Applying for an internship program can be a long and difficult process, so when you receive an internship offer, it is very exciting! And in all of your excitement, you may be tempted to accept the offer immediately. However, it’s important that you understand the terms of your offer before you accept the position so that there are no surprises once you arrive in the U.S.
Prepare yourself and understand what to expect; this will help you better manage your experience in the U.S. and determine whether you will be comfortable with the terms of the offer. Companies that host international interns vary greatly in terms of the benefits, compensation, and working conditions. Your U.S. host company may be very different from other employers your friends or family may have told you about when they interned in the U.S. It is important that you familiarize yourself with your employer’s policies before you accept an offer and make arrangements to come to the U.S.
Tasks and Responsibilities
You must know what you will be doing during your internship program to ensure that you meet your own learning objectives. Make sure that your actual duties and projects match your expectations and what you have discussed with your employer. You should be familiar with your DS-7002 Training/Internship Placement Plan, which outlines precisely what you will do.
Be aware that host employers for the J-1 Visa program are required to follow this training plan to be in compliance with program regulations. Make sure you understand which type of tasks will be expected of you during the training, and don’t hesitate to contact InterExchange if you have any questions throughout the program. If you do accept the offer and your training plan is not being followed, or you have other concerns about your internship tasks and responsibilities, please contact us right away.
Make sure you clearly understand if you will be compensated for your internship in the U.S. and what additional pay and benefits you will receive. This will be arranged between you and your host employer directly and can vary widely depending on industry, location, length of program, and employer type. InterExchange does require all unpaid programs to meet the U.S. Department of Labor’s test for unpaid internships
, and we can only consider unpaid internships that are six months or shorter. Training programs and longer internships will always need to provide you with at least the local minimum wage to ensure you’re fairly compensated for your program.
The amount you will be paid will be indicated on your DS-7002. You must receive at least that amount for your entire program, and you should contact InterExchange if you ever receive less than what is promised in your training plan. About compensation, be sure to understand the following:
- When will you be paid (once a month or every two weeks, on the first of the month or at the end of the month, etc.)
- How much you will be paid (the actual amount and the frequency, such as hourly, daily, monthly, or annually)
- The approximate amount of taxes that will be deducted from your paycheck (some taxes must be deducted, so your paycheck will typically be less than the stipend/salary/wage amount indicated on your DS-7002.)
Before you accept a final offer, estimate your cost of living
and create a preliminary budget so that you can better understand what your finances will look like throughout your stay. Do not accept an unpaid internship program in the U.S. if you will not have funds to support yourself for your entire program. Do not accept an unpaid internship program in the U.S. if you will not have the finances to support yourself for your entire program.
Companies offer different perks and benefits beyond monetary compensation, so you should not assume you will have the same benefits as a friend interning elsewhere. Companies are not required to offer benefits, but if they do, understand which benefits are included in your offer so that you are not surprised when you arrive. Before accepting your internship offer, you can request a written agreement that outlines all the benefits that you should expect to receive, which might include the following:
- PTO (paid time off) — vacation and sick days. Know how many days you will have and plan accordingly. If you are being paid hourly, it is possible that you may not receive paid time off and will instead only be paid for the time you intern with the company.
- Overtime pay (usually for interning for more than 40 hours/week)
- Free or discounted housing
- Transportation or meal vouchers
- Any other benefits your particular host employer may be willing to offer
Different companies operate on different schedules; sometimes, employees within the same company even maintain different schedules. You should ask your employer what the standard working hours are and take note of whether hours are flexible or if they fluctuate based on company needs.
You are required to intern at least 32 hours per week and a maximum of 45 hours per week. If your employer suggests you need to intern more than 45 hours/week, please contact InterExchange immediately.
It is helpful to prepare for your arrival by having some understanding of the company culture before you start. Ask your supervisor if there is anything you should know about the office environment. Some companies are more casual, while other companies may be very structured and strict about office behavior. Understanding the culture of the work environment will help prepare you for how you should behave and how to dress–whether you will need casual, business casual, or formal business attire.
When deciding to intern in the U.S., consider all aspects of your offer before accepting. To ensure you have the necessary information, request an offer letter outlining the terms of your internship at the company, including basic compensation information and any benefits the employer has offered you.
Having all these details confirmed before you arrive will minimize miscommunications and make your experience more successful!