Internships in the U.S.

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I. GENERAL INFO

If you are not a U.S. citizen, you can still apply for certain internships. If you are applying from your own country, you should ask if the employer knows about the requirements for assisting you to secure a proper visa and if the employer is willing to take the necessary steps on your behalf.  If you are enrolled at a U.S. school and applying for an internship, you should make your status in the United States clear to the prospective employer at the time of application. Remember, though, that as a student at an American university, permission to work off‑campus must be requested from the BCIS (Bureau of Citizen and Immigration Services)  and that this permission is difficult to obtain. It will never be possible to finance all or most of your studies by working in the United States.

Unlike most other countries, the United States does not use a “work permit” to verify the legal eligibility of a non‑citizen to work. Instead, a non‑citizen is permitted to undertake a paid internship or other practical training employment depending on the type of U.S. visa he/she is granted (read more about the different types of visa. As a general rule, the proper visa must be secured before entering the United States since a change after entry can often take two to four months. Working with an improper visa (including work while waiting for a change to be granted) can be cause for arrest and detention by the BCIS (Bureau of Citizen and Immigration Services). Also, a student cannot arrange a proper visa alone, there must be an American sponsor to take care of the necessary paperwork on behalf of the individual.

Everyone who goes to the U.S. for an internship requires a J-1 visa. Persons applying for J-1 visas must pay the SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) fee in addition to the visa application fee, known as the DS-160 form available at the U.S. Embassy website. The SEVIS fee for J-1 applicants is 180 USD and is often included in the service price charged by your J-1 visa sponsor. The SEVIS fee must be paid at least 5 business days before the scheduled visa application interview at the U.S. consulate and can be paid by completing form I-901 electronically and paying online by credit card at the SEVIS fee website.  Please print a receipt immediately at the time of payment.  The payment receipts for both fees must be shown to the Consul during the visa application interview.

In addition to your SEVIS and DS-160 receipts, participants in the J-1 visa program must ALSO present the following:

  • A properly completed and signed original DS-2019 form (“Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status”) (all three pages; not a copy or fax) which you can obtain from the J-1 visa sponsor. If the DS-2019 form specifies a requirement for personal funds, please be ready to present such original proof from your bank, stating the amount required and confirming that this amount is available to you.
  • Form DS-7002, the Training/Internship Placement Plan, issued by the J-1 sponsor
  • A passport that will be valid for at least six months after your expected departure from the U.S.
  • One 5 cm x 5 cm color photo with a white background, taken within the last 6 months, with a clear full face and front view image. Note: This is slightly larger than the standard Belgian passport photo size and your visa application may be rejected if the photo size is incorrect.
  • Proof of sufficient funds for living expenses associated with the internship must also be presented, usually in the form of your most recent bank statement (or that of your parents if they are supporting you.)
  • One self-addressed POSTPAC envelope (Small, Medium or Large) per person, with Belgian registered mail postage. Only regular stamps will be accepted.

Once you have gathered the required documents, you can schedule an interview appointment via the telephone call center, at 0032-(0)2-7881200. Calls are 15 euros (including VAT), so have your credit card available when you call.

Please visit the U.S. Embassy website for a comprehensive overview of these application requirements, as well as the State Department’s J-1 visa website for additional information. 

Please note that many positions that involve patient contact and/or patient care are excluded from the exchange visitor internship program due to U.S. government regulations. This includes sports or physical therapy, psychological counseling, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, social work, speech therapy, early childhood education, etc. For more detailed information, please refer to the Code of Federal Regulations.

II. RESOURCES TO FIND YOUR OWN INTERNSHIP:

Most students find their own internship,  mainly in two ways:

  1. Look through websites that let you search for specific internships. Make use of advanced search features that enable you to specify location, industry, job function, time of year and keyword.
  2. Explore any personal or professional networks you may have.  Do you have any family or friends in the U.S.? Do you know of anyone in Belgium who has contacts with American organizations/companies or who visits the U.S. regularly?  If you have done an internship in Belgium, was this for an organization/company that might have any contacts in the U.S. or perhaps even a branch office?  Speak with anyone and everyone you can think of with useful U.S. contacts and ask them for  advice about conducting your internship search.

Internships can be paid or unpaid, so it is important to check with the company – before you take the position – to determine if there is a salary, a stipend or no compensation at all. We encourage students to negotiate with potential employers to help cover their associated costs. In addition, it is vital to have a clear idea of your own expectations as well as  what is expected from you, considering that each firm or organization will have a unique deadline, specific requirements, expectations for follow-through, etc. Discuss the details and the logistics before you start, so the internship will be a positive experience for both you and your employer.

Check out the following websites to help you get started:

Intern Queen
Intern Town
USA Internships
Internships.com
Career centers such as The Washington Center
Internships at Google
The career development services from several American universities can also be helpful, e.g.: Mount Holyoke, Yale
http://www.hg.org/lawfirms-assocint.html
http://www.psjd.org/
http://www.idealist.org/
http://www.iaasworld.org/
http://www.gostrange.be/Themas/NaarhetZuiden.aspx (site in Dutch)

III. SCHOLARSHIPS FOR BELGIAN CITIZENS FOR INTERNSHIPS:

The Fulbright Commission does not award any scholarships for internships, and they are very hard to come by in general. Nevertheless, there are some resources available (of course, this is not an exhaustive list):

Flanders Trainee Program
Walloon-Bruxelles International

University of Antwerp International Cooperation
Prince Albert Fund

IV. PLACEMENT AND SPONSORSHIP ORGANIZATIONS

What Europeans call a “stage” is not commonly offered in the United States. Most firms would far rather provide an actual training program for a new employee than offer a “traineeship”. However, if you desire some extra assistance in looking for an internship, there are some private organizations specialized in this area. Consider the following possibilities (most placement organizations also function as your visa sponsor!):

BELGIAN-AMERICAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: EXCHANGE VISITOR PROGRAM
Tel: (201) 631-8065
E-mail: visa@belcham.org
Website: http://www.belcham.org/index.php?pag=visa

As a sponsor of the Exchange Visitor Program, the BACC is permitted to issue a “Certificate of Eligibility” (Form DS-2019) to qualified Belgian students and young professionals, allowing them to train in the United States under a J-1 Visa in the field of Management, Business, Commerce and Finance. Under the Fulbright-Hayes Act, the BACC also is required to recruit American students and young professionals to train in Belgium.

The purpose of the BACC J-1 Visa Program is to expose Belgian trainees to American business practices, corporate organization and substantive occupational experiences, as well as U.S. social and cultural history,  that they may take back to their chosen career in Belgium. In turn, employees of the trainee’s host company will gain valuable experience working with a person from a different cultural background and an understanding of the business culture of foreign companies with whom they might do business in the future.

Trainees must be at least 18 years old and have completed at least two years of study in a field related to the training and be enrolled full-time in a university of college. Trainees must also be Belgian citizens. Proficiency in English is required.

AMERICAN UNIVERSITY WASHINGTON SEMESTER INTERNSHIP PROGRAM
The Washington Semester Program, American University
4400 Massachusetts Avenue
NW, Washington, DC 20016‑8083
Tel.: (202) 895.4900
E-mail : washsem@american.edu
Website: www.washingtonsemester.com
Contact: Carey Roberts, Coordinator

The program offers students the opportunity to intern for two days per week on the days that they do not attend seminar classes.  As an International Washington Semester Internship Student you intern in one of the following fields: National Government & Politics, Foreign Policy & International Affairs, Justice & Law, Print & Broadcast Media and Communication,  International Business & Economic Policy , Peace & Conflict Resolution, etc… The internships, though unpaid, are at well‑known organizations in the public and private sector. International students may choose to attend the Washington Semester Certificate Program for a full academic year, beginning in the fall semester and continuing in the spring. Students who attend the Academic Year program may apply for employment authorization through Optional Practical Training. This permit allows you to work in the U.S. for up to one year.

AMITY INTERN TEACHER PROGRAM

For more information, please visit the website www.amity.org.

Live, Teach & Learn in the USA : The Amity Intern Teacher Program offers to young people from around the world the opportunity to serve as ambassador of their countries by volunteering as teaching assistants of their native languages and cultures at primary, secondary and post secondary levels . The student – who must be between 20 and 30, single with no children and currently enrolled in/completed higher education – lives with a host family, works with a teacher, experiences life in the U.S. American culture and education, takes classes, participates in activities with the school, etc….

EUROPEAN STUDENTS
Rue Margot 38
B- 1457 Nil-St-Vincent
Tel. : 010/ 65.59.95
E-mail: info@europeanstudents.be
Website: www.europeanstudents.be

3-4 weeks of English courses followed by an internship in different areas for students aged between 18 and 27.

INTERLINGUA/LANGUES VIVANTES
John Waterloo Wilsonstraat 28
B- 1000 Brussels
Tel. : 02/ 230.01.90 (French) – 02/ 280.15.67 (Dutch)
E-mail : info@taalreizen.com
Website: www.taalreizen.com

12 to 24 weeks : including 6-16 weeks of English courses + 6-8 weeks of non paid internship. Candidates must be between 20 and 26.  They need to be enrolled in a higher education program since at least one year and have a good level of English.

INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF STUDENTS IN ECONOMICS AND COMMERCE (AIESEC)
Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales (AIESEC)
Koningstraat, 221, Rue Royale
B- 1210 Brussels
Tel. : 02/219.94.64
E-mail: be.mc@aiesec.org
Website : www.aiesec.org (international) or www.aiesec.be (Belgium)

AIESEC offers traineeships that last from 8 weeks to 18 months for those interested in business management positions, technical positions or development sector work.  By participating in this type of traineeship, you will have the opportunity to work in a company, NGO, government, university or organisation and will spend the majority of your time working in areas related to management, information technology projects or development issues in a community.

INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE EXCHANGE OF STUDENTS FOR TECHNICAL EXPERIENCE
IAESTE United States
10400 Little Patuxent Parkway, Suite 250
Columbia, MD 21044-3519
Tel.: 410-997-3069
Fax: 410-997-5186
Email: iaeste@aipt.org
Website: http://www.aipt.org/subpages/iaeste_us/ir_index.html

IAESTE coordinates on-the-job training for students in technical fields such as engineering, computer science, mathematics, natural/physical sciences, architecture, and agricultural science.  An IAESTE Internship is a paid internship abroad. Positions are available in industry, research institutes, universities, consulting firms, labs, and other work environments. Most placements are for 8-12 weeks during the summer; longer placements of up to 12 months are also available.

INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION
vzw International Education asbl
Dr. Vanderperrestraat, 358
B- 2440 Geel
Tel. : 014/ 72.41.55
E-mail: karel.geyskens@pandora.be

Offers internships and summer job opportunities in different areas.

INTERNATIONAL FINANCE CORPORATION SUMMER INTERNSHIP PROGRAM
E-mail : opportunities@worldbank.org

Please visit IFC’s career website (www.ifc.org) to obtain further information and apply on-line.

Admittance to the Summer Internship Program is very competitve : approximately 20-30 candidates are selected out of 1,000. All positions are located at IFC Headquarters in Washington D.C. Candidates must possess a Bachelor’s degree and be enrolled in a full-time graduate study program pursuing an MBA or equivalent degree. Strong computer skills and fluency in English is required.  All internships are for a minimum period of four weeks, beginning as early as May and concluding by September 30th. IFC’s summer internships are paid positions.

LANGUAGES & TRAVEL
90 Rue Faiderstraat
B- 1050 Brussels
E-mail: contact@langtra.com
Website: www.langtra.com

Non paid internships in private organizations, schools, hospitals, social fields,… combined with courses of a minimum duration of 6 weeks (25 or 30 hours/week), for students aged 20 or older (exceptions possible) who are presently enrolled in or just finished higher education and who have a good level of English.

PRINCE ALBERT FUND
The Prince Albert Fund helps talented Belgian professionals acquire experience in conducting international projects by offering financial support for a 12-month project abroad through a company established or headquartered in Belgium.

More info: http://www.kbs-frb.be/call.aspx?id=209784&LangType=1033
Video Testimonials of Prince Albert Fund Recipients: http://www.princealbertfund.be/paf/testimonials.aspx?id=WhyIappliedforPAF&LangType=1033

THE WASHINGTON CENTER

The Washington Center is a unique internship sponsor program in Washington, D.C. that offers students a combined professional/academic experience in the United States. The program consists of a professional internship, a Leadership Forum, and one academic course. Applicants receive assistance with internship placement.

1333 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036-2205
T: (202) 238-7900
Email: info@twc.edu
Website: http://www.twc.edu/internships/washington-dc-program

UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS INTERNSHIP PROGRAM
Intership Coordinator
Room S-2500J
United Nations
New York, N.Y. 10017, USA
Tel: (212) 963-1224
Fax. : (212) 963-3683
E-mail : OHRM_interns@un.org
Website: www.un.org/Depts/OHRM/examin/internsh/intern.htm

This internship program is for the United Nations Secretariat New York only and is offered on a two-month basis three times a year.  Applicants must have completed at least four years of full-time study at a university or equivalent institution.

WORLD EDUCATION PROGRAM (WEP)
Av. de Jette, 26, Jetselaan
B- 1081 Brussels
Tel. :    02/ 534.53.50 (French) -  02/ 534.53.36 (Dutch)
Fax. : 02/ 534.50.70
e-mail : info@wep.org
Website: www.wep.org

Paid internships of maximum 4 months for students between 19 and 28 enrolled in or recent graduates of higher education.  A good level of English is required.

NB : Other opportunities for internships may be found in books which are available in the Advising Center of the Commission. However, the very best way to try to find an internship is to explore any personal contacts you may have. For example:

- Do you have any family or friends in the U.S. who may be able to give you the names and addresses of firms, hospitals, etc.?

- If you have done an internship in Belgium was this for a firm which has any contacts in the U.S., perhaps even a branch office

- Do you know of anyone in Belgium who has contacts with Americans or American firms or who visits the U.S. regularly?

V. VIDEOS:

On the Fulbright YouTube channel, you can watch informational videos about internships as well as experiences of Belgians who have done internships in the U.S.

Just a few examples:

VI. Tips

  • Start early! Finding an internship and securing a visa can be a very lengthy process.
  • Apply to as many interesting internships as you can – internship positions tend to be competitive.
  • Once again: explore your personal contacts!
  • Talk to an educational adviser about your options. The Advising Center of the Commission has materials available that offer other internship opportunities, and the advisers are always willing to help you with your questions.
  • Make sure to “Americanize” your documents – U.S. organizations and companies have different expectations for cover letters and resumes than the ones you are used to.
  • Do not be afraid to directly call or email the company you would like to intern for. Just ask them if there are any positions available.