January 11, 2010

Identity Crisis: Is the J-1 Candidate a Trainee or an Intern?

The J-1 trainee and intern programs do have some overlap. There are some people that qualify for both programs. Maybe your J-1 candidate just completed a Master's program and also has a year of experience. How do you decide which program to apply for?

The J-1 trainee and intern programs are very similar but there are a couple factors that should be considered when choosing which to apply for. First of all, intern programs are typically more basic, building right off of a degree. They may also be project based. So, if the program looks more like an internship and the candidate's professional experience consists mostly of internships, then it would probably be best to apply for the intern program. If the program involves high-level training and the candidate has just completed a Master's with several years of work experience, then it would probably be best to apply for the trainee program.

As a sponsor, we will let you know if the program fits better under one program, but if the candidate and program are equally qualified for both, then you may want to consider the desired program length and the likelihood that the candidate will want to repeat the J-1 program. The maximum intern program length is 12 months and the maximum trainee program length is 18 months. You may have planned for a one year program but if for some reason the training is delayed you have the option to extend up to 18 months under the trainee program. If the proposed program is just 3 months long, then the possibility to extend may not be an issue.

In order to repeat the J-1 trainee program, participants must reside outside the U.S. for two years between programs, whereas intern programs can be completed virtually back-to-back as long as the candidate still qualifies. This could be important for candidates currently pursuing a degree (Masters) but that happen to qualify for both the intern and trainee programs. If they do an internship over summer break and then decide to do another internship after graduating, they are able to do this without waiting 2 years.

These guidelines should help you make an informed decision and if you need any advice, Global Current is always available. Contact us for a review!