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I am thinking about applying for an internship (or student job) in the USA, preferably the LA / San Diego area. The total time there would be 1 month (although depending on the actual date I could go for 2 months as well).

I'm a programmer (C# and Java are the languages I'm proficient with) and it doesn't matter to me whether I work at a startup or a tech giant.

I am currently a second year student (technically I have 1 course in the first, 5 in the second and 5 in the third year) from Belgium. My CV contains several projects and I'm an active SO member which I hope makes up for the lack of a diploma right now.

Am I being too optimistic to think that I might find a position for july or september?

I have read about the B-1 visa and how it often takes a long time to get one (and is basically a lottery). Does it do anything for me if I don't necessarily require payment?

And lastly: how are my chances to find a place?

After even more looking around I came across the J-1 visa instead which has a summer-work program. It looks like this is exactly what I'm looking for, is that correct?

  • Could you leave a comment so I can improve my post if it is lacking in quality? – Jeroen Vannevel Apr 6 '14 at 1:15
  • Yes, of course you can. It's a lot about motivation, getting out there and talking to everyone. It's certainly possible and I know people from other European countries who have successfully done this in shorter notice. My advice is to get a job first and a visa later - that will speed up your visa significantly. Being an active SO member helps, and a GitHub helps too. The 1 month thing is hard though, consider summer + an exchange semester maybe? – Benjamin Gruenbaum Apr 6 '14 at 17:30
  • A J1 visa is the right one. If you find a company who wants you, they'll assist you in getting it (and you need an official letter from them to get the visa anyway). The best way to find an internship is with a recommendation from your professors, through channels that they know. – Gilles Apr 6 '14 at 18:51
  • Thanks for the feedback. I imagine indeed that it will be hard to find a place for such a limited period of time. If there is some flexibility in the date then I could pull it up to 2 months so maybe that will be easier. I have also contacted my school's office, see if they can help me further. I appreciate the input! – Jeroen Vannevel Apr 6 '14 at 20:59
  • Just a quick note...from my experience it takes months to simply ramp up your knowledge on the system you are working on. Having a co-op that only lasts 1-2 months I find is not enough. All of my co-ops have been 4-8 months, the 4 month one being a position that not as much knowledge of the product to be required(Employers don't want to train you for 3 weeks so that you can do only 1 weeks of actual work). That being said, it is absolutely possible to do it, my friend found a co-op job when the summer term had already started... Best of luck! – TheOneWhoPrograms Apr 7 '14 at 10:24
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And lastly: how are my chances to find a place?

Quite unlikely for quite a few reasons.

  • First, most companies aren't going to hire an intern for only 1 month, regardless of where they live. Interns are a lot of work for companies and a single month leaves nearly no time to pay back any investment a company has.
  • Second, generally an internship is seen as a "should we hire this person full-time?" investment for most companies (especially larger companies). Given that you are only in your second year and live in Europe, bigger companies are unlikely to go through the extra effort to hire international students. This makes it less likely for you to be successful with bigger companies.
  • Third, startups or smaller companies are unlikely to want to handle the paperwork/visa issues associated with a situation like this. Combined with the above two factors and it means hiring international interns is a lot more work than small HR departments (unless familiar with it already) will be able to handl.
  • Fourth. your timeline is not really the best. Big companies tend to work on summer months like May - August timeframes. These match with the academic schedules better in the USA, but more importantly mean most companies looking for summer interns have likely filled those positions already.

This isn't to say it's impossible. What I would recommend is:

  1. Find someone in the USA at a company you'd want to intern at to be your advocate. Someone internal to a company has a lot more leverage and "help Jereon get an internship" power than you will. If you find someone who wants YOU in particular and is willing to fight their HR you have a lot better odds of success.
  2. Target companies which already have international offices. A company which only employs people in the USA is less likely to make exception than a company with offices in, say USA, Belgium, France, and India.
  3. Target companies who use Careers on Stack Exchange. They are more likely to care about your SE account than other companies.
  4. Do you know others who have done similar things? Talk with them, see if the company they worked for is still interested. The advantage here is their company knows the process (might be a disadvantage, too...).
  • Appreciate the thorough answer. I took your advice about Careers and contacted a few companies through there, we'll see what it brings. – Jeroen Vannevel Apr 8 '14 at 8:15

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