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I've been offered an unpaid internship in US - Can I get a visa?

I've been offered an unpaid internship in US - Can I get a visa?

Old Apr 3rd 2012, 5:59 pm
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Default I've been offered an unpaid internship in US - Can I get a visa?

Hi there,

I've been offered an unpaid internship (voluntary) in the US working for a charity-based arts and antiques fair in the autumn. The internship would last between 2 - 3 months (Aug to Oct) for the run-up to and then the fair. I would be doing publicity and marketing for them. I understand they are a registered charity as their profits go to local charities.

My background is in publicity, marketing and sales, although I am currently working as a language teacher in France. I have an Msc in Art History from University of Edinburgh and speak (near) fluent French. (Just added the last bit incase that is at all relevant to any skills assessment).

Alongside the unpaid internship I have also been offered paid work by a sister company. In order to finance the three month internship I really would need to take on this work. It is also a really good experience.

I really need to know what Visa I could be eligible for and if accepting the paid work would jeopordise my chance of obtaining a visa for the internship? Or is there one visa that would cover both? Would I need two seperate visas?

If I were unable to complete the paid work I would need to shorten the length of my internship in order to fund it. What are the costs involved in applying for visas? Would the US company/ies need to complete a visa application on my behalf and does this involve them paying a fee? Given it is such a small period of time, and that one is a charity, I feel I can not ask them to do this

I really hope someone can help me

Thank you
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Old Apr 3rd 2012, 6:05 pm
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Default Re: I've been offered an unpaid internship in US - Can I get a visa?

Probably not, I'm afraid.
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Old Apr 3rd 2012, 6:15 pm
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Default Re: I've been offered an unpaid internship in US - Can I get a visa?

Is the work genuinely volunteer work? No one at all gets paid for doing the work you will be doing for them? Do they have other volunteers doing this job? You won't be compensated in any way whatsover (money, reimburse your own expenses, food, lodging, anything)?

The job cannot be one for which they would normally pay someone, but are letting you work for free.

Even if you are able to do the volunteer work, you will not be allowed to work for pay for the sister company, unless that sister company can get a work-type visa for you. The company will be the ones to file a petition for whatever work visa you would qualify for, and yes it's expensive. Talk to the sister company and their immigration attorney to see if you qualify for a work visa with them.

If you DO qualify for a work visa for the sister company, then *perhaps* you could also perform the volunteer work, as long as that volunteer work is truely volunteer, as I asked about in my first paragraph.

Might be a good idea to go over all this with an immigration attorney, just a 1--time consultation, to see if your plan is at all do-able.

Rene
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Old Apr 3rd 2012, 6:46 pm
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Default Re: I've been offered an unpaid internship in US - Can I get a visa?

Thank you for your reply :-)

Yes the work is totally unpaid, with no reimbursement in any way. It is an unpaid position which they recruit for each year. The organisation runs largely on volunteers in this role and others.

If unable to gain a visa for additional paid employment I would fund this role with savings. My priority is to complete the unpaid internship, as long as I can fund it!

Would I need to apply for a visa for volunteer work or would I be able to enter on the VWP?

How do I know how I qualify for a work visa for paid work? Do you know the criteria?

I've submitted my details online for a free online consultation. If I call the US embassy visa helpline in London, can they help me?

Thank you so much for your time and help.
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Old Apr 3rd 2012, 6:50 pm
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Default Re: I've been offered an unpaid internship in US - Can I get a visa?

Originally Posted by Ro5ie View Post
If I call the US embassy visa helpline in London, can they help me?
No.

But a US immigration lawyer should be able to advise you and a initial consultation might even be free or anything up to a couple hundred bucks, so probably worth it.
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Old Apr 3rd 2012, 7:10 pm
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Default Re: I've been offered an unpaid internship in US - Can I get a visa?

Originally Posted by Bob View Post
No.

But a US immigration lawyer should be able to advise you and a initial consultation might even be free or anything up to a couple hundred bucks, so probably worth it.
Yep, I agree with Bob. At this point, have a consultation with an immigration attorney. I would be very wary about doing an unpaid internship (which is not really the same as doing volunteer work) on the VWP.

He can also help you figure out if you qualify for that paid work with the sister company via some kind of work visa. Or, just check directly with that sister company, and see what kind of visa they've applied for in the past, with other foreign workers doing what you plan to do.

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Old Apr 3rd 2012, 7:17 pm
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Default Re: I've been offered an unpaid internship in US - Can I get a visa?

Originally Posted by Ro5ie View Post
I've been offered an unpaid internship (voluntary) in the US working for a charity-based arts and antiques fair in the autumn. The internship would last between 2 - 3 months (Aug to Oct) for the run-up to and then the fair. I would be doing publicity and marketing for them. I understand they are a registered charity as their profits go to local charities.
Let's say that you qualify for the VWP and want to work for a charity soup kitchen making the soup. The charity relies totally on volunteers, and has never employed anyone for this task. In that case, you could come over and do it for 90 days or less on a VWP entry.

Now your case. One thing that is strictly verboten for charity work on a VWP entry is the solicitation and acceptance of donations. Publicity and marketing is certainly getting uncomfortably close. Too close? I have no idea!

The other alternative is to paint yourself as an intern and go the J route. But you've already said you don't want the charity involved, so this route is cut at the beginning unless you qualify under a student program.
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Old Apr 3rd 2012, 7:42 pm
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Default Re: I've been offered an unpaid internship in US - Can I get a visa?

Thanks Rene. I'm unsure if the other company has recruited from outside the US previously. I guess I can find out, but I don't want to cause them a headache!

Thanks for your reply Fatbrit :-) Although it is marketing and publicity it is not looking for donations as such. I would be looking to increase footfall at a fund-raising charity event. What do you think?

I've looked at the J1 route just now online. Would the charity have to make a financial contribution or would I pay? Is it a simple matter for them of filling out a couple of forms or is it quite a lengthy process for them?

Do you know how long a J1 visa can take to process? I understand I have to send of my passport with a visa application but I am currently using my passport at least once a month for my current work.

On this website http://usimmigration.visapro.com/J1-Visa-2.asp I noticed a section which said 'Employment while on "J" exchange visitor status depends upon the terms of the program. Participants in programs which provide for on-the-job training, teaching, research, or other activities which involve paid employment may accept such employment. Participants in programs which do not involve work may not accept outside employment.'
- Would I be able to complete paid work in the sister company if it is exactly what I am being trained to do in my internship? As that is the case for me.

Thank you for all your help.
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Old Apr 3rd 2012, 7:56 pm
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Default Re: I've been offered an unpaid internship in US - Can I get a visa?

Gosh, just wrote quite a reply but it has vanished into cyberspace! I will start again...

Thank you Rene. I am unsure if the company offering me paid work have previously recruited from outside the US. I guess this is something I can find out - I just don't want to be a pain to them!

Thanks for highlighting the conditions of the VWP Fatbrit :-) Although it is a marketing and publicity event I would actually be trying to raise footfall for a public event which aims to raise money for the charity. I'm not sure how that would stand?

As it is an intern role I could look at a J-visa. Would this involve a lot of work for the charity? I am simply worried it will involve such a lot of work for them. Would they have to pay a visa-application fee or would only I need to? Is there any waiver-fee for them as a charity? I understand I may need to pay, but am reluctant to ask them to meet any costs.

I have been looking online, after your suggestion, at info' about the J1 visa. There is a section on this website http://usimmigration.visapro.com/J1-Visa-2.asp which states ' Employment while on "J" exchange visitor status depends upon the terms of the program. Participants in programs which provide for on-the-job training, teaching, research, or other activities which involve paid employment may accept such employment. Participants in programs which do not involve work may not accept outside employment.' - Would I be able to complete paid work for the sister-company in the same field on this visa? I would be completing further publicity/marketing events skills for the sister company? Or is this something purely suitable for medics and the such?

Worst case scenario, I am able to enter on the VWP as a volunteer for the charity and not complete or accept any paid work? What is the difference between being a volunteer and an unpaid intern in the eyes of the visa application system?

Thank you both for all your time. I am desperate to go but just don't know how to make this happen!
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Old Apr 3rd 2012, 8:08 pm
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Default Re: I've been offered an unpaid internship in US - Can I get a visa?

Originally Posted by Ro5ie View Post
Gosh, just wrote quite a reply but it has vanished into cyberspace!
Sorry, that's because as a new poster, when you post a link, it goes to a queue for a Moderator to approve. I approved it, so it shows up now.

I am desperate to go but just don't know how to make this happen!
There isn't much more we laymen can do for you here, unless you run into someone who has had exactly the same scenario as you (I've been around these forums for almost 10 years and I can say yours is pretty rare). You really need to speak either directly to the two companies you're interested in working / interning for, and also speak to an immigration attorney about your options. It's not going to be as quick and easy as you are probably thinking.

Here's what I would do, in this order (just my own personal ideas):

1. Since you are willing to do the unpaid internship even if you can't get paid by the sister company, contact the company offering you the unpaid internship first. Ask them how they have brought over other foreign workers in this position (you said it's a yearly thing they do, right?). Ask them what visa they have in mind for you to get. If they've never hired a foreign worker for this position before, have THEM contact an immigration attorney to see how to go about it. This costs you nothing.

2. Contact the sister company that can pay you. Ask them the exact same questions. What visa do they have in mind for you? The employer begins the visa process, so they would have to know anyway, eventually. If they have no idea, then have THEM contact an immigration attorney to see how to go about it. This costs you nothing as well.

3. You contact an immigration attorney and have a 1-time consultation to go over your options. He will be able to tell you whether that unpaid internship is possible, and what visa you'll need. He'll be able to tell you what visa you might be qualified for on that sister company paid position. This will cost you a couple hundred dollars, probably.

Until you find out something via one of those 3 ways, everything is speculation.

Rene
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Old Apr 3rd 2012, 8:15 pm
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Default Re: I've been offered an unpaid internship in US - Can I get a visa?

Originally Posted by Ro5ie View Post
I am unsure if the company offering me paid work have previously recruited from outside the US. I guess this is something I can find out - I just don't want to be a pain to them!
If they want you to work for them, it's not being a pain to them, they will want and need to know how to go about getting you the correct visa anyway, so it's not only "not a pain", but it's necessary.

As it is an intern role I could look at a J-visa. Would this involve a lot of work for the charity? I am simply worried it will involve such a lot of work for them. Would they have to pay a visa-application fee or would only I need to? Is there any waiver-fee for them as a charity? I understand I may need to pay, but am reluctant to ask them to meet any costs.
If they want you to work for them, they need to answer your questions and will need to find out what visa you need in order to work for them! If they just think "oh, she can come over on the VWP and do some unpaid work", then they might not be savvy to how the whole thing works, and you'd be doing them a favor by enlightening them for future reference. As your employer, they'd be paying for the visa fees and such. If they are unwilling to pay for the cost of your visa, then they probably don't want you to work for them that badly.

Worst case scenario, I am able to enter on the VWP as a volunteer for the charity and not complete or accept any paid work?
This is as of yet unknown, because we don't know if the position you will have is truly a volunteer position. Something like serving food at a soup kitchen, packing boxes at a food bank, volunteering at a homeless shelter...those are true volunteer jobs. I'm not sure if your "unpaid internship" falls into that category or not. It's not sounding like it does at the moment.

What is the difference between being a volunteer and an unpaid intern in the eyes of the visa application system?
Volunteer work is something for which NO ONE EVER gets paid. Examples are listed above.

Unpaid Intern is work something for which someone might get paid to do normally, but the company isn't paying YOU to do it.

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Old Apr 3rd 2012, 8:24 pm
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Default Re: I've been offered an unpaid internship in US - Can I get a visa?

Originally Posted by Ro5ie View Post

Thanks for your reply Fatbrit :-) Although it is marketing and publicity it is not looking for donations as such. I would be looking to increase footfall at a fund-raising charity event. What do you think?
Looking to raise donations and looking to raise money at a charity event...that's the same thing, you're just looking to host an event first.
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Old Apr 3rd 2012, 8:36 pm
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Default Re: I've been offered an unpaid internship in US - Can I get a visa?

Originally Posted by Ro5ie View Post
I've been offered an unpaid internship (voluntary) in the US working for a charity-based arts and antiques fair in the autumn.
Alongside the unpaid internship I have also been offered paid work by a sister company.
How did these 2 job offers come about? Did you apply? Did they headhunt you?

It's easy for companies (both profit and non-profit) to throw job offers out there, without realizing what is required to get the employee to the USA to work legally.

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Old Apr 3rd 2012, 8:54 pm
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Default Re: I've been offered an unpaid internship in US - Can I get a visa?

Originally Posted by Noorah101 View Post
It's easy for companies (both profit and non-profit) to throw job offers out there, without realizing what is required to get the employee to the USA to work legally.

Rene
Even if they realise it, they might often not care and expect you to do it on the VWP as there's very little recourse on the company.

It's the person doing the work that gets to face the serious consequences.
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Old Apr 5th 2012, 12:15 pm
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Default Re: I've been offered an unpaid internship in US - Can I get a visa?

Hello, as far as I am concerned unpaid internships enter in a J1 visa. I will also go to the US this summer for an unpaid internship. The J1 visa only allows you to do the internships and not any other job. I was wondering if anyone knows if I could find another job once I am there, for example, in a bar or a restaurant just for the weekends, because otherwise I wouldn't be able to support myself. Although it's illegal, there are some Europena countries in which bars often search for extras and it's not a big deal. Could anyone tell me if this is possible in the US as well? I will be going to LA btw. Thank you in advanced.
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