Culinary talent from abroad can spend up to a year training alongside America’s top club chefs.
The US State Department welcomes burgeoning new culinary talent to the US through the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program. This temporary visa has two arms—the intern and the trainee program. International students and young professionals from over 10 industries—including hospitality and tourism—are eligible to apply.
During a culinary J-1 program, aspiring chefs can rotate through the different stations in a kitchen while absorbing culinary traditions of the US.
Basics of the Intern Program
Internships are open to current culinary students abroad or those who graduated within the last 12 months looking to train closely with a US kitchen. Above all, the position must focus on the growth and development of the intern—taking the place of unskilled labor is prohibited.
Typically, a mentor is assigned to each intern for consistent training opportunities and they must have access to ongoing learning opportunities at the club.
To meet the requirements for the visa, the culinary intern must:
- Be proficient in reading and speaking English
- Receive the internship offer before applying
- Prove that they have no intention of immigrating to the US
- Be able to financially support themselves while abroad and meet health insurance requirements
- If paid, contribute income taxes to federal and state organizations
J-1 Employer Requirements
While there are some strict stipulations for the employer of a J-1 intern, the exchange program is highly beneficial for both the young student in training and for the restaurant looking to celebrate international talent.
Most importantly, the restaurant or club must enroll as a State Department sponsor company or work with a related organization—many of which can guide the club in meeting requirements throughout their intern’s stay.
Before and during the intern’s 12-month stay, the sponsoring culinary team must:
- Prove that the intern is not taking the place of US full-time workers
- Employ enough full-time workers to manage the restaurant and train the intern
- Place greater focus on the exchange element of the program than typical employment
- Pay the intern at least the minimum way for programs lasting longer than six months (or if it meets specific internship stipulations set by the Department of Labor).
Many clubs and resorts sponsor robust internships specifically for J-1 interns each year. Since there is no cap on the number of visas awarded each year, chefs have ample flexibility to host an inspiring program for students from around the world.