Chapter 7 - Admissions, Extensions of Stay, and Change of Status

A. Admissions

H-3 trainees and externs should be admitted for the length of the training program, but for no longer than 2 years. [1] H-3 visa special education exchange visitors should be admitted for the length of the training program, but for no longer than 18 months. 

H-3 trainees and special education exchange visitors who respectively, have spent 2 years or 18 months in the United States, in either H-visa or L-visa classifications may not seek extension of, change of status to, or be readmitted in, either H-visa or L-visa status unless they have resided outside the United States for the previous six months. [2]

There are limited exceptions to this rule. For example, the limitation does not apply to an H-3 nonimmigrant whose H or L status was seasonal, intermittent, or lasted for an aggregate of 6 months or less per year. [3]

Additionally, time spent as an H-4 dependent does not count against the maximum allowable periods of stay available to principals in H-3 status (or vice-versa). Thus, an alien who was previously granted H-4 dependent status and subsequently is granted H-3 classification, or an alien who was previously granted H-3 classification and subsequently is granted H-4 dependent status, may be eligible to remain in the United States for the maximum period of stay applicable to the classification. 

For example, a husband and wife who come to the United States as a principal H-3 and dependent H-4 spouse may maintain status for one year, and then change status to H-4 and H-3 respectively, as long as the change of status application is properly filed before the principal H-3 has spent the maximum allowable period of stay in the United States. [4]

B. Extensions of Stay

H-3 trainees and externs can only extend their stay if their original stay was less than 2 years, and the total period of stay, together with the extension period, does not exceed 2 years. H-3 special education exchange visitors can extend their stay in the United States only if their total period of stay does not exceed 18 months. [5]

To file for an extension, the petitioner must file another Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129) and H Classification Supplement to Form I-129, fully documented in the same manner as the first petition, and also include:​

  • A letter from the petitioner requesting an extension of status for the trainee, with an explanation of why the training has not yet been completed;

  • ​A copy of the beneficiary’s Arrival/Departure Record (Form I-94); and

  • ​A copy of the beneficiary’s first Notice of Action (Form I-797).

If the H-3 beneficiary has a dependent (a spouse, or unmarried child under the age of 21) in the United States, those dependents will need to submit an Application To Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-539). 

C. Change of Status

Certain categories of nonimmigrants are eligible to change status to that of an H-3 nonimmigrant, including certain students and other temporary visa holders. [6] Such change of status requests must establish that:​

  • The beneficiaries entered the United States legally;​

  • The beneficiaries have never worked in the United States illegally, or otherwise violated the terms of their visa; and​

  • The expiration date on the beneficiary’s I-94 has not passed. [7]


1. [^] See 8 CFR 214.2(h)(9)(iii)(C)(1).

2. [^] See 8 CFR 214.2(h)(13)(iv).

3. [^] See 8 CFR 214.2(h)(13)(v)

4. [^] Maintenance of H-4 status continues to be tied to the principal’s maintenance of H status. Thus, H-4 dependents may only maintain such status as long as the principal maintains the relevant principal H status.

5. [^] See 8 CFR 214.2(h)(15)(ii)(D)

6. [^] Certain categories generally cannot change status if they are in the United States, including nonimmigrants who entered the United States with the following visas: C, Travel without a Visa, D, K-1 or K-2, J-1, or M-1. Other nonimmigrants, such as B-1 and B-2, may change status to H-3.

7. [^] See 8 CFR 248.1(b) for information on timely filing and maintenance of status, and circumstances when failure to file timely may be excused in the discretion of USCIS. 

8 CFR 214.2(h)(9)(iii)(C) - Validity of approved H-3 petitions and H-4 dependent(s)

8 CFR 248.1(b) - Timely filing and maintenance of status


No appendices available at this time.

Technical Update - Replacing the Term “Foreign National”

October 08, 2019

This technical update replaces all instances of the term “foreign national” with “alien” throughout the Policy Manual as used to refer to a person who meets the definition provided in INA 101(a)(3) [“any person not a citizen or national of the United States”].



POLICY ALERT - Nonimmigrant Trainees (H-3)

September 09, 2014

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is issuing policy guidance on the trainees (H-3) nonimmigrant visa category.  


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