Five years ago, Jesse & Frichtel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was thriving, but co-owners Mark Frichtel and Sven Jesse wanted help fabricating complex cases in their implant department. Unable to find a qualified technician locally, they turned to Jesse's native country, Germany. On a recommendation from the German government, they learned of the J-1 visa, which allows an overseas professional to train in his field in the United States for up to 18 months.
"We knew that Germany's rigorous standards meant we were starting out with good technicians who have the ability to do high quality work," says Frichtel. "We provide a year of intensive training and get six months of productivity but there's a long-term payoff because we continue to outsource work to some of them once they return to Germany. Since we've trained them, we are confident their work will meet our standards," says Frichtel, who has hosted 11 technicians.
In addition to supplementing laboratories' personnel needs, the J-1 visa offers the visiting trainee an educational and cross-cultural experience. "Lab owners like to bring in applicants who can help with various projects and activities in the lab, but they must also provide training so the visiting technicians can improve their skills and career options. One of the primary purposes of the J-1 visa is on-the-job training so visiting trainees learn by doing," says Wade Sorenson of the Association for International Practical Training (AIPT), a non-profit organization that Frichtel worked with to facilitate the application process, which takes approximately four to six weeks.
AIPT, which is able to sponsor training programs in a variety of industries and has worked with over 30 laboratories since 2004, is designated by the State Department to sponsor the J-1 visa. It can even help you identify trainee candidates who are required to have at least two years of recent work or educational experience in their field and an adequate knowledge of English.
Both the host employer and trainee submit their applications directly to AIPT; upon approval, the international applicant must then set up final interviews at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country. Either the applicant or employer can pay--or split--the application fee which ranges from $1,000 to $2,500 depending on the amount of time the trainee is staying in the U.S.; the minimum is three weeks and the maximum is 18 months.
Host employers must also provide a written training plan and pay a fair wage. And, although it's not required, some labs also cover some of their visiting technicians' living expenses once they're in the U.S. "I want to make our trainees' transition to the U.S. as smooth as possible and make them feel comfortable, so we provide them with a vehicle and an apartment and also pay for all utilities," says Frichtel.
But not all the payoffs have been business-related for Frichtel: he's also gained a sister-in-law. His brother, Matt Frichtel, a ceramist at the lab, met and fell in love with one of the trainees, Sandra Vieregge Frichtel, and they have been married for almost a year.
For additional information on the J-1 visa, contact the AIPT at 410-997-2200 or visit its website at http://www.aipt.org.