H-3 Visa, Trainee or Special Education Exchange Visitor

H-3 Visa

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What is an H-3 visa?

An H-3 visa is a nonimmigrant visa category in the U.S. that allows foreign nationals to enter the country temporarily to receive training or instruction. 

The H-3 visa is specifically designed for individuals who seek training that is not available in their home country and is essential for their career development.

Key points about the H-3 visa include:

  • Training Programs: The primary purpose of the H-3 visa is to participate in a training program. This could include training in various fields such as:
    • Agriculture
    • Commerce
    • Communications
    • Finance
    • Government
    • Transportation
  • Eligibility: To qualify for an H-3 visa, applicants must have a U.S. employer or organization willing to sponsor and provide the necessary training. The training program should not be available in the foreign national’s home country, and the skills acquired should be beneficial for their career development
  • Duration: The initial duration of stay on an H-3 visa is typically limited, and extensions may be granted in certain cases. The maximum stay is usually two years
  • No Dual Intent: Unlike some other visa categories, the H-3 visa is considered a nonimmigrant visa, and holders are not allowed to have dual intent. This means that the primary purpose should be temporary training, and the intention to immigrate permanently is not allowed

It’s important to note that the H-3 visa is not intended for practical training related to graduate medical education or academic education

H-3 visa requirements

The H-3 visa requirements include the following:

  • Offer of Training: The U.S. employer or organization must offer a structured training program to the foreign national that will not place the trainee in the normal operation of the business and in which U.S. workers are regularly employed
  • Non-Engagement in Productive Employment: The petitioner must demonstrate that the trainee will not engage in productive employment (unless it’s incident and necessary to the training)
  • Not Available Abroad: The training program should not be available in the foreign national’s home country
  • Career Overseas: The training will benefit the trainee’s career outside the U.S.
  • Nonimmigrant Intent: The foreign national must intend to return to their home country upon completion of the training. The H-3 visa is not meant for individuals seeking to immigrate to the U.S.

Can I get paid on an H-3 visa?

The H-3 visa is primarily designed for individuals seeking training in the U.S., and it does not authorize employment for the foreign national beyond the scope of the approved training program. 

However, there are certain limited circumstances under which a trainee on an H-3 visa may receive compensation:

  • Stipends and Reimbursements: While direct employment is not the primary purpose of the H-3 visa, trainees may receive stipends, living allowances, or reimbursement for incidental expenses related to their training program. These payments should be modest and should not serve as the primary source of financial support
  • No Independent Employment: H-3 visa holders are not allowed to engage in independent employment in the U.S. The focus should remain on the training program provided by the sponsoring employer

How long is an H-3 visa valid for?

The validity period for an H-3 visa is up to two years

Special education exchange visitors may remain in the U.S. for up to 18 months.

H-3 visa cost

The cost associated with obtaining an H-3 visa involves payment of the following government filing fees:


Filing Fee

Form I-129
H-3 visa
  • $205 per applicant

H-3 visa checklist of documents

The following documents must be submitted with an H-3 visa application (submit photocopies only):

Required evidence Acceptable documents
Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker
  • Completed and signed Form I-129 filed with USCIS
Information about training program
  • A statement that describes:
    • The type of training and supervision to be given, and the structure of the training program
    • Proportion of time that will be devoted to productive employment
    • The number of hours that will be spent in classroom instructions and in on-the-job training
    • Career abroad for which the training will prepare the applicant
    • Reasons why such training cannot be obtained in the applicant’s country
    • Why it is necessary for the noncitizen to be trained in the U.S.
    • Source of any remuneration received by the trainee and any benefit which will accrue to the employer/organization for providing such training
Beneficiary’s information
  • Summary of the prior training and experience of the beneficiary
Evidence that training is unavailable in the beneficiary’s home country
  • An explanation stating the following:
    • Why the training is required
    • Whether similar training is available in the beneficiary’s country
    • How the training will benefit the beneficiary in pursuing a career abroad
    • Source of any remuneration the trainee will receive
    • Any benefit the petitioner will obtain by providing the training
Only if applying as a Special Education Exchange Visitor
  • A description of the training, staff, and facilities
  • Evidence that the program meets the following conditions:
    • Facility has professionally trained staff and a structured program for providing education to children with disabilities and training and hands-on experience to participants in the special education exchange visitor program
  • Details of the beneficiary’s participation in the program
  • Evidence showing that the beneficiary is:
    • Nearing completion of a baccalaureate degree in special education, or 
    • Already holds such a degree, or 
    • Has extensive prior training and experience in teaching children with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities
Valid Passport
  • Foreign employee’s passport valid for the duration of the intended stay in the U.S.
Form DS-160 confirmation page
Visa Application Fee
  • $205 visa fee payment
  • Visa fees are subject to change, check the latest H visa fees
English translation
  • If any supporting documents are in a foreign language, provide certified English translations
  • Attach the photocopy of the original document in foreign language

How to apply for an H-3 visa

Applying for an H-3 visa involves the following steps:

Step 1. Determine Eligibility: 

  • Ensure that the training program meets the H-3 visa eligibility criteria (see the requirements above)

Step 2. Submit Form I-129:

Step 3. Wait for USCIS Approval: 

  • USCIS will review the petition and, if approved, will issue a Form I-797, Notice of Action.

Step 4. Apply for H-3 Visa:

  • Trainee completes DS-160 Form online
  • Save the DS-160 confirmation page
  • Pay Visa Application Fee
  • Schedule an interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in the trainee’s home country
  • Attend the interview with all required documents, including the Form I-129 approval notice, valid passport, DS-160 confirmation receipt, training program description, and other supporting documents
  • Wait for Visa Issuance: After a successful visa interview, wait for the visa to be issued. The visa will be stamped in the passport

Step 5. Travel to the U.S.:

  • Enter the U.S. before the H-3 visa expiration date

Family of H-3 visa holders

Family members of H-3 visa holders (spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21) may be eligible to accompany or join the H-3 visa holder in the U.S. 

Key points regarding family members of H-3 visa holders:

  • Derivative Visas:
      • Spouse and unmarried children under 21 are considered derivative beneficiaries of the H-3 visa holder
      • They are eligible to apply for H-4 visas to accompany the principal H-3 visa holder
  • Application Process for Family Members:
      • Once Form I-129 petition is approved, eligible family members can apply for H-4 visas
      • Family members need to complete the DS-160 form, pay the visa application fee, and schedule an interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country
  • Travel and Entry to the U.S.:
      • Family members may travel to the U.S. along with the H-3 visa holder or join them later
      • Family members must present their valid H-4 visas at the U.S. port of entry 
  • No Work Authorization:
      • H-4 visa holders are not authorized to work in the U.S.
  • Duration of Stay:
      • The family members’ stay in the U.S. is tied to the duration of the principal H-3 visa holder’s authorized stay
  • Educational Opportunities:
      • H-4 dependent children are allowed to attend schools and educational institutions in the U.S.
  • Maintaining Status:
    • Family members, like the principal visa holder, must comply with U.S. immigration regulations to maintain their legal status
    • Any changes in the H-3 visa holder’s status may impact the status of their family members

H-3 visa processing time

It can take about 3-4 months to obtain an H-3 visa:

  • Form I-129 processing time – 1.5 months – 2 months
  • Scheduling interview at the U.S. Embassy – 1 calendar day to 15 calendar days
  • Visa issuance – 7 days

To check the most current processing times for H-3 visa applications:

  • Visit USCIS Processing Times, choose Form I-129 and select your service center (service center is printed in the lower left corner of the Form I-129 receipt notice)
  • Visit Visa Appointment Wait Times page (enter the US Embassy/Consulate location, check the “Interview Required Petition-Based Temporary Workers (H, L, O, P, Q)” timeline)

Keep in mind that processing times are general estimates, and individual cases may take less or more time to complete.

Related Links:

Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker

Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application