Why Should Belgians Intern in the United States? Frequently Asked Questions on How to Successfully Intern in the U.S.

Laura Moens on the Brooklyn Bridge in NYC

One of the first things employers look for is an internationalized C.V.  Interning in the United States is one of the best ways to gain international experience and professional development while experiencing the American culture.  From New York to Los Angeles and everywhere in between, unparalleled opportunities await interns in the United States. This article will provide some information on how to get started.

 

How can I find an internship in the U.S.?
One option for those who desire extra assistance in the internship process is to contact an Exchange Visitor Sponsor, or an institution that sponsors international interns in the U.S. These programs will provide the necessary paperwork, assist with your internship placement, and give guidance on other logistics involved with interning in the United States. We highly recommend coordinating your internship through a designated sponsor who can guide you through the entire process and use their connections to obtain you a well-suited internship in the field of your choice.
The following is just a few of the organizations who sponsor internship programs to help you begin your search:

  • The Culture Exchange Network (CENET) sponsors interns in various fields. To learn more about their services and requirements, read their intern guidebook, or contact them by phone at 1.573.335.711.
  • InterExchange sponsors interns, au pairs, camp counselors, and seasonal workers. To learn more about their services and requirements, click on the icon above to visit their website, or contact them by phone at 1.212.924.0446.

If you prefer to search for an internship independently without paying for the services of a sponsor, there are still some resources available to help you understand the process more completely. In this case, we highly recommend contacting the Fulbright Commission in Belgium.
The Fulbright Commission/EducationUSA Belgium is the U.S. government’s network of educational advising offices in 170 countries, including an office in Brussels. For free advising services, contact Ali Edelstein, the Program Manager:
Royal Library of Belgium, Boulevard de L’Empereur, 4, Keizerslaan, B-1000 Brussels, Belgium
Opening hours: from Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Please note that you’ll have to schedule an appointment if you’d like to drop by.
Phone calls: from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM at +32 (0)2 519.57.72
E-mail: adviser@fulbright.be

When and how do I apply for an internship?
Applications for internships in the U.S. will vary by institution or company. Carefully read through the application guidelines given in the internship description to be sure you send all necessary documents. You should also thoroughly read the qualifications and requirements for the internship. Some employers will only accept students who count their internship for academic credit, while others are looking for recent graduates. (Note that to qualify as an intern, you must be currently enrolled in a foreign degree or certificate awarding institution, or have graduated from such an institution no longer than 12 months ago.)
When you have decided which internship(s) you wish to apply for, get started early. The application and visa process can be lengthy, so be sure to manage your time wisely to avoid last minute stress. Look for internships several months before your expected start date. (Note that the maximum duration for an internship is 12 months.)
Apply to as many internships as you can, there is a lot of competition for these positions. Again, institutions like those listed above who sponsor people looking for internships can be very helpful in the placement process.

Do I need a visa, which visa do I need, and how do I apply?
If you have been chosen for an internship, congratulations! Now you will need to begin the visa application process. Again, apply early! The length of the process varies by country, but you definitely want to give yourself plenty of time to acquire a visa.
It is critical that you apply for the appropriate visa. Although Belgium is a member of the Visa Waiver Program, visitors intending to intern must apply for a visa. Belgians trying to enter the U.S. on the VWP or on a visitor visa (M visa) could potentially be denied entry to the country. Most students traveling to the U.S. for an internship will need a J-1 Exchange Visitor visa.
To learn more about the J-1 visa and whether it is the appropriate visa for your program, we highly recommend you watch the following video of a consular officer from the U.S. Embassy in Brussels explaining the process.

If you have any questions about the visa application process or the required documents, you can look here or contact the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy to Brussels by e-mail: usvisabrussels@state.gov
To apply for this visa, you will need the following required documents:

  • DS-2019: The Certificate of Eligibility that is to be provided by your employer or program sponsor in SEVIS (Student Exchange Visitor Information System). Note that a visa cannot be arranged by the intern alone, they must have an American sponsor. Your sponsor will provide you the DS-2019 form online through SEVIS. Persons applying for J-1 visas must pay the SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) fee in addition to the visa application fee. The SEVIS fee for J-1 applicants is 180 USD. The SEVIS fee must be paid at least 5 business days before the scheduled visa application interview at the U.S. consulate.  The SEVIS fee can be paid by completing form I-901 electronically and paying online by credit card.  Please print a payment receipt immediately at the time of payment.  The payment receipt must be shown to the Consul during the visa application interview. You can find more information about SEVIS here.
  • DS-7002: The Internship Placement Plan
  • The original receipt of payment (per applicant) of the visa fees. (Note: The MRV fee for a J-1 visa is 140USD.) The visa application fee must be paid into bank account IBAN: BE29 0016 0507 5164.  BIC: GEBABEBB, at least 4 business days before the scheduled visa interview date. Important: the proof of payment must show that the fee has been debited from your account into the Embassy account listed above or your application will not be accepted.
  • A passport that will be valid for at least six months after your expected departure from the U.S.
  • 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 5cm x 5cm photograph with a white background, taken within the last 6 months, with a clear full face and front view image. (Note: this is larger than the standard Belgian passport photo size!)  Your visa application will not be accepted if the photo size is not correct.
  • 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.

All applicants age 14 and above must apply in person and must schedule an interview appointment via the telephone call center before coming to the U.S. Embassy in Brussels.  Walk-in applications cannot be accepted.

Attend your scheduled appointment and be absolutely sure to bring ALL of the required items noted above. Also, be prepared to spend several hours at the Embassy on the day of your appointment as waiting times may vary.

Voila! Your passport and visa will be returned to you by mail in the POSTPAC envelope you brought to the appointment.

For a more general overview of the entire internship process from applications to visa requirements please watch the following video created by the Fulbright Commission in Belgium.

 

What have past interns thought of their experiences?
The following Belgian students have recently completed internships at various companies across the U.S. Click on the links to hear their testimonials:

More videos:
Philippe De Wagter

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