USCIS Releases Consolidated Guidance on H-3 Trainees

policy alert was issued in September 2014, announcing an update to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) online policy manual. The USCIS Policy Manual, which was published online in January 2013, remains a work-in-progress, with new sections sporadically being added. This latest addition pertains to the H-3 nonimmigrant category, which is designed for foreign national trainees and special education exchange visitors.

Update on the Online Policy Manual

The move to an online, centralized manual of immigration policies is meant to make it easier for stakeholders to understand U.S. immigration rules and policies. As of this writing, six of the twelve volumes of the policy manual are partially or fully available. The H-3 content is the first completed subsection in volume 2, which is devoted to the nonimmigrant categories. The new guidance consolidates and supersedes prior H-3 guidance found in the Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) and related USCIS policy memoranda. More information about the USCIS Policy Manual is available in the MurthyDotCom NewsBrief, USCIS Releases its First Ever Comprehensive Online Policy Manual (22.Jan.2013).

Background on H-3 Category

The H-3 nonimmigrant category allows individuals to enter the United States on a temporary basis to receive training or to participate in a special education program. A foreign national traveling to the U.S. on an H-3 visa may receive training in any field of endeavor that is not available in the individual’s home country, except for graduate medical education or training. Special education exchange visitors may use H-3 visas to participate in training programs that provide practical training and experience in the education of children with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities.

Trainees for Work Outside the U.S. in Most Any Field

H-3 trainees must be invited by a U.S. employer or individual for a temporary visit for the purpose of receiving training in any field (except as a physician), including one in the following non-exhaustive list: agriculture, commerce, communications, finance, government, transportation or other professions.

The H-3 category is not intended to facilitate employment in the United States. Instead, it is designed to provide a foreign national with training for work to be performed outside of this country. This training can include some “on-the-job” training, subject to specified limitations.

H-3 Petition Criteria and Requirements

  • In order for an H-3 petition to be approved, the petitioner must be able to demonstrate that:
  • the proposed training is not available in the trainee’s home country
  • the trainee will not be placed in a position in the normal operation of the sponsor’s business and in which U.S. citizens and resident workers are regularly employed
  • the trainee will not engage in productive employment unless the employment is incidental and necessary to the training
  • the training will benefit the worker in pursuing a career outside of the U.S.

For special education exchange visitors, the sponsoring facility must have professionally trained staff and a structured program for providing education to children with disabilities. The facility must provide training and hands-on experience to participants in the exchange program. There is a numerical limit or cap of 50 special education exchange visitors per fiscal year.

Duration of Stay for H-3s and Their Dependents

An H-3 petition filed for a trainee may be approved for a duration of up to two years. For special education exchange visitors, the period of stay is limited to a maximum of 18 months. Spouses and children of H-3 visa holders may apply for H-4 visas to accompany the trainee to the United States, but, like all H-4 nonimmigrants, they are not able to obtain work authorization.


The Murthy Law Firm applauds the efforts on the part of the USCIS to provide clear, easily-accessible guidance on immigration matters to attorneys, employers, and foreign nationals alike. The USCIS Policy Manual should also improve consistency in adjudications. Updates will be posted on MurthyDotCom as additions are made to the policy manual.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.