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At my university computer science department (outside the US) students are frequently taken on as paid interns at big US technology companies (Facebook, Nvidia, Google) under the J1 visa. AFAIK the visa allows companies to give temporary paid work to foreigners who are currently students or have graduated in the last 6 months, and is given out much more frequently than H1B.

My personal interest is in companies that are much smaller. Is the legal process that the sponsor must undertake for J1 prohibitive to companies on the order of 30 employees and who probably don't have big (or any) legal departments?

(to be clear I'm not concerned about whether I can make the case that I could add value to the company, even in six months - more whether that value would outweigh the administrative pain for a sponsor)

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    While it may have changed, when I did the J1 (2000 and 2001) there was no sponsor - all the work was on the applicant themselves. Then when we got to the US, we were simply hired by whoever wanted to hire us. – Mark Mayo Mar 26 '14 at 8:59
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If you're interested in the requirements imposed on the sponsors you can look through them them on NAFSA site. If you look at some of the requirements imposed on the sponsor the company of 30 employees it would be cost prohibitive because for example:

§ 62.8 General program requirements.

62.8(a)

(a) Size of program. Sponsors, other than Federal government agencies, shall have no less than five exchange visitors per calendar year. The Department of State may in its discretion and for good cause shown reduce this requirement.

62.8(b)

(b) Minimum duration of program. Sponsors, other than federal government agencies, shall provide each exchange visitor, except short-term scholars, with a minimum period of participation in the United States of three weeks.

62.8(c)

(c) Reciprocity. In the conduct of their exchange programs, sponsors shall make a good faith effort to achieve the fullest possible reciprocity in the exchange of persons.

62.8(d)

(d) Cross-cultural activities. Sponsors shall:

(1) Offer or make available to exchange visitors a variety or appropriate cross-cultural activities. The extent and types of the cross-cultural activities shall be determined by the needs and interests of the particular category of exchange visitor. Sponsors will be responsible to determine the appropriate type and number of cross-cultural programs for their exchange visitors. The Department of State encourages sponsors to give their exchange visitors the broadest exposure to American society, culture and institutions; and

(2) Encourage exchange visitors to voluntarily participate in activities which are for the purpose of sharing the language, culture, or history of their home country with Americans, provided such activities do not delay the completion of the exchange visitors' programs.

And the list of requirements go on. So while the legal aspect can probably be handled by an ouside law firm some of the program requirements have to be handled in house and to be able to select and handle at least 5 visitors a year may require 1 or 2 full time staff. So doing that is usually furthest thing from the mind of such a company's management.

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