Intern & Trainee Cultural Exchange Program

Globalize your work place by welcoming an AHA international intern or trainee into your hospitality organization! Participants are highly motivated individuals who bring fresh energy and are enthusiastic about gaining hospitality career experience and are eager to collaborate and share with your U.S. employees.

The primary objectives of the Internship and Trainee Cultural Exchange programs are to enhance the skills and knowledge of the participant through structured and guided work-based training and to improve participants' knowledge of American techniques, methodologies. The Cultural Exchange programs offered by AHA give organizations the opportunity to hire talent from around the world as part of the U.S. government's Exchange Visitor Program. AHA is designated as a program sponsor by the U.S. Department of State.

Participants are available throughout the year to complete a structured work based program within Food & Beverage, Front Office and Culinary Operations at a fine American hotel, resort or hospitality organization. Highly motivated and dynamic program participants receive one of the two J-1 categories for a maximum of 12 months:

  • J-1 Intern Visa for students and recent graduates
  • J-1 Trainee Visa for young professionals

AHA requires Host Properties to have broad enough operations to facilitate a comprehensive training in the hospitality field including rotation through different departments and or functions depending on duration of the training. We typically find that hotels with at least a four-star/four-diamond rating as determined by AAA and/or Mobil Travel meet these requirements. In addition, some properties without this rating may also be appropriate for hospitality internship and trainee programs.

To participate in the Intern or Trainee program, your organization must be able to provide a structured, work based training experience while abiding by some key program regulations. When deciding to host a Cultural Exchange participant, ask yourself the following:

  • Do you have the resources in place to provide a structured, guided work based training program to the intern/trainee within a professional environment?
  • Do you have the ability to provide ongoing supervision and evaluation of the intern/trainee?
  • What kind of training can you offer and what kind of training is the participant looking for? These should overlap.
  • Is what you are offering bona fide training and not regular work?
  • Can you schedule your participant to train at least 32 hours a week?
  • In programs 6 months or greater, can you provide at least three comprehensive departmental and/or functional rotations.
  • Can you provide housing and transportation assistance and or support?
  • Are you willing and able to provide cultural activities and teach an international participant about U.S. culture?

Employer Application Process

To become an approved intern/trainee employer, AHA will require an application and certain documents. But first contact us at to share basic information and schedule a time to discuss the cultural exchange program to determine if it is right for your organization.

Once you have completed the necessary steps to be an approved intern/trainee host property, hiring an AHA-sponsored international intern/trainee is a simple, straight-forward process.

A passionate and dedicated AHA manager works directly with you to:

  1. Recruit qualified candidates
  2. Arrange interview via telephone or Skype
  3. Assists in designing a comprehensive training plan and complete required the DS-7002 form.
  4. Presents the DS-7002 Trainee/Internship Placement Plan to the applicant for signature.
  5. Finalizes the process and send the DS-2019 to applicant to apply for a J-1 visa with their local U.S. Embassy/Consulate
  6. Prepare your participants for their arrival, provides you arrival updates
  7. Provides ongoing support throughout the program to you and your participants!

Please note, certain cases may not follow this exact process, on average this process takes 6-8 weeks to complete.

As the premier provider of international training and work programs specifically designed for the hospitality industry, we are committed to providing you with the highest level customer service, support and assistance in the industry:

  • AHA recruits on your behalf, presents candidates meeting your specific needs and helps you prepare for the arrival of your international participants.
  • AHA works with you to educate your management and supervisory team on Cultural Exchange programs, requirements and what to expect from your international participants. Your team will have full access to AHA's Employers Portal full of information and resources.
  • We thoroughly prepare your international participants for their experience in the United States. We focus on open communication, setting clear expectations and understanding life in the U.S. After they arrive, we provide ongoing support and outreach.
  • Your participants will benefit from an advanced level of structured learning and cultural exchange through their enrollment into World Campus, AHA's online global community. In World Campus, participants have access to professional development seminars, training tools and resources, discussion forums and more.
  • AHA participants are eligible to earn AHA's Hospitality Professional Certificate - additionally we invite ALL of your employees to earn the Hospitality Professional Certificate - at no additional cost to you or your employees!
  • AHA is designated as a program sponsor by the U.S. Department of State.

View Video: Intro to World Campus

At AHA, we believe the hospitality industry is the ultimate platform for cultural exchange experiences. Through our cultural exchange programs, your guests, employees and the local community breakdown stereotypes, see the world from another perspective; become more tolerant and respectful of differences; and appreciate similarities that bring people together. These are the goals of people-to-people exchange and are the central reasons the Exchange Visitor Program exists.

The Fulbright-Hays Act of 1961

As a proud sponsor and cultural exchange organization, we encourage our participants and professional colleagues to learn about The Fulbright-Hays Act of 1961, also known as the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961. This important act enables the Government of the United States to:

  • Increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange.
  • Strengthen the ties, which unite us with other nations by demonstrating the educational and cultural interests, developments, and achievements of the people of the United States and other nations, and contributions being made toward a peaceful and more fruitful life for people throughout the world.
  • Promote international cooperation for educational and cultural advancement and thus assist in the development of friendly, sympathetic, and peaceful relations between the United States and the other countries of the world.


Participants will need a copy of their I-94 (record of admission) for employment authorization (Form I-9) as well as when they apply for their social security number. The form can be printed from

I-9 Form

When the participant arrives at your company, he or she must complete an I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Form, which notifies the federal government that he or she is allowed to work in the United States. The participant will show you his or her passport, I-94 Arrival/Departure Record, J-1 Visa and DS-2019 Form when completing this form. The participant will complete Section 1, and you will complete Section 2. The participant should fill out Section 1 using your company address.

W-4 Form

The participant is also required to fill out a W-4 Employee Withholding Allowance Certificate as soon as he or she starts a paid internship/training program. Based on the information provided on the W-4 Form, you will need to calculate the amount of federal, state and local taxes to be withheld from the paycheck. Intern/Train participants are exchange visitors in the “non-resident alien” tax category. Please consult a tax professional for the most recent tax regulations.

How J-1 Interns/Trainees Should Complete the W-4 Form

The participant should NOT follow the instructions printed on the form, as the instructions on the W-4 Form are for U.S. residents—not exchange visitors. Please follow these instructions:

  • The Personal Allowances Worksheet does not need to be completed—this does not apply to exchange visitors
  • Home address: Indicate the participant’s permanent U.S. mailing address
  • Box 2: Enter the Social Security number if known
  • Box 3: Mark or check “Single”, even if the participant is married
  • Box 4: Leave blank
  • Box 5: Write “1”
  • Box 6: Write “NRA” for “Non-Resident Alien”
  • Box 7: Leave blank

How your J-1 Participant should apply for a SSN

  1. Register for SEVIS at least 5 days before applying
  2. Apply in person at a Social Security Office
  3. Bring their passport, a printout of their I-94 card, and DS-2019 with them to apply
  4. Get a receipt/proof of their application before leaving the Social Security Office
  5. Visit the nearest Social Security Office about 2-3 weeks after they apply (even if this is not where they originally applied) with their passport, DS-2019, and a printout of their I-94 card.
  6. Contact AHA if there are problems with their application or need our assistance in navigating the process

FICA and FUTA Withholdings

Under IRS Code Section 31.21. (B)(19), all non-resident aliens on J-1 visas are exempt from paying FICA (Social Security) and FUTA (federal unemployment taxes) taxes during their first two calendar years in the U.S. Since all of our participants are only able to intern/train for 18 months or fewer, all are exempt from these withholdings. Please consult a tax professional to see if the participant is also exempt from state unemployment taxes in your state.

Tax Refunds

As an exchange visitor on a J-1 Visa, the participant is considered a “non-resident alien” for tax purposes and is required to pay some taxes. Filling out the W-4 Form properly will ensure that he or she does not owe the U.S. government any money. Depending on how long the participant interns/trains with you and how much money is earned, he or she may be eligible for a refund of some of the taxes paid.

All program participants who are paid must file a U.S. tax return for the calendar year during which they worked with your company and follow the tax-filing deadline for that year. Even if the participant is no longer in the U.S., he or she still must file a U.S. tax return for the time during which they worked. It’s important to remind your intern or trainee of this tax filing requirement, particularly if the participant’s program spans over more than a single year’s tax period.

W-2 Form

If the participant is still in the U.S. at tax time, please provide him or her with a W-2. If he or she will have already returned home by the time W-2s are issued, we recommend that you have the participant leave a self-addressed envelope prior to departing the U.S. so that you will be able to mail the W-2 at the appropriate time. Note: Do not send W-2 forms to AHA’s office. As a host employer, you are responsible for getting this information to the participant and confirming that he or she has received it.

Filing Form 1040NR-EZ

If the participant will still be in the U.S. at tax time, you may wish to offer him or her assistance with filing a tax return. Upon receiving a W-2 Form, the participant will fill out a 1040NR-EZ (Non-Resident Aliens with No Dependents) Tax Form. This can be obtained online at

Once the form is completed, it should be mailed to the address listed in the "Where to File" section of the 1040NR-EZ. Please note that AHA staff are not tax professionals. You and your intern/trainee must contact the IRS if you have any specific questions regarding tax returns.

Please encourage your intern/trainee to visit the AHA Portal or to contact the IRS or a tax provider with specific questions.

Further Resources

AHA is committed to providing you with the highest level of customer service; every AHA's host employer works with a passionate and dedicated AHA manager to assist with any needs that arise. Additionally host managers and supervisors will have full access to AHA' Employer Portal, a one stop location jammed packed with all the resources and information needed to host a world class international program!

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