Department of State introduces “Student Intern” J-1 Visa Category

On June 20, 2008, the Department of State (DOS) revised its regulations governing J-1 visas by publishing the final rulein the Federal Register. The rule creates a new “Student Interns” subcategory to the College and University Student J-1 visa category. Foreign students enrolled and pursuing a degree at post-secondary academic institutions outside of the United States may participate in this category for up to 12 months at each degree level. DATES: This Final Rule will be effective July 21, 2008.

This new rule will make it possible for private sector organizations to offer internships to individuals with less training and experience than had previously been required of J-1 “trainee” category participants. To be eligible as an intern in a private sector program, foreign nationals must be currently enrolled in and pursuing studies at an academic institution or a recent graduate (i.e., within 12 months) from such institution. As an intern, the intern program participant will enter the United States to pursue a structured and guided work-based internship program in his or her specific academic field. Prior work experience is nor a requirement for participation in this program.

Sponsors of J-1 interns will be required to ensure that host organizations are legitimate entities, are appropriately registered or licensed to conduct their business, and possess and maintain the ability and resources to provide structured and guided work-based experience according to individualized Training and Internship Placement Plans. The Final Rule permits a student intern to engage in full-time employment during the internship program as outlined on the T/IPP, with or without wages or other compensation. Employment is not required for participation in the program. A student intern may be employed, however, only with the approval of the responsible officer and the student’s home institution’s dean or academic advisor.

These regulations prohibit a sponsor from placing a student intern in an unskilled or casual labor position, in a position that requires or involves child care or elder care, in a position in the field of aviation, or in any kind of position that involves patient care or contact. Finally, a sponsor must not place a student intern in a position that involves more than 20 per cent clerical work.