This was published on Dream Row’s website on October 17, 2012.
Thousands of students from around the world come to the United States each year to attend college. For some it is all about the experience while for others it means better opportunities than in their home country. Unfortunately, when it comes to work and internships, international students have a few more hoops to jump through than their American peers
Many internships are unpaid and only require school credit to be earned. International students have no restrictions on these internships other than those set by their school or supervisor. Non-citizen students can also do major-related volunteer work to gain job experience. Since there is no material compensation for these positions they are not considered official work. However, once money is offered, no matter how little the amount, the process starts to get complicated.
For international students to begin any paid work in the United States they need to obtain a work visa for students. Student work visas are distributed through the U.S. Department of State. To qualify, students must be accepted to an approved school, have enough funds to complete the program, prepare for the courses and intend to leave the United States after completing the program. (Information on post-grad employment visa can be found here. http://travel.state.gov/visa/immigrants/types/types_1323.html) Along with an application, students will have to submit various forms from the school confirming student status and a few other documents. Students who qualify can learn more about the process on the State Department’s website http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1268.html#4 or from the appropriate official at their school.
The process can sometimes take a while, depending on the situation and number of applicants, so it is best to apply as early as possible. Students also must be prepared for a visa denial. What will you do without that extra money? What unpaid internships can you apply for? Receiving a student visa is not guaranteed so a Plan B is always helpful.
Once the visa process is finished, the process of obtaining a job or internship is generally basically the same as for resident students. Rules vary by school, however, so be sure to check with your career or international student center.