Are you thinking of taking your employment experience to the next level? Many international students, like yourself, take up opportunities to intern in popular areas like Los Angeles every year. However, before you can get started on your journey, you’ll need to consider two things: visas and workplace culture.
Visa Options to Take into Consideration
J-1 and F-1 visas are very similar and best for participating in internship programs but differ slightly. Before you apply, we break them down for you below.
J-1 Visa – If you are in the U.S. on a J-1 student visa, you are allowed 18 months of Academic Training. You can begin working upon completing your academic program and once you’ve gotten approval from a J-1 Responsible Officer at your college or university.
If you don’t live or study in the U.S. but want to participate in an internship program, you need to apply for a J-1 Intern visa or J-1 Trainee Visa. Intern visas require you to be enrolled in school or graduated within the past 12 months. Trainees need a degree and one year of work experience or five years of work experience to qualify.
F-1 Visa – Are you living and studying on an F-1 visa? Unlike a J-1 visa, you won’t have as many requirements to participate in an internship. However, there are limits regarding the number of hours you can contribute per week.
Students working on or off-campus are allowed 20 hours of part-time work. Those hoping to work for an off-campus organization have two options: Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT).
CPT Internships are credited (and sometimes paid) opportunities that must be related to your field of study. Students must have completed their freshman year, received authorization, and have an updated I-20 form.
OPT Internships don’t have to be related to your degree, nor do you have to be enrolled in school. But the approval process is slightly more complicated – requiring approval from the USCIS. If accepted, you can remain in the U.S. for 12 months. STEM students can stay for up to 17.
What To Expect – American Workplace Cultures
Once you’ve been approved and landed an internship, your opportunities are endless! Although, one thing you might encounter is a high competition rate within startups and big-name corporations. Sometimes the internship might not be what you expect at first, but this is a chance to showcase your skills and learn along the way.
American workplace culture can be a big adjustment if this is your first time living and working here. As most people might tell you, the culture is individualistic as it is collaborative. You might also find it to feel a bit informal than what you’re used to regarding how you address superiors.
We recommend doing some research about your internship before you start! Make a note of the similarities and differences. It’ll ease some of the stress you might have.
Remember One Thing!
Take a moment to enjoy yourself once you’ve arrived in the United States! It is a great chance to network, find a way to establish your roots, and possibly stay to embark on your path to citizenship. If you hope to apply for another visa while you’re here or need immigration help, you can turn to our immigration attorney in Los Angeles.