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Working in the United States is a dream for many people around the world and an internship can be a very good place to start. Besides advancing the knowledge of your field, an internship in the U.S. will bring many opportunities such as improving your English skills, expanding your professional network and learning about American business culture.

Types of Internships

There are several types of internships for those wanting to study or train in the United States. These can be both paid or unpaid.

Academic

Most universities offer internships for academic credit, meaning that you will work towards your degree while gaining hands-on experience in your field. Duration ranges from one or two semesters to a few weeks over the summer.

Direct internships with organizations

These internships are categorized by industry and offer work experience in a specific industry. You may or may not receive academic credit for these internships, and a stipend or allowance is usually offered.

Non-profit or service-based

Some charitable foundations, schools, hospitals, or religious organizations offer internships to provide a needed service to the community. These can be especially useful for those who plan on working with NGOs, social and medical fields. These can be paid or unpaid.

Finding an Internship

If you’re already studying in the U.S., ask your university if they have specialized resources to help students find and apply for internships. If you’re studying outside of the U.S., check to see if there are exchange programs between your country of residence and the United States. Another option is to register with specialized agencies that assist with placing students in internships. These agencies can help you find an internship more quickly and will take care of many of the formalities for you, although this service comes with a fee. It is also common to simply search for internships on your own through job listing sites, industry specific organizations, and your personal network.

Once you’ve found the internship you’re interested in, the application process is much like that of a traditional job. You’ll need to submit a CV, a cover letter, and any required documents. Applicants should expect an interview either over the phone or via video chat programs such as skype. If accepted, you will be extended a formal offer.

 Important: Make sure your resume (CV) has been tailored to the U.S. style and standards. Personal details such as your marital status, date of birth, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and photos are never included in U.S. resumes.

Visa Options

Every foreign national who wishes to intern in the U.S. is required to have a visa and it is important to understand your options and the implications of which visa type would apply to your case. Most international interns will have either an F-1 or J-1 visa. For more information regarding visas, read "Work visas in the USA" and "Study in the USA".

If you’re already studying in the U.S. on an F-1 visa, it is possible to have an internship without changing your visa status. International students can work 20 hours per week at an unpaid or on-campus internship without additional authorization. Working with an off-campus organization is possible as well, with some additional approvals. Speak with your foreign student advisor or the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service to see what needs to be done to legally be allowed to intern off-campus.

Those who are coming to the U.S. specifically for an internship will need a J-1 intern or trainee visa. To apply as an intern you must be currently enrolled in a university or have graduated in the past 12 months. The trainee designation is for those who have either five years of work experience or a degree plus one year of work experience. Trainees are permitted to train for 18 months and interns for 12. This type of visa requires a sponsor to apply on your behalf.

 Good to know: With the J-1 visa, most students are required to return to their home country for a period of two years after their program is completed. This requirement can only be waived in certain circumstances. Additionally, spouses who accompany their partner on a J-1 visa are allowed to petition to work in the U.S. during the spouse’s visa term. Accompanying partners of students on the F-1 visa are not allowed to do so.

 Useful Links:

Visa information for internships

Job search engines:
monster.com
Career Builder
Indeed

Internship specific search engines:
internjobs.com
internships.com
Experience.com

Internship agencies:
Dream Career
Global Experiences
USA Internships

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.