Easy Guide to the J-1 Visa with FAQs

In cooperation with Eliot Norman of Williams Mullen, the FACC has created an Easy Guide of FAQs for member companies interested in recruiting French interns and trainees.

This Easy Guide can help you navigate the FACC website and decide whether the J-1 Program is a good fit for your company. We propose to start with a few Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

FAQ #1: Who can be employed by FACC member companies under the J-1 Program ?

"The J-1 visa allows participants in the FACC program to come to the United States for up to 12 months as Interns or for up to 18 months as Trainees for full-time, paid exchange programs at eligible FACC member companies."

FAQ #2: What are the basic advantages of using the J-1 for your company?

The J-1 avoids most immigration visa hassles and lets you quickly bring on board at a very reasonable cost a highly motivated foreign employee. The J-1 employee will participate in a practical training program at your company, whether large or small, that combines productive employment with training in specific skills, technologies or your overall procedures for competing in the U.S. market. Once you establish your training program, you can use it year after to "add bright young professionals to your business operations and to strengthen your connections to overseas markets. "

FAQ #3: Is the FACC J-1 Program Limited to French citizens?

No. Foreign employees from all countries can participate. J-1s from other than Western Europe may have to return to their home country for two years after completing their J-1. Each country’s requirements and rules differ. Even if the two-year foreign residency requirement applies, it can be waived in some cases. There is no two-year foreign residency requirement for French nationals.

FAQ #4: Can U.S. companies participate?

Yes. Any FACC member in good standing can participate, whether it is U.S. or foreign owned. However, the company must be large enough to show that it can implement a training plan meeting the program requirements. More about that in our future FAQs.

FAQ #5: Who can qualify as a Trainee?

As mentioned above, the Trainee can come for 18 months. To qualify, the Trainee must have either: (1) a degree or professional certificate from a foreign post-secondary academic institution AND at least one year of prior related work experience outside the U.S; or (2) five years of related work experience outside the U.S.

FAQ #6: Who can qualify as an Intern?

As mentioned above, the Intern can come for 12 months. To qualify, the Intern must be either currently enrolled in and pursuing studies as a degree-or certificate-granting post-secondary institution outside the U.S.; or graduated from such an institution no more than 12 months prior to the start date of the J-1 employment.

FAQ #7: What Information is required for my company’s Training Plan?

Use the new DS Form 7002 (http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/84240.pdf ) each supervisor of the trainee must sign. You should identify the goals and objectives of the training, detail the knowledge, skills or techniques to be imparted, and describe the methods of evaluation and supervision. If your training or internship has rotations, then you have to provide this information for each rotation. The DS 7002 Form actually is very helpful in writing the plan. The key is thinking the opposite of a job description. A job description tells us what tasks the employee will perform. A training plan tells us what your company will do for the trainee or intern, how the company will develop her skills and how she will be evaluated.

FAQ #8: Where can I see a sample of a Training Plan?

Click here to see a sample training plan which provides insight into the role and responsibilities of the intern or trainee, as well as what skills and expertise he or she will acquire throughout the program.

FAQ #9: Does the Trainee/Intern have to be fluent in English?

Yes. The J-1 trainees/interns either have to verify their fluency through TOEFL or a similar English test, obtain signed documentation from an English language school, or demonstrate their English language skills in an interview setting. Sometimes, candidates may be interviewed through use of a web camera or videoconferencing.

FAQ #10: Are there some occupations that are not eligible for J-1 trainees/interns?

Yes. However, these restrictions should not apply to most FACC members. The J-1 cannot be used for positions requiring clinical or other work involving patient care, unskilled or casual labor jobs, or positions involving more than 20% clerical work.

FAQ #11: I have completed my Form DS-7002 Training Plan. What are the next steps?

Once you have completed your Training Plan and filled in the other forms, you can send in your application package to the FACC office in New York City. Note that you must be a current FACC member to participate in the FACC J-1 program. The FACC Office will review for any discrepancies and errors. It will then interview the candidate by Skype or through other video conference facilities. Once FACC recommends approval of the J-1 Visa, the FACC will submit the package to the U.S. Consulate in the candidate’s home country. The trainee or intern will follow the FACC instructions and go to the website of the U.S. Consulate to complete a DS-160 Visa Application and schedule his interview. The candidate should not book his flight to the United States until he has a J-1 visa in hand, which usually take about a week from the date of the interview. It is a good idea for you and your attorney to talk with the candidate before the interview to make sure he is familiar with the J-1 package of documents that has been submitted.

FAQ #12: Our trainee’s J-1 Visa has been approved to start November 15 because that is the program start date on the DS 2019 Form that was submitted to the U.S. Consulate by FACC. How far in advance of November 15 can the trainee enter the USA?

A trainee or intern can enter the United States up to 30 days in advance of the program start date on the DS Form 2019 that has been completed by the FACC.

FAQ #13: We plan to have a recent college grad from Quebec intern with us for the next 12 months. What wage do we have to pay him?

The FACC expects that your intern will be paid at least the minimum hourly wage for Virginia or any other state where he will be working. Payment can take the form of a stipend which should cover all living expenses, including transportation, housing, meals, etc. There will be specific questions on the forms to be completed for the FACC asking about those expenses.

The FACC NYC advises that: “The host company must provide the Exchange Visitor with an allowance or stipend to cover living expenses. The amount paid to the participant should be comparable to the amount paid to other individuals having similar education and experience. In all cases, the company must pay at least the minimum wage of the state where the program takes place. Additional benefits such as housing, meals, etc. may be used to supplement said stipend, but may not be used in lieu of payment of the stipend.”

FACC staff is available to advise on whether your compensation plan will satisfy the J-1 requirements. Generally speaking, you do not have to pay a J-1 the prevailing wage rate for a full-time employee, as the J-1 is a trainee or intern. If you pay too high a wage, the FACC or the U.S. Consulate can question whether the employee is really a trainee and not just being hired under the J-1 to perform productive work. On the other hand, you must make sure that all living expenses are covered by your stipend. A good rule of thumb is that you should be paying at least the minimum wage or three times the cost of housing (rent and utilities) in your local area where the training is being provided, whichever is greater.

FAQ #14: Aurore de Govin, our trainee from France in our marketing department is close to the end of her eighteen (18) months with our company. Can we extend Aurore’s J-1?

No. The J-1 is officially called an Exchange Visitor (J Visa). The intent of the program is for the trainee to return to her home country when the training or internship reaches the maximum period of time (here 18 months for a trainee; or 12 months for a J-1 intern). Your company cannot employ her again as a J-1 trainee unless she first spends two (2) years out of the country.

FAQ #15: We hired an intern for our engineering department for three (3) months while he was completing his degree at the Universite de Strasbourg, France. Now that he has graduated we would like to bring him back to work as a J-1 intern. Can we do this?

Yes. The engineering intern did not reach the maximum of 12 months when he worked for you for 3 months. As long as you can show that he will be acquiring more advanced or different skills and you apply within twelve months of his graduation he can receive a second J-1 for up to 9 months as an intern. The same rules apply to J-1 trainees. If the initial period of J-1 training that you applied for was less than maximum (here 18 months), you can request an extension of the J-1 while the person is in the United States up to the 18 month maximum as long as you can show that you will be helping the trainee to acquire more advanced or different areas of expertise.

FAQ #16: When all is said and done, is the J-1 worth doing?

Absolument (absolutely)! The hardest one is the first J-1. The rest just follow the same pattern of forms and procedures. The legal and sponsor fees from the (FACC) are low and the benefits are potentially great. There is no quota. There is no issue of the prevailing wage like with the H-1Bs, provided, of course, that minimum wage and hour and overtime rules are respected. We are not displacing an American worker. We are offering an additional practical training or internship opportunity to a motivated foreign individual who will spread the good word about your company in their home country.

Further, you can get the chance to evaluate a potential “keeper” for your organization who in most cases can return to work for you under H-1B, L-1, or E-2 visas down the road. No wonder that big and small companies, French or U.S., once they start using J-1s, make it a regular part of their international HR practice.

As you consider using the J-1 and move forward with the process, please do not hesitate to contact the FACC if you have any additional FAQ that we can answer and add to this guide.  

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