Can a foreign university student participate in a U.S. university's internship program?

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Question:

I’m a student at a foreign university that will give me academic credit for an internship. Can I do the internship in the United States?

Answer:

You can come to the U.S. as an exchange student if you have been accepted into a student internship program at the U.S. university and can meet certain other requirements.

You’ll need to be able to speak, read, and write English well enough to do the internship job. You can prove this in one of three ways: in an interview with the U.S. university that is sponsoring the internship program, by taking a test, or by showing a certificate from an academic institution or English-language school.

You must be in good academic standing at your home university, and you must intend to return there to get your degree after you’re finished with the student internship program. You must be coming to the U.S. to do the internship, not to take a regular job.

You must show that you have enough money to support yourself (and your family if you’re bringing them with you) for the entire time you’ll be in the United States. Also, you must have insurance that will pay for any sickness or accident during your internship.

Before getting permission to participate in the internship program, you’ll need to sign an internship placement plan form that describes the job and what you’re going to learn by doing it. If your internship program is in hospitality or tourism and will last six months or longer, the job must contain at least three departmental or functional rotations.

The internship work can’t be something you already know how to do – rather, it should expand upon your existing knowledge and skills. The job can’t be more than 20% clerical work. Everything you do on the job must be necessary for the completion of the student internship program. The university will evaluate your progress after six months and make a final evaluation shortly before the internship is done. You’ll need to sign the evaluation.

Your internship job can be paid or unpaid. You’ll be working full-time, which means at least 32 hours per week. You can’t stay in the job more than 12 months, but if you switch majors or degree programs at your home university, you can come back for another 12-month internship. You might be able to switch internship jobs during the year, but if you leave the internship program, you’ll have to leave the United States.

The visa you need is called a J-1. You start the process by getting the U.S. university sponsoring the internship program to issue you a Form DS-2019. With that form, you can apply for the J-1 visa at the U.S. consulate in your home country. The process for getting a J-1 visa as a university exchange student is explained in more detail in “How to Come to the U.S. as a College or University Exchange Student.”

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