Diversifying your team by hiring qualified & motivated international interns is a smart investment. Learn more about what to expect.
What is the J-1 Cultural Exchange Visa Program?
The J-1 Cultural Exchange Visa Program is a non-immigrant cultural exchange visa, issued by the U.S. Department of State, which allows foreign nationals to enter the U.S. to participate in an internship or training program with an American company for up to 12 months for hospitality programs.
International participants gain practical experience to help reinforce their academic studies and enhance their career through a structured training program and improve their knowledge of American business culture.
Who is the Sponsor organization?
HPUSA partners with State Department-designated sponsors who are authorized to issue the Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status (Form DS-2019).
Who is the host employer?
This will be the site of training and the J-1 cultural exchange participant will be paid by the host employer. HPUSA does not make any employment decisions as to how the participant will work, what their responsibilities will be, or whether the employment will be terminated, and has no authority to exercise any discretion.
What is the difference between an Intern and a Trainee?
J-1 Interns are either currently enrolled in or have graduated from their hospitality degree programs within the past year.
J-1 Trainees have graduated from university more than a year ago and have at least one year of hospitality experience, OR have 5 years of hospitality experience, before enrolling in the J-1 program. Trainees should have a more advanced training plan with more advanced learning objectives including an advanced final training phase.
Employment & Compensation
Is the Training Full Time?
Yes, as a host employer, you are required to provide 32 hours or greater per week and time and half for any overtime worked.
For the most part all the interns are university students motivated to earn money working with a U.S. company and learn about the U.S. in general. In most cases, participants have borrowed money from family and friends in order to participate in the program and they expect to earn enough money to pay back this debt, cover the cost of living expenses, and hopefully take some money home at the end of their program.
Is the hotel required to provide Accommodation?
The participants are responsible for their own accommodation and transportation for the duration of the training program. All hotels provide at least two weeks accommodation at the hotel upon arrival, then the participants MUST find their own suitable accommodation. Any assistance you can provide the participant in finding suitable accommodation near the hotel is expected and appreciated.
If you refer them to housing in your area, please ensure the housing meets all federal, state, and local standards for health and safety. Assist participants in their search for acceptable housing by showing them the most effective resources to use in your area such as newspapers, websites or message boards. All participants are advised to arrive in the USA with at least $1,500 in order for them to secure housing immediately. Apartment complexes will not accept an intern without a social security card. However, they do accept a verification of employment from the property to assist them to secure housing.
Acceptable housing is defined as:
- Meeting all federal, state, and local standards for health and safety.
- Short-term, weekly or monthly lease
- Located near grocery shopping, laundry, and recreational opportunities.
- Convenient access to reliable public transportation.
- Partially furnished
Can we extend a Participant's Program after the 12 months?
All participants do not have work authorization past the end date on their DS2019 form.
When your J1 participants are near their final days of the J1 program, please be sure to complete the following:
- Inform HPUSA of any early end date or change of program dates
- Complete Final Evaluation
- Discuss with participant how last paycheck will be issued and received.
- Gather participant home mailing address and contact information for W2
Travel Grace Period
Following the completion of their program participants are granted a 30-day travel period. They may travel in the United States, however it is recommended that they do not travel beyond the borders of the US, as they may not be permitted reentry. Please know participants may no longer continue program activities, nor may they work.
Process & Legal Information
Do Interns and trainees pay taxes?
Interns are temporary visitors with nonresident, nonimmigrant status and are not eligible to receive the benefits of U.S. social programs such as Social Security, Medicare and FICA and are therefore EXEMPT from paying these taxes. Therefore be sure you only take out for Federal, State and Local Income Taxes (FUTA).
When they arrive at your hotel they will complete two tax documents, the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Form and the W-4 Employees Withholding Allowance Certificate.
Taxes To Pay
Federal Income Tax
State Income Tax
City Income Tax
Not Subject To These Taxes
Social Security Tax
Avoid Common Mistakes
If you have been withholding FICA/FUTA from your participant’s pay, you will need to change withholdings for future pay checks and issue a refund. You can claim a refund of incorrectly paid FICA/FUTA from the IRS when filing your employer’s federal tax return (see the instructions for IRS forms 941 and/or 944 for more information).
Do they require employment eligibility documents?
Yes, review the information below for more specific knowledge on the required documentation.
One of the first things your participant will need to do is fill out a W-4, just like any new hire. However, the instructions are a bit different. Here’s how to guide them:
- Do not use the Personal Allowances Worksheet at the top of the W-4. This is for U.S. residents.
- Check only “Single” marital status on line 3, regardless of actual marital status.
- Claim only one withholding allowance (enter “1” on line 5).
- Write “Nonresident Alien” or “NRA” above the dotted line on line 6 of Form W-4.
- J-1 Visitors cannot claim “Exempt” withholding status on line 7.
You will need to send a W-2 statement to your participant at the end of the tax year. If the job spans two tax years, you will need to send a second W-2 many months after the participant has returned home. Ensure you have recorded their permanent address in their home country to send their W-2 statement of earnings at the end of the year.
- Confirm your participant’s home address and email address before he or she leaves.
- If you use an online system to distribute W-2s, confirm that the participant has login information.
There are special procedures for J-1 participants. You must add a certain amount to their wages before calculating the correct withholding amount of federal tax only. The calculated tax is then withheld from their original pay. How much to add depends on your payroll frequency.
It is often difficult for international interns to understand the details of the American payroll systems and they are often confused by the various deductions that come out of their pay checks. To prevent unnecessary confusion we suggest you take just a moment with your intern to explain some of the details of their first paycheck. Show them the deductions taken for taxes, uniforms, etc. where applicable and explaining the difference between gross, net and year to date pay is also helpful.
Can they leave the United States during the Program?
We highly recommend that all participants stay in the United States for the duration of the training program. They are committed to your host company for the duration of the program and will be required to contact their sponsor organization and complete travel documentation if they want to leave the US during their training.
When will they arrive in the United States?
J-1 Cultural Exchange interns/ trainees are expected to arrive in the United States within 6 to 8 weeks from the time of receiving their Letter of Offer and Training Plan provided by the host employer.
Will they have Medical Insurance?
Yes, all participants will be covered by basic medical and travel insurance for the duration of the training in the US through the sponsor organization.
Their insurance is only intended to cover accidents and illness that are not related to a participant’s employment or training. Every participant should be covered by the property worker’s compensation insurance program as required in federal, state, and local laws for your jurisdiction.
If participants need to seek medical attention, they should contact their medical insurance to start a case and receive a claim number. The participant will then submit a completed claim form to them, requesting reimbursement for any money he or she paid for healthcare received. If your participants have any questions or concerns about their medical insurance, they should contact their sponsor company.
If the associate is hurt at work, they are covered by your Workers Compensation Policy.
Host employees have the option to offer participants additional medical coverage after a qualifying period.
Will they have a Social Security Number?
If they do not already have a social security number, participants will be instructed to apply for one after they arrive in the United States. We will provide them with a form to complete and take to the nearest social security office.
When an intern/trainee arrives in the United States they must contact their sponsor within 24 hours so that we can validate his/her arrival in the government database, SEVIS. An intern/trainee will show up as "active" in the government database within approximately 10 days of validation.
We recommend that intern/trainees wait at least (5) days after reporting their US arrival to their sponsor before applying for a social security number. This will allow enough time for Social Security to be made aware of the participant information in the SEVIS database and will prevent possible delay in the receipt of their Social Security card.
Participants should apply in person at a local Social Security office with the following documents:
- Proof of identity such as a valid passport or birth certificate
- Work authorization or proof of eligibility to be in the U.S. such as Form I-94
- Form DS-2019
The participant will receive a receipt of application which will serve as proof of application until they receive their actual Social Security card. A copy of the participant’s SS application receipt serves as documentation of application for the participant’s TIN.
If a participant has already been assigned the Social Security number during a prior stay in the United States, that number is still valid. In this case, the participant does not need to apply for a new Social Security number.
Can they be paid before receiving a Social Security Number?
Having a social security number is NOT a legal requirement to be permitted to work in the USA. A J1 intern is allowed to legally start working as soon as they arrive in US and before they have their SSN. All they need to show you is their legal work documents and the I-9 is filled out within 3 days of the intern's hire date. The intern/trainee should also be able to provide you with proof of submitting their application for a social security number for your records.
Sometimes it is challenging to actually pay an intern through your payroll system, without the number. Some hotels create an SS number like 000-00-0012 SS. In circumstances when an intern is forced to go for a lengthy period of time without a SSN for any number of reasons, if you can work out something whereby the J1 intern can receive some or all of their pay check owed in cash until we can process an actual pay check. When the pay check processes, it will contain pay for all of their past work less the amount he already received in cash.
If you receive the SSN after filing your wage reports to the IRS, file a form W-2c (Corrected Wage and Tax Statement). Visit www.ssa.gov for instructions.
Regarding filling out the E-verify the following states: Pg. 17 #4
IMPORTANT: If you select ‘An alien authorized to work’ you may also be required to indicate that you are entering either the Alien number or I-94 number from the employee’s Form I-9. Then it prompts to asking why the SSN wasn’t provided and Pg. 17 #5 states: If an E-Verify case is not created by the third business day after the employee begins work for pay, the user must indicate the reason for the delay. Select: Awaiting Social Security number
What is a I-94 Form?
The purpose of this form is to hold all U.S. companies responsible to verify the employment eligibility and identity of all employees hired to work in the U.S. Companies are required to complete Employment Eligibility Verification forms (Form I-9) for all employees, including international interns. Form I-9 serves the purpose of both identifying the potential employee and confirming his or her eligibility to work in the U.S.
Upon arrival the Customs and Border Patrol officers will complete an online version of the J1 holder’s I-94 giving them clearance to enter the US. After they arrive in the US, they will need to print out the I-94 in order to apply for their social security number. They can retrieve the I-94 here: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/. The J1 intern enters the information (exactly) as it appears on their passport into this online site and it generates their I-94 number.
Are they guaranteed a J-1 Cultural Exchange Visa?
No, there is no guarantee that the participant will be granted a J-1 Cultural Exchange Visa at the US Embassy. We ensure that each participant has the necessary documents for their visa interview and assist in appealing any visa denial decisions.
What is cultural adjustment?
As a Host Property you may be providing a first time opportunity to experience the United States to many of our program participants. Living in a foreign country can be an exhilarating experience, filled with a range of emotion and often requires some time for adjustment to the new environment.
Culture Shock and Homesickness:
If you have ever been to another country for a period of time, you may be familiar with the feelings of culture shock or homesickness. The sudden immersion into a world where everything is so different from anything you’ve ever known can be overwhelming and result in these feelings.
The confusion and anxiety associated with culture shock and homesickness can result in moodiness, irritability, and a lack of focus. Interns may begin to feel as if even the most simple of tasks is insurmountable, longing for the familiar comforts of home. The best thing you can do for an intern suffering from these conditions is to be very patient; they will pass. These feelings of culture shock and homesickness are usually a temporary phase and generally only last for a few weeks before the intern gains a sense of confidence and adjust to their new surroundings.
To proactively help your intern work through these feelings, start a polite conversation about their life back home. Getting your intern to discuss culture shock and homesickness will help them to recognize the feelings they are experiencing. Once they realize what is happening, the fear and anxiety should subside, and they can begin to enjoy discovering the similarities and differences between life in the U.S. and what they have experienced back home.
Help to cure homesickness by:
- Hosting a social event such as a potluck featuring the participant’s local cuisine or a holiday party celebrating either U.S. or international holidays.
- Put their pictures with a little biography about them and their country in the associate cafeteria.
- Start a “Buddy Program” with them as they come in. This can be their Dept. Head, a Supervisor or another co-worker that will assist them since their time of arrival with finding housing, information on the Social Security office, area information, etc.
Trainees/Interns are required to speak, read, and understand English however there will be times when communication between you and your participants will be a challenge.
Here are some things to consider when communicating with your intern throughout the program:
- When your intern first arrive, they are usually a little overwhelmed and their English skills may be a little stiff as they don’t speak the language on a daily basis at home.
- Communicating in a foreign language all day long can be very tiring. Interns may be afraid to tell you that they don’t understand what you are saying, or they may assume they understand even if they really don’t. One can imagine the problems that may occur under these circumstances.
- With a little patience and time to get accustomed to their new surroundings you will find that their English skills will improve very rapidly.
Matters of Trust:
Some of our interns come from countries where authority figures are generally not to be trusted and it may be difficult to get your participants to come to you if they have a problem. They may feel that as an authority figure you do not have a genuine interest in helping them to have a successful and positive program experience. Gain their trust by making yourself available as someone who is sincerely interested in facilitating a positive environment.
The purpose of the International Trainee/Intern program is to provide a learning experience for the associate and outstanding guest service for your hotel. It is imperative that these associates are used in high guest contact positions and have an opportunity to learn about your business.
At Your Service
Phone Operator / PBX
Dining Room Attendant
Banquets and Events
All Levels Available
for American and Fine Dining
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