Not a winner in the H-1B visa lottery? No fit for a TN under NAFTA? Consider the J-1 Trainee Program.

With the H-1B visa cap hit, Canadian professionals who cannot fit under one of the NAFTA TN categories may find themselves with a great job opportunity but with no non-immigrant visa category to apply for. Canadian professionals in this situation should consider the J-1 Trainee program. Although the J-1 trainee program does not permit unrestricted work authorization, the J-1 trainee can undertake on-the-job training as a component of an  structured training program.

The J-1 trainee program permits the admission of an individual into the U.S. to participate in a structured training program with an employer for a period up to 18 months. J-1 trainee applicants generally must have a demonstrated career path in the proposed field of training and should have at least two years of recent education, training or experience in the field. Although on-the-job training can be an essential component of the training program, it is necessary that the individual participate in bona fide training. The J-1 training program cannot be used merely as a substitute for ordinary employment. The primary objective of the J-1 training program must be to expose the J-1 trainee to American techniques, methodologies and technology. In addition to on-the-job training, a J-1 training program needs to include additional training activities such as guided research, seminar participation, rotation through departments, and evaluations of the J-1 trainee’s progress. An employer does not need an established training program in order to "host" a J-1 trainee. An employer may create a training program for a particular J-1 applicant provided the program is a bona fide training program and meets all J-1 training regulation requirements.

Individuals interested in participating in a J-1 training program apply to an accepted J-1 Exchange Program Sponsor such as AIPT or AILF. Applications are not sent to USCIS or CBP. If the application is approved, the J-1 trainee is issued Form DS-2019, which describes the period and terms of the J-1 training program. Canadian citizens do not require a visa under the J-1 category. Once they receive the DS-2019 approval form, they simply present this document at the border for admission into the U.S.