July 29, 2009

Uh-oh, You Have To End Your J-1 Program... What Next?

So your company was the victim a Ponzi scheme or the supervisor of your J-1 program was laid-off and you have a J-1 participant that you would like to continue training but now cannot. Despite your best efforts to prevent these types of situations, we understand that they still happen.

When host companies find themselves in a position where they cannot provide the training that was outlined in the DS-7002, it is not difficult to end the training at that particular location. All we require are completed final evaluations and notification of the cause of program termination. Taking such action will not reflect poorly on the company, however we will more carefully consider sponsoring a program at that location again in the future.

If the host company cannot continue to provide training through no fault of the participant then we will allow the participant a 30-day grace period to find a similar company in the same industry that can offer an almost identical training program. Once the J-1 participant finds a company, then we can transfer the program to this new site of activity, or new host company, where he/she will complete the training. Participants are not permitted to shop around for training/internship opportunities and may not extend a host company transfer.

If a trainee or intern has caused the host company's dissatisfaction with the program by not performing, not showing up for work or demonsrating that he or she is a poor fit for the J-1 program, then we do not permit the 30-day grace period. We will end the J-1 program immediately and ask him or her to return home as soon as possible.

July 22, 2009

Repeating the J-1 Trainee or Intern Program

You loved your J-1 program and your host company loved you. It was, as they say, "a match made in heaven." After the program you returned to your home in a quaint little town in southern Germany. One day not long after your return your, host company calls you from the U.S. to offer you a second more advanced program after which they will hire you in their satellite office in Munich. You are ecstatic and flattered. You jump and scream and immediately begin to walk out the front door to celebrate at the local biergarten when you realize that you may not qualify for a second J-1 program.

The rules for repeating the J-1 intern and trainee programs are specific to program, so it is important to know which program you participated in originally. As an intern you are permitted to participate in another intern program after you have returned to your home country and completed at least a semester at your university. If you are an intern that has graduated from a university and has completed a short internship ending within 12 months of your graduation date, then you may qualify to participate in consecutive intern programs. This situation is rare and evaluated on a case by case bases. There needs to be ample justification for participating in back to back internships in order for us to agree to sponsor such a program. As a trainee, you are allowed to repeat the J-1 trainee program after 2 years of residing outside the U.S.

If you were originally an intern and would now qualify as a trainee or vice versa, the general practice among sponsors is to require that you first live outside the U.S. for at least 2 years.

Also, If you plan on repeating either the J-1 trainee or intern program, your second J-1 program must be different and more advanced than your first and you must always meet the eligibility requirements of the program your are applying to.

It is common to confuse the J-1 regulations regarding repetition of the J-1 trainee or intern program with the two-year home-country foreign residence requirement, INA 212(e) requirement. The difference is that only some individuals are subject to 212 (e), while all are subject to the regulations regarding J-1 program repetition. The individuals subject to 212(e) will have this information marked in their passport and on their DS-2019. If the rule applies, it means that he/she is required to reside in his/her home country or last legal permanent residence for two years before being able to receive an H, L or K visa or apply for permanent residency in the U.S. The two-year home residency rule does not reference the J-1 visa and thus allows those subject to it to repeat the J-1 program as long as they are eligible.

July 14, 2009

The DS-7002 & Hollywood Action Flicks

A well-done DS-7002 is like a Hollywood blockbuster. Just like a hit film, a stellar DS-7002 is not too long, loosing the interest of the audience, and not too short, leaving the audience with hundreds of unanswered questions and a vague notion of the program plan, or plot.

The film analogy is a bit of a stretch, but the point is that the second page of the DS-7002 should provide the reader with a good summary of the J-1 program plan. In 2008 we were informed that U.S. consulates were unhappy with the lengthiness of many DS-7002s and it was recommended that we ask our customers to shorten the form. As a result, we request that the DS-7002 contain only a summary of a longer and more detailed written program plan.

The DS-7002 is one of the most important components of the J-1 sponsorship application and it tends to be the biggest hurtle when working towards program approval. Even still, there have been quite a few DS-7002s that have waltzed through our doors and earned the signature of approval without any trouble. These particular forms are completed in entirety and do not include the phrase, "See Attached." Also, even though the heading and format of the second page suggest otherwise, we prefer that the form summarize all phases of the program on one second page rather than providing a page for each phase. The great DS-7002s read like narratives, allowing the sponsor to create a picture in their head of exactly what this J-1 candidate will be doing. Lastly, we understand that every activity does not fit in the tiny box labeled Chronology or Syllabus of Training, and so we accept a list of the topics covered by each phase or the title of each phase. We will more thoroughly evaluate the training method in the written program plan.

Again, each sponsor's requirements for the DS-7002 are slightly different but we do provide an excellent sample of what we like to receive in our application. Always use samples for guidance.
Please note that the DS-7002 is being reviewed, and the Department of State may issue a new form shortly and thus initiate a change in DS-7002 requirements. We will be sure to keep you updated.

July 08, 2009

6 Things HR Managers Should Know About J-1 Intern and Trainee Programs

I admittedly have a bias towards this particular visa but I truly think that J-1 Intern and Trainee Programs are great options for many companies seeking to attract top talent from around the globe or provide professional development for an international workforce.

Before implementing a J-1 program there are 6 things you should consider.

  1. High Productivity - J-1 trainee and intern participants are more productive than American-born workers according to a recent study released in an article in the Wall Street Journal. Your program plan should be structured and challenging so that highly-qualified participants will excel in their traineeship or internship.

  2. Flexible Visa Process - A J-1 visa can be issued at any time during the year for the start date of your choosing.

  3. Fast - The J-1 Visa does not require that you engage in a lengthy petitioning process prior to the visa application and the whole process from applying for sponsorship to receiving the J-1 can take as little as a month. Communicate with your sponsor to be clear on what is expected and expedite the sponsorship approval process.

  4. Cultural Exchange - The purpose of the J-1 visa is to facilitate cultural and educational exchange. As a result, participants are expected to return abroad at the completion of the program. The maximum duration for a J-1 intern program is 12 months and 18 months for a J-1 trainee program. Make sure that your program plans fit into these time frames.

  5. Participant Criteria - Interns must be currently enrolled in or recent graduates of a foreign university. Trainees must have a degree from a foreign university and at least one year of related experience from outside the U.S. or 5 years of related experience from outside the U.S. Before starting a program you should be familiar with the qualifications of your candidates and the criteria they must meet for J-1 Intern and Trainee programs.

  6. Two-year home residency rule - Some J-1 participants are subject to the two-year home residency rule and are required to return to their home country upon completion of a J-1 program for a minimum of two years before they are able to return to the U.S. on an H, L or K visa or to apply for permanent resident status. Check and see if your candidates may be subject to this rule. Please click here for more information.