Internships are practical experiences that bridge the gap between the educational world and the real world allowing you to gain work experience in your industry.

And global internships offer much more than local internships.

Getting an internship abroad will open your eyes to new perspectives and new personal and professional relationships.

The experience will provide you with new settings, a new culture, and new skills that will expand your opportunities.

For some international students, finding an internship in the United States can provide them with invaluable work experience and networking opportunities. Let’s take a look at some tips to get internships in the United States.


Internship Central: Washington DC

Washington DC Capitol Building
Washington, DC

Washington, DC is probably the most popular place for internships in the United States.

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.

However, lots of students also pursue internships in science, technology, economics, business, art, etc.

In fact, 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 others. And international students are eligible to apply to certain internships provided by the Smithsonian free of charge.

International Organizations Internships

Other entities that attract international interns are the global organizations located in this city such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Interamerican Development Bank.

If you’re interested in obtaining one of these internships, then I strongly encourage you to research and apply with plenty of time before the deadline.

Carefully craft your application and present the best version of yourself!

How to Find Internships

For those students already studying in U.S. universities and colleges, your university career center is a great source for internship opportunities.

Also, ask for recommendations from professors and connect with other students. You never know where the next internship opportunity will come from!

If you’re coming from other countries, then you may want to take a look at the links offered in this post. For example, if you’re interested in a World Bank internship, then go to that website, and look for current opportunities. Additionally, you could explore this directory of work abroad agencies.

There are also programs such as the Washington Internship Institute or the Washington Center that provide internships to international and American students.

These programs usually charge fees that average $3,500 for internship placement services, academic courses, housing placement, and group activities.

Finally, online job banks (Indeed, UNJobs, Devex) and LinkedIn may also provide you with good resources for potential internships.

Unpaid and Paid Internships

While some internships carry a monthly wage, it’s important to understand that most internships are unpaid.

However, the professional expertise and connections you could potentially acquire will more than make up for any lack of payment.

Some internships offer stipends that usually cover food and/or transportation. Other internships, especially those at the graduate level (master’s and Ph.D. students), provide wages ranging between $3,000 to $5,000 per month.

These monthly stipends allow students to pay for housing, food, transportation, and other personal expenses.

The Work Permit Process for F-1 Students

College Students

F-1 visa students (international students currently enrolled in US universities and colleges) are eligible to work as interns approximately 9 months after being admitted into 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). This is an employment option available to F-1 students where applied training and internships are considered to be an integral part of the curriculum. Keep in mind that it’s important that you are awarded college credits as part of this experience.

2. Talk to your College Counselor, Internship Director, or Career Counselor to see if you qualify for internships at this point in your college journey.

3. Look for internships everywhere: online job banks, internship centers, career fairs, business and organization websites, LinkedIn, social media, etc. Additionally, submit your resume to your Internship 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 student’s 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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The Visa Process for Other International Students

how to get an internship in the USA

J-1 Visa Internships

Students or recent graduates from other countries who wish to pursue an internship in the United States will usually need to be sponsored for a J-1 visa.

These types of visas are provided to exchange students and trainees. Usually, your internship program will sponsor you for this type of visa.

Students who come on a J-1 visa will be required to leave the country within 30 days after the internship ends. Also, J-1 visa holders will not be able to return to the US for 2 years following their internship experience.

The reasoning for this is that students must take back the skills and expertise they acquired in the USA, and apply them in their native countries.

H-2 Visa Internships

Students who wish to work as temporary workers — usually in the hospitality industry as front desk agents, restaurant waiters, ski instructors, and similar occupations are eligible for H-2 visas.

This visa for unskilled workers is often used for hospitality and entertainment internships during the summer months. Work abroad programs usually sponsor you for this type of visa.

If you’d like to explore internship organizations that sponsor and facilitate work visas, then take a look at this directory of work abroad agencies.

G-4 Visa Internships

If you’re coming from outside the United States, international and UN organizations may sponsor you for a G-4 visa.

Global organizations such as the World Bank, IMF, UN, and IDB utilize this type of visa for all their international staff members. One of the benefits of having this type of visa is that you’re exempt from paying wage income taxes in the United States.

Next Steps

If you want to obtain an internship in the U.S., the following steps are recommended:

1. Find an internship or work abroad program that meets your criteria. Make sure it is a reputable and certified organization.

2. Apply for the internship or work abroad program.

3. Request a detailed explanation of the steps and documents necessary for your visa.

4. Gather all the required documents for your visa interview and visit the U.S. consulate or embassy in your area.

You may also like: Top 10 International Law Schools in the U.S.

Final Thoughts

Although this article has focused on internship opportunities available in Washington, internships are available in all cities throughout the United States.

New York, for example, offers lots of opportunities for internships in various sectors such as investment banking or international relations. Explore the United Nations Internships website for the latest internship opportunities in their New York headquarters and abroad.

Disney World in Orlando also offers internship opportunities for students from all over the world. This is a great opportunity for those interested in pursuing careers in hospitality and tourism.

Recommended Reading:

The Ultimate Guide to Internships
“Whether you’re still in school, looking for a job after college, or this is your third career change, The Ultimate Guide to Internships will give you excellent professional guidance on getting to the next level.”

It is important to select internships that provide you with valuable skills and unique experiences. Avoid at all costs internships where making copies and serving coffee will be your main responsibility.

Also, if you have decided to enroll in an internship program, make sure that it is a reputable and certified organization capable of sponsoring foreign students.

An internship in the United States and in other parts of the world is a beautiful experience that combines new experiences, new cultures, new perspectives, and new opportunities to boost your personal and professional growth.

Denisse Romero, author
Denisse Romero
About | + posts

Denisse is a global education and communications consultant, as well as the main person behind MacQuil. As an international mentor and frequent traveler, she enjoys sharing information to help anyone travel, study or work abroad.

Denisse holds a Master's in Management from GWU, a Master's in Education from Harvard University and an Executive Coaching Certificate from the University of Cambridge.

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