How to Get an Internship in the United States

Internships are practical experiences that bridge the gap between the educational world and the real world allowing students to understand what is really like to work in the industry of their choice. International internships offer much more than the usual internship you would conduct in your country. These types of internships will open your eyes to new ways and new personal and professional relationships, will provide you with new settings and a new culture and expand your opportunities. Here is a small summary on how to get internships in the United States.

Washington, DC: Internship Central

Washington, DC is probably the most popular place for internships in this country.
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Hundreds of students from every corner of the world congregate in this city during the summer months to pursue internships in almost every field. Of course, the most popular field is political science, but tons of students also pursue internships in science, technology, economics, business, art, etc. In fact, Washington, DC is much more than politics. It’s a beautiful city surrounded by monuments and museums that are free to the general public. The Smithsonian museums offer all kinds of internships and fellowships year-round in subjects such as art, public relations, science, public policy, and other fields. International students are eligible to apply to certain internships provided by the Smithsonian free-of-charge. Other entities that attract tons of international students are the international organizations located in this city such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Interamerican Development Bank. International and national students are encouraged to research and apply with plenty of time before the deadline to any of these internships that usually carry a nice stipend or a monthly wage. It’s important to understand that many internships are unpaid, however the professional expertise and personal connections you will acquire more than make up for the lack of payment. Some internships offer stipends that usually cover food and/or transportation. Other internships provide nice monthly wages that allow students to pay for housing, food, transportation and other personal expenses. There are also internship programs such as the Washington Internship Program, the Washington Internship Institute, or the Washington Center that provide internships to international and domestic students. These programs usually charge fees that average $3500 for internship placement services, academic courses, housing placement, and group activities. For those students already studying in US universities and colleges, the university career center is a great source for internship opportunities. Finally, newspaper and online job ads may also provide you with a good list of potential internships.

The Work Permit Process for F-1 Students

F-1 visa students (students currently enrolled in US universities and colleges) are eligible to work as interns 9 months after being admitted in the country as F-1 students. The process varies from college to college, but the following steps are recommended:

1. Talk to your international students counselor to see if you are eligible for curricular practical training (CPT). Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is an employment option available to F-1 students where the practical training employment is considered to be an integral part of the curriculum or academic program and where you are awarded college credit.

2. Talk to your college counselor, internship director or career counselor to see if you qualify for internships at this point in your college life.

3. Look for internships everywhere: newspapers, online job banks, internship centers, companies, organizations, etc. Submit your resume to your internships director or college professor in charge of co-op and internship programs.

4. Once you have been hired as an intern, go to the international students office and fill out the CPT form. Once this is approved, your I-20 will specify permission to engage in CPT. Your employer and dates will also be recorded on your I-20.

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