about Intern and Trainee

The Program

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Building on the strengths of the Summer Work Travel program, the J-1 Intern and J-1 Trainee programs were established in 2007 to provide hands on exposure to American business practices while furthering mutual understanding.  

American companies increasingly see professionally-based exchange programs as integral to their operations and success in the global market.The international participants of the J-1 Interns and Trainees are professionals of their field, seeking an immersive work experience in American business practices.  Through these guided internship and training programs, companies across the country provide an open interchange of ideas between foreign participants and their American counterparts. These programs allow the United States to build partnerships, promote mutual understanding, and develop networks for relationships that will last through generations as participants move into leadership roles in a broad range of industries in their own societies.


The Intern and Trainee programs were created in the spirit of the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961, Senator J. William Fulbright’s legislation to increase mutual understanding between Americans and the people of other countries. This legislation created such important academic exchanges as the Fulbright Program, among many others.

“Work can indeed be an important educational and cross cultural experience. It may be more influential in forming attitudes and impressions of American life than a purely academic experience.”
— Senator J. William Fulbright

In that legislation, Senator Fulbright also saw the need for work-based exchange programs like Summer Work Travel. In the years that followed, the Intern and Trainee programs were added to further the goals of the original Fulbright Act. 

The Intern and Trainee programs are privately funded and cost nothing to the U.S. taxpayer. In addition to its diplomatic and foreign policy benefits, the programs have evolved to provide important economic benefits to U.S. host businesses and communities. 

J-1 Intern participants are either currently enrolled in postgraduate studies or have recently completed their undergraduate degree. On the J-1 visa they may stay in the United States for up to 12 months, after which they must return home. 

J-1 Trainee participants are experienced professionals with a degree or certificate and often as much as five years of work experience in their fields. Their J-1 visa allows them to remain in their training position for up to 18 months. 

Participants come from countries key to U.S. national security interests including Brazil, China, India, Korea, and Eastern Europe.

program participants


Intern and Trainee placements are specified by occupational field and can only be in one of the following categories: 

  • Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing;
  • Arts and Culture;
  • Construction and Building Trades;
  • Education, Social Sciences, Library Science, Counseling and Social Services;
  • Health Related Occupations;
  • Hospitality and Tourism;
  • Information Media and Communications;
  • Management, Business, Commerce and Finance;
  • Public Administration and Law; and
  • The Sciences, Engineering, Architecture, Mathematics, and Industrial Occupations.

The participants receive detailed training plans from their host companies designed to improve their knowledge of American techniques, methodologies, and technology. 

program placements


True to Senator Fulbright’s vision for American exchange programs, Intern and Trainee operate as public-private partnerships. The Department of State partners with (and regulates) U.S.-based cultural exchange organizations, known as sponsors, to facilitate the program.

Sponsors work closely with host employers to create positive, memorable experiences for Intern and Trainee participants. Sponsors support the students throughout their stay in the U.S.

program sponsors


The Intern and Trainee programs are governed by Department of State regulations that protect the health, safety, and welfare of international participants.

The regulations for J-1 Intern and Trainee require that:

  • Participants may not displace American workers or serve to fill a labor need.
  • Host employers must complete, and have approved, an Internship or Trainee Placement Plan, to ensure that exchange participants obtain professional skills, knowledge, and competencies through structured and guided work and activities.
  • Host employers must also agree to provide interns or trainees with opportunities to supplement their work experience, such as classroom training, seminars, rotation through several different departments, attendance at conferences, and similar learning experiences.
  • Sponsors must actively facilitate cultural exchange opportunities for participants, beyond the cultural exchange that happens daily in the workplace.
  • Sponsors actively protect the health, safety, and welfare of program participants, and take seriously their role facilitating experiences that will improve the image and influence of the United States abroad.

program regulations & protections