants who may be unfamiliar with the company’s structure and culture.
  • Policies and Procedures: discuss important company policies and procedures, such as HR policies (e.g., sexual harassment, training schedule & tardiness policy, vacation & sick days, requesting time-off, and other benefits the participant should or should not expect) safety procedures, security protocols.
  • Cultural Adjustment and Support: provide support and resources to help the participants adjust to life in the United States and the company’s culture. This may include information about the general area (and areas to avoid), local housing options, transportation, banks, library, food markets, healthcare, and cultural or sport events and activities.
  • IT Systems and Equipment: review your company’s IT systems and equipment, including login credentials, email systems, and any software or tools required for the participant’s role.
  • Training and Development: review your participant’s Form DS-7002 Training/Internship Placement Plan and discuss training expectations as well as other development opportunities available to the participants, such as external training courses or seminars (if applicable).
  • Q&A Session: conclude the meeting with Q&A session where the participants can ask any questions they may have about the company, their role, or anything else that may be unclear.

The program participants are eligible and will need to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) unless they’ve been issued one before from a previous program in the U.S. This number is necessary if they are receiving a paycheck or if they will be opening a bank account, renting an apartment, or applying for a U.S. driver’s license. If the participants have been issued a SSN in the past but do not have a card or remember the number, they should visit the local Social Security Administration office, retrieve their number, and apply for a replacement card. Applying for a SSN can only be done in person.

It is legal for the participants to begin training before their SSN has been issued if they bring a receipt of application that shows that they have applied.

Participants must first contact CETUSA to validate their SEVIS record prior to applying for SSN. Their SEVIS record will change to Active status after their training begin date.  

When applying for a SSN, the participants must bring the following items:

    • Form DS-2019
    • Passport
    • I-94 Arrival/Departure Record (download here)
    • Social Security Letter from CETUSA

They will be required to complete Form SSA-5, which they can prepare and print in advance of their visit if they choose to, or complete it in the office. If the participants have not secured permanent housing, it is recommended that they indicate your company address in the application to ensure the card delivery.

The Social Security Administration (SSA), at the time of the application submission, is required to verify the applicant’s immigration status by entering the individual’s personal information into the web-based SAVE system. SAVE then searches the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) database to verify the individual’s immigration status.

If on the day of applying the applicant’s immigration status is verified through SAVE, the SSA can issue a SSN to the applicant, which is generated in their system within 48 hours. Their card will be processed and mailed to the address indicated in their application in approximately 2 weeks. However, if no data is found in SAVE, the SSA must submit a request to verify documentation manually. This internal verification process can take 4 weeks or longer as they are required to verify the documents with the issuing offices. In many cases this verification process can be avoided by following the guidance from SSA.

The information on the participant’s immigrational status is gathered from the Port of Entry and from SEVIS and may take several days to be accessible in SAVE. For this reason, the SSA recommends waiting 10 days after arriving in the United States to apply for the number to ensure that all records will be up to date.

At the end of the visit, the applicant should be handed a confirmation letter. If the letter indicates that the card will be mailed in 2 weeks, the application was successful. However, if the receipt states that before the number can be issued, they must verify their alien status with the government offices, this means the application was not accepted on this visit and will require additional time.

Delays in Issuing a Social Security Number

The IRS acknowledges that foreign nationals may experience significant delays in obtaining SSNs and provides guidance to employers which you can read in this IRS article.

While we understand that not having a SSN may complicate the payroll system set up, there is no federal law administered by any federal agency which prohibits the hiring of a person based solely on the fact that the person does not have a SSN. Similarly, there is no federal law which prohibits the making of a payment to a person based solely on the fact that the person does not have an SSN, which the IRS article explains.

Many host companies assist their participants with applying for their Social Security Number. If your company is unable to assist, you may wish to prepare a brief document identifying the nearest Social Security Office and transportation options to reach this office.

If the card is not issued in 4 weeks, remind your participants to call the local SSA office by phone, or visit in person to check on the status of their application. They can also reach them by calling 1 (800) 772-1213.

Participants should not be set up on your payroll as independent contractors, but rather as W-2 employees with appropriate withholdings, as discussed later in the manual.

The participants are only allowed to train with your business under the supervision and guidance of a designated supervisor, therefore, on-the-job training cannot be considered as an independent activity.  Furthermore, if your participants are classified as independent contractors, they are not considered employees of the company and are not subject to the same level of supervision and guidance. In liability considerations, independent contractors are responsible for their own work and are not covered by the same liability protections (including, but not limited to worker’s compensation policy coverage) as employees. If participants are classified as independent contractors and they cause damage or injury while on the job, your business may be held liable for any resulting damages.

It may also lead to tax implications. Employers who misclassify employees as independent contractors can face significant tax liabilities, including penalties for failure to pay employment taxes. The IRS uses a series of tests to determine whether an individual is an employee or an independent contractor, and misclassification can result in costly audits and penalties.

Tax Residency Status

Before beginning to complete new hire documents it is important to verify your participant’s residency status for tax purposes to correctly determine the tax exemption status.

Although the tax residency rules are based on the immigration laws concerning immigrant and nonimmigrant aliens, the tax rules define residency for tax purposes in a way that is very different from U.S. immigration law. For tax purposes, there are two types of aliens: resident and nonresident aliens. Resident aliens are taxed in the same manner as U.S. citizens on their worldwide income, and nonresident aliens (with certain narrowly defined exceptions) are taxed only on income which is derived from sources within the United States and/or income that is effectively connected with a U.S. trade or business.

The participants are typically referred to as ‘nonresident aliens’ under the IRS regulations for tax purposes. If a J1 visa holder has been in the U.S. for longer than two of the last six calendar years, the Substantial Presence Test will determine their correct tax residency. Please visit the IRS website for more details on this topic: Taxation of Alien Individuals by Immigration Status – J-1.

There are tax specialists, like Sprintax, that specialize in nonresident tax filing process can provide further guidance on this subject, as it pertains to a specific case.

Income Tax Treaty Exemption

The following is intended to provide general guidelines only. Given the complexity of tax codes affecting J-1 visa holders, you may wish to consult with a competent tax professional knowledgeable about international tax treaties.

A tax treaty is an agreement between two countries that determines how taxes will be levied on individuals or businesses that have connections to both countries. There are provisions under the Internal Revenue Code and applicable income tax treaties that may exempt a J-1 visa nonresident’s compensation for personal services income from U.S. taxation.

The United States has bilateral income tax treaties with over 65 countries and many treaties provide specific benefits for J-1 aliens under the Students/Trainees article and/or the Teachers/Researchers article of the applicable treaty. Each treaty provision is unique and must be examined to determine the applicable treaty benefits for participants. You can find a list of treaties on the IRS website. If a participant is a resident of a country that has a tax treaty with the US, they may be taxed at a reduced rate or exempt from U.S. tax on income from specific sources earned within the US. The reduced rates and exemptions vary depending on the country and types of income.

It is the responsibility of the participants to notify you of the tax treaty exemption by submitting IRS Form 8233 for the respective tax year along with an exemption election statement where they “elect” to receive the tax exemption based on a specified tax treaty between the United States and their home country. It is also your company’s responsibility to verify that the treaty covers the participants.

You must mail completed Form 8233 along with attachments to the IRS within 5 days to the address provided on per instruction for Form 8233. If a participant is claiming a tax treaty exception, Form 8233 must be filed with your W-4 at the beginning of every tax year.

IRS Publication 901 summarizes the tax treaties currently in effect. Exchange visitors from Canada, Mexico, American Samoa, Japan, South Korea, India, China, and others often find tax advantages in the treaties.

For more information, please refer to:

CETUSA recommends seeking competent tax advice before proceeding.

For more information on taxes for non-residents and other foreign nationals living and working in the U.S., the IRS provides an annual Publication 519 U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens. This comprehensive publication addresses the most common tax questions among visitors.

FICA and FUTA Withholdings

Under IRS Code Section 31.21. (B)(19), all nonresident aliens on J-1 visas are exempt from paying FICA (Social Security) and FUTA (federal unemployment taxes) taxes during their first two calendar years in the U.S. or parts thereof. They cannot collect these benefits, so they do not have to pay for them.

To fix the mistake of wrongfully withholding FICA and FUTA taxes from a J-1 nonresident alien’s wages, the employer should correct the amount, file Form 941-X, provide a corrected Form W-2, and refund the withheld taxes to the employee. The participants can also claim a refund for wrongfully withholding FICA and FUTA taxes when filing their tax return.

However, it is possible that the state or city government may impose an income tax on J-1 visa holders and will have a different approach to determining residency status. Each state has a complex and differing definition of what constitutes a resident. Most states will look at a list of residency factors that have been long established like domicile (permanent residency), or the day counting rule. Owning a home, family location, and financial interests are other factors which help some of the states determine residency.

Participants may be considered residents of the state where they currently live. Check with your state and local tax authorities or consult a tax professional on the appropriate withholdings.

If there is a state and/or city income tax where participants reside, you will generally withhold these taxes from the participant’s paycheck.

When participants arrive at your company, they must complete Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification before they begin their training. To fill out this form, participants must provide you with a copy of their passport/visa, I-94 arrival record, and Form DS-2019.

The participants will complete Section 1, and you will complete Section 2. The participants will be required to indicate their SSN, U.S. living address and contact information.

If the participants have not been issued SSNs yet, you can add it at a later date. The IRS guidance suggests that if an alien employee can prove his work-eligibility with documents listed on Form I-9 other than a U.S. social security card, then the alien’s Form I-9, even though submitted without an SSN, is valid under immigration law.

The form indicates the following documents are acceptable for employment eligibility verification:

List A Documents:

    • Passport – confirms identity.
    • Form I-94 – confirms legal entry/foreign admission number, length of stay, and J-1 status.

You will need to make and store copies of their passport, J-1 visa, I-94 admission record, and Form DS-2019 in your personnel files.

Form I-94 indicates an “admit until date” that confirms when the traveler’s immigrant status expires. For participants, this date is “D/S” or Duration of Status (unlike other visa classifications which indicate a hard end date) according to CBP article explaining I-94 Expiration Dates. Admission status D/S refers to program dates listed on the participant’s Form DS-2019.

Program participants should select box 4: “Legal alien authorized to work until” and enter program end date as indicated in line 3 of their Form DS-2019.

Participants cannot train past their program end date. In case of a program extension, you may complete Section 3 of the original Form I-9 if the original is the current version of the form, otherwise complete a new version and store both copies.

E-Verify Compliance

This guidance will apply if your company uses E-Verify, which is an internet-based system that compares information from a participant’s Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, to records available to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Social Security Administration (SSA) to confirm their identity and that they are authorized to work in the United States.

A case cannot be created in E-Verify without an employee’s SSN. The instructions from E-Verify suggest the following:

If an employee has applied for but has not yet received his or her Social Security number (i.e., if he or she is a newly arrived immigrant), make a note on the employee’s Form I-9 and set it aside. The employee should be allowed to continue to work. As soon as the Social Security number is available, the employer can create a case in E-Verify using the employee’s Social Security number. If you are unable to create a case by the third business day after the employee’s first day of employment, select Awaiting Social Security number when prompted by E-Verify.”

E-Verify Case Issues – Tentative Nonconfirmation (Mismatch)

A mismatch means that the information entered into E-Verify does not match records available to the SSA and/or DHS (SEVIS record). E-Verify identifies the agency or agencies associated with the mismatch in the Further Action Notice. When E-Verify displays a mismatch case result, the employer must first notify the participant and complete the referral process as soon as possible within 10 federal government working days after E-Verify issued the mismatch result. You must provide instructions for your participant to follow to correct the error. For more information, please visit here.

Causes of errors include a name mismatch on the social security card and/or in SEVIS, I-94 errors, incorrect training host company name or site of activity in SEVIS, or forgetting to validate the SEVIS record with CETUSA upon arrival prior to initiating the E-Verify process. 

After determining tax residency and tax treaty eligibility, each year, the participants must complete Form W-4. Resident alien taxpayers are taxed the same as U.S. citizens and should follow instructions provided on the form (unless a tax treaty applies), while nonresidents must disregard the instructions and worksheets. Instead, they must refer to the restricted tax withholding requirements, as set forth in IRS Notice 1392. Supplemental Form W-4 instructions for Non-Resident Aliens. Refer to page 24 of Publication 515 for how to determine the withholding rate. 

It is important that participant’s follow the special instructions outlined in the CETUSA Participant Handbook when completing the Form W-4. 

If participants are residents of Canada, Mexico, or South Korea they can also claim a personal exemption for their spouse, if their spouse had no gross income for U.S. tax purposes and cannot be claimed as the dependent on another U.S. taxpayer’s return. In addition, they can claim exemptions for their dependents who meet certain tests. Residents of Mexico or Canada must use the same rules as U.S. citizens to determine who is a dependent and which dependent exemption can be claimed. Follow this link for these rules.

Every J-1 visa holder in the U.S. is required by law to file taxes before the tax filing deadline. Even if participants did not earn income while in the U.S., they must still file Form 8843 “Statement for Exempt Individuals and Individuals with a Medical Condition” to fulfill their federal tax filing obligations.

If participants earn a stipend during their program, they should be issued a Form W-2, and they must submit a copy of the form with their tax return.

Remind your participant to give your accounting department a self-addressed, stamped envelope where you can mail their tax documents.

Annually, the nonresident alien must file the federal Form 1040NR or Form 1040NR-EZ (NR stands for Nonresident Alien) and the appropriate state income tax form(s), if the individual has U.S. earned income, and J-1 nonresident aliens must file Form 8843 (if an “exempt” individual). That is in addition to state tax forms required for each state where participants resided/trained during the program.

Participants must file their taxes soon after receiving their W-2 Form, and no later than April 15 or by the tax filing deadline for the current year to avoid paying penalties.

If a nonresident alien is eligible for a tax treaty benefit, but did not timely file the Form 8233 with their W-4 prior to receiving wages for the calendar year, or if your company wrongfully withheld Social Security, Medicare (FICA) and federal unemployment (FUTA) taxes, your participant can apply for a refund when filing their tax return, Form 1040-NR. Each year, Form 8833 must be filled with their Form 1040-NR if they did not file Form 8233 together with their W-4 at the beginning of the tax year.

There are tax preparation companies available to help participants file taxes. One example is Sprintax. Sprintax is an agency that specializes in assisting J-1 visa holders with filing their taxes. They provide free tools to discover if participants would be eligible for a refund and if so, how much participants might expect to receive back. Other options for participants are to consult a local accounting agency or a Certified Public Accountant. We encourage participants to review this article from the IRS prior to choosing a tax preparer.

It is not required that participants use an agency to file their taxes. Participants may complete and file their taxes themselves. The tax form that is most likely applicable to their situation, although again this can vary, is the 1040NR-EZ. If participants owe taxes and do not file a tax return, the IRS can assess penalties, interest, and seize U.S. bank assets for repayment. Fines and penalties can often amount to more than the original tax debt. There can also be immigration consequences for failing to file taxes.

On Program

Understanding cross-cultural communication is crucial in the workplace because it allows individuals from diverse backgrounds to communicate effectively and work together towards a common goal. Misunderstandings, miscommunications, and cultural clashes can occur if people are not aware of these differences and do not try to bridge the gaps. One frequent problem with a foreign trainee/intern can be miscommunication due to language barriers, such as difficulty understanding instructions, jokes, or cultural references. Your program participant may struggle adjusting to your company’s culture, leading to misunderstandings and conflicts with colleagues or supervisors. For example, different communication styles, attitudes towards hierarchy, and approaches to problem-solving can vary greatly across cultures, and without proper training and awareness, these differences can cause tension and misunderstandings.

Learning more about cross-cultural communication can be particularly beneficial program supervisors. As a supervisor, understanding the cultural differences that may exist between yourself and your participant can help you communicate more effectively, build rapport, and create a positive training environment for both of you. Additionally, by recognizing and appreciating the unique perspectives and experiences that your participants bring to your company, you can help them feel valued and supported, which can lead to increased satisfaction and productivity. Investing in cross-cultural communication training can help create a successful experience for you and your participants. By showing awareness and respecting each other’s cultures, colleagues can build trust, foster collaboration, and create a more inclusive and productive training environment. To learn more about the resources available on this subject, please visit the CETUSA Host Company Resources.

The participants on the J-1 visa do not have unrestricted work authorization and can only get paid by their approved host company. Any employment, including but not limited to, part time work, private tutoring, self-employment, and other forms of cash-based earnings is in violation of the federal regulations and may result in a participant’s program termination and loss of their non-immigrant status, which may include an inability to return to the U.S.

CETUSA strives to ensure that its program applicants estimate the cost of living prior to their program acceptance and have additional resources to cover any unexpected expenses. If the participants are unable to support themselves financially throughout the program, your company can offer additional monetary or non-monetary compensation, otherwise the participants will need to withdraw from the program.

A program participant who engages in unauthorized employment will be in violation of their non-immigrant program status and is subject to termination as a participant in an Exchange Visitor Program. You must notify CETUSA immediately if your trainee/intern has a second job.

Our program participants’ health, safety, and welfare are our top priority through all phases of their program. Our Program Monitors are committed to supporting participants with any challenges they may face abroad and act as a resource to answer questions about visas, international travel, participant concerns, and everything in between. In addition to ensuring participant safety, our Program Monitors work to ensure that all parties remain in compliance with Department of State regulations. This is done through both routine and isolated communication with participants.

Communication with CETUSA

CETUSA relies on your company’s assistance in reminding your participants to provide timely responses to any email outreach from CETUSA. To remain in compliance, it is imperative that participants complete the following:

  • Monthly Check-Ins: every month during the participant’s program, CETUSA will email them a survey link. The goal of the survey is to ensure that the participant is happy, healthy, and safe. If the participant is not satisfied with their program, this is one way they can contact CETUSA for help. The monthly check-in survey is a CETUSA program requirement.
  • Midpoint and Final Evaluations: for programs longer than 6 months, both a midpoint and final evaluation are required. For programs under 6 months, only a final evaluation is required. Both the participant and host company are required to complete an evaluation. CETUSA will email the evaluation and make the due date clear. Program evaluations are required by CETUSA and the U.S. Department of State.

If a participant does not reply to monthly check-in emails, CETUSA staff will be contacting them by phone or email, requesting their timely responses.

We encourage our participants to feel comfortable reaching out to us, to know that their concerns will be taken seriously, to report incidents without fear of retaliation, and to receive the best qualified assistance as quickly as possible. Please check in regularly with your participants to ensure that they are adjusting well to their new environment. Any incident that affects a participant’s health, safety, and welfare should be brought to CETUSA’s attention immediately.

Participants are allowed to travel outside the U.S. during their program if they have a valid J-1 visa and their DS-2019 Travel Validation is signed by CETUSA. After their Form DS-2019 is signed, it is valid for one year from the date signed, or until their Visa expires, whichever comes first. It is also good for multiple reentries. It is CETUSA’s policy that participants may not remain outside of the U.S. for longer than 30 days at a time during their program, and they must follow your company rules for requesting time off. 

Participants can find more information about this in the CETUSA Participant Handbook. 

If a participant leaves the U.S. without obtaining a travel authorization signature, they may experience issues with admission back in the U.S. Upon re-entry, they must download a new I-94 Arrival/Departure record and verify their J-1 admission class.

If you encounter any issues or concerns with your participant’s performance, it’s important to address them directly with the participant. Many issues arise due to inadequate communication or unclear expectations, but they can often be resolved by having open discussions. However, if a problem persists or there are serious performance issues and it becomes necessary to make a change to your participant’s program, you should contact CETUSA immediately to discuss the best course of action.

Host Company Transfer

If you are unable to resolve an issue with a participant or to deliver the program that was originally agreed upon, the participant may be eligible for a host company transfer. CETUSA reviews transfers on a case-by-case basis. Transfers are not guaranteed and are considered under exceptional circumstances.

Program Termination

It is the participant’s responsibility to remain in good standing by following all host company, CETUSA, and Department of State rules. If a participant stops communicating with CETUSA or breaks a program rule, they may be subject to program termination. Termination of a participant’s SEVIS record is very serious and will have negative consequences for the participant. If a participant’s program is terminated by CETUSA, they are “out of status,” meaning the participant has lost their legal status to continue engaging in any J-1 activity in the U.S. The participant must depart the U.S. immediately and there is no grace period.

Please emphasize the importance of maintaining contact with CETUSA. If your participant stops responding to CETUSA’s outreach efforts, we count on you to help re-establish communication.

CETUSA is the authorized visa sponsor for this program, not the host company. Only CETUSA or U.S. government officials may terminate the participant’s visa sponsorship and legal authorization for their training/internship in the U.S. Never threaten your participants with revocation of their visa or sending them home, as it is not within your authority.

Program Extension

Not all program participants are eligible for an extension. If you would like to extend a participant’s program, please contact CETUSA to confirm eligibility. Extensions cannot exceed the maximum duration of the program category.

Shorten Program

If a participant needs to return to their home country earlier than their originally intended end date, CETUSA encourages them to provide your company with two weeks’ notice (if possible).

You must notify CETUSA if a participant leaves their program earlier than their original end date.

Participants who have completed a Trainee/Intern Program before are eligible to participate in additional training and internship programs under certain conditions:

  • Interns may apply for additional internship programs if they still meet intern eligibility criteria.
  • Trainees are eligible for additional training programs after a period of at least two years residency outside the U.S. following completion of their training program.

Participants who have successfully completed internship programs and no longer meet the selection criteria for an internship program may participate in a training program if they have resided outside the United States or its territories for at least two years and gained at least one year of work experience related to their desired training field.

For both trainees and interns, additional training and internship programs must address the development of more advanced skills or a different field of expertise. CETUSA will request the participant’s previous DS-7002 Training Plan to ensure no prior training or internship activities are duplicated in the new program.

As a participant’s program ends, it is important to be mindful of the following:  

  • Confirm your participant’s last day of training. Participants are not authorized to pursue J-1 training or internship activities after their program end date as listed in Form DS-2019. Your participant has up to 30 days after their end date for travel within the U.S. and/or to settle their affairs prior to their departure. As your participant’s program comes to an end, it’s important to remember that their J-1 visa was issued with the understanding that they would return to their home country.
  • Issue and deliver your participant’s final paycheck. Arrangements should be made to deliver your participant’s final paycheck. If they do not receive their stipend through direct deposit, you may be required to mail a check to your participant’s address in their home country. You will also need to confirm your participant’s mailing address to send their W-2 form at the end of the year.
  • Complete the Final Evaluation. The Final Evaluation must be completed prior to the end date of your participant’s program. This is a Department of State program requirement, and you will receive continuous reminders from CETUSA to complete the evaluation within the required timeframe. If you fail to submit the final evaluation, your company will be unable to host future participants until outstanding evaluations are submitted.
  • Write a letter of recommendation. Your participant took part in the J-1 Trainee/Intern program to enhance their skills, and with the hope that their experience would help advance their career in their home country. If you are satisfied with your participant’s performance, you may want to consider writing them a letter of recommendation.
  • Host another J-1 Trainee/Intern through CETUSA. If you found your experience hosting a J-1 Trainee/Intern to be valuable and are interested hosting another participant, please contact CETUSA. We would love to collaborate with you again!

You should not encourage or assist your participant to stay in the United States beyond the end date on their Form DS-2019, nor assist the participant with changing their visa status while under CETUSA sponsorship.

In addition to the information provided in this orientation, you are required to review and confirm understanding of the information provided in the CETUSA Host Company Resources.

View Host Company Resources

Confirmation of Understanding - Supervisor Orientation

Step 1 of 3

SUPERVISOR INFORMATION