The H-3 visa is a special type of visa designed for trainees and special education program visitors. If you are going to the United States for a specific period of time to receive training or special education, then you may qualify for an H-3 visa.

As an H-3 visa holder, you are entitled to enter the country and complete the training program to which you were admitted. Then, you must return to your home country.

One of the main requirements of the H-3 visa program is that you must be attending training that is not available in your home country. If you are visiting the United States to attend pilot school, for example, then you must demonstrate that a similar pilot school is not available in your country of residence.

Another requirement is that the H-3 visa is not designed for full-time students or medical training. Instead, most H-3 visa applicants are participating in vocational programs, skill-building programs, and similar training courses. To qualify for an H-3 visa, you may be required to demonstrate that your training program will give you unique skills and knowledge. You will also need to prove that you intend to return to your home country to apply that unique training – say, to advance your existing career.

Which Programs Qualify for an H-3 Visa?

The H-3 visa program is designed for two broad categories of training programs, including training programs and special education training programs.

Before receiving your visa, you must be invited by an individual or organization that manages one of the following types of training programs.

Training Programs

The H-3 visa does not have specific definitions regarding the type of training program. However, you cannot engage in any type of medical or healthcare professional training while on the H-3 visa. Some of the training programs that commonly qualify for an H-3 visa include:

  • Finance
  • Transportation
  • Agriculture
  • Communications
  • Government
  • Business
  • Arts
  • Sciences

Special Education Exchange Programs

Full-time, degree-bearing programs are not permitted on the H-3 visa. However, certain special education programs do qualify under the H-3 visa program.


To qualify for an H-3 visa as a special education exchange visitor, you must be attending a training program dedicated to teaching attendees how to deal with children with disabilities. The program must be formal and structured. It must have professionally-trained staff. During the application process, you will be required to provide a complete outline of the training program and how it works.

Requirements for an H-3 Visa for Organizations

In order to bring H-3 visa holders to the United States, your organization must run a training program that meets specific qualifications, including all of the following:

  • The proposed training program must not be available in the H-3 visa applicant’s native country
  • The foreign national cannot be placed in a position which is part of the normal operation of a business and where U.S. citizens would normally be employed
  • The foreign national cannot engage in productive employment unless the employment is incidental and necessary to the training program
  • The training program must benefit the H-3 visa applicant when he or she moves on to pursue a career outside the United States
  • The training program must not deal in generalities with no fixed schedule, objectives, or means of evaluation; it needs to be a formal training program with evaluation metrics in place
  • The training program cannot be “in a field in which it is unlikely that the knowledge or skill will be used outside the United States”
  • The training program cannot be designed to recruit and train foreign nationals for employment in the United States

Requirements for an H-3 Visa for Applicants

The H-3 visa applicant is required to include a statement describing how the training program will be beneficial. The statement must include all of the following:

  • A description of the type of training and supervision expected during the training program
  • A description of the amount of time devoted to productive employment through the training program
  • List of the numbers of hours spent on in-classroom training and on-the-job training
  • A list of reasons why the training cannot be obtained in the applicant’s home country and must be obtained in the United States
  • An explanation of the source of any compensation paid to the trainee

Requirements for an H-3 for Special Education Exchange Visitors

If you are applying for an H-3 visa through a special education exchange program, then you may need to meet different requirements than the ones listed above. In order to qualify, you must be attending a special education exchange program in a formal environment.

The organization petitioning the H-3 visa applicant must include a statement describing all of the following:
  • The training the foreign national will receive through the special education training program
  • The facility’s professional staff
  • The foreign national’s participation in the training program
The petition must also show some important details of the H-3 visa applicant. The applicant is required to meet all of the following requirements:
  • Be nearing the completion of a baccalaureate or higher degree program in special education
  • Has already graduated from a baccalaureate or higher degree program in special education
  • Has extensive hands-on experience working with children who have physical, mental, or emotional disabilities

If custodial care of children is part of the H-3 visa applicant’s training, then the care must be incidental to the training program.

How to Apply for the H-3 Visa

The H-3 visa application process starts with the U.S. employer or organization filing form I-129, Petition for Non-Immigrant Worker. The petition must include all of the information mentioned above, including a description of the training program, an explanation of the training program’s methodology, and a description of how the H-3 visa applicant will benefit from the program. Form I-129 costs $460 to submit.

Once form I-129 has been completed and sent to USCIS for a petition, USCIS will either approve or deny the form. If the form is approved, then the H-3 visa applicant can proceed with the application.

Step 1) Fill Out Form DS-160: This is the standard non-immigrant visa application form. You can find it on the website of your local U.S. embassy. Complete the form to move onto the next step.

Step 2) Schedule an Interview: You need to complete an in-person interview at a local U.S. embassy or consulate to receive your H-3 visa. You can schedule the interview after completing Form DS-160.

Step 3) Gather Required Documents: You may be required to submit or present documents explaining the nature of your training program, including documents explaining the requirements mentioned above. You must also have form I-129 and form I-797, a valid passport, and a photo meeting the visa photo requirements.

Step 4) Attend the Interview: Your interview will be conducted by a consular officer. The goal of the interview is to ensure your H-3 visa training program is valid and beneficial. The officer also wants to make sure you intend to return home upon completion of your program.

How Long Does It Take to Process the H-3 Visa?

The H-3 visa takes anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks for the average U.S. embassy to process. In some cases, it can take as long as 6 months to process. It’s recommended that your training institution should begin the USCIS petition process at least 6 months before your training is scheduled to begin.

How Long Does My H-3 Visa Last?

The H-3 visa allows you to stay in the United States throughout the duration of your training program. Typically, your visa will state the exact dates during which your visa is applicable.

Many H-3 visas are valid for two years. After two years, you must return to your home country.

If you are visiting the United States on an H-3 visa to attend a special education training program, then your visa will be awarded for a maximum of 18 months.

Unlike many other work visas and H visas, the H-3 visa cannot be extended. It is valid until the date of expiry, at which point you must leave the United States and return to your home country.

Why Was My H-3 Visa Denied?

The H-3 visa can be denied for any of the following reasons:

  • The United States has a maximum cap of approximately 50,000 H-3 visas per year; it’s possible the United States has already awarded all H-3 visas for the year
  • The training institution failed to file the petition to USCIS before the deadline
  • The training program did not meet the requirements; it may be too unstructured and informal, for example
  • The applicant might be suspected of seeking employment in the U.S., which contravenes the terms of the H-3 visa

Can My Dependents Come to the United States Under My H-3 Visa?

Your dependents may be able to visit the United States with you under your H-3 visa. The following parties may apply for an H-4 visa to accompany H-3 visa holders to the United States:

  • Spouse of the H-3 visa holder
  • Unmarried children under 21 of the H-3 visa holder

If you fall into either of the two categories, then you may qualify for an H-4 visa. The H-4 visa will typically be active throughout the duration of the training program. You must arrive in the United States with or after the H-3 visa holder. You cannot arrive before.

By following the guide above, you can ensure your H-3 visa application is processed successfully.