Which is better between USC and SJSU
It could be so simple: a guest semester in the USA, maybe a language course on site beforehand, work on the side and then an internship at an American company - all with one and the same visa. Unfortunately, however, simple and flexible solutions are not one of the greatest strengths of US immigration law. In particular, the combination of study and work is only permitted under very specific conditions. Here is a little guide through the limited options. I warn you that it will be a bit technocratic.
Different visa categories
First of all: Anyone who wants to take a language course, study or work in the USA almost always needs a visa. Depending on the project, there are different visa categories. For a language course or self-organized study, a F-1 student visa issued. If the stay comes about through cooperation between the German and the US university, it can also be a J-1 exchange visitor visa be. In both cases, the host American language school or university will issue a pre-visa document after admission, which must be presented later when applying for the respective visa at the US consulate.
For an internship (internship) a J-1 exchange visitor visa is usually required. But be careful, now it's getting complicated: Category J-1 comprises several sub-categories. A J-1 visa in the "student" category (see above) is not the same as one in the "internal" category. In addition, the required pre-document is not issued by the US employer, but by a "legal sponsor", i.e. an intermediary organization authorized by the US State Department. You can find out exactly how this works here. We state: language course / studies and internship / work are two pairs of shoes from a immigration law perspective and cannot be easily combined.
Internship during or after your studies
But there are a few options. For example, with the student or exchange visitor visa, you can work up to 20 hours per week on the campus of the US host university, be it in the library, in the cafeteria or at McDonald’s, if there is a branch on campus. Such jobs are not easy to find for visiting students from abroad, because long-term employment is often desirable. In addition, there is hardly any time for a part-time job during a semester stay. An internship after the study visit is therefore the better option.
It is easiest if you study at least two semesters in the USA. Because then the F-1 visa offers the possibility of a study-related internship, either as a "Optional Practical Training" (OPT) or "Curricular Practical Training "(CPT) referred to as. The OPT can last a maximum of 18 months, the CPT a maximum of 12 months - but in no case longer than the study period. This means that anyone who spends two semesters at a US university can "only" add a maximum of nine months of internship. Before you can start, you need the approval of the US university and the approval of the Department of Homeland Security.
Even those who study in the USA with a J-1 exchange visitor visa can subsequently complete a study-related internship, which is then called "Academic Training" and may last a maximum of 12 months. Even with this variant, you often have to study at least two consecutive semesters at the US host university before you can take advantage of this option. And again you need the approval of the university and the Department of Homeland Security.
Short stays: language course / guest semester plus internship in the USA
But what about those who take a language course or only want to or can study in the USA for one semester? In this case, the options OPT, CPT and Academic Training are usually not available. The language course / study and internship must therefore be organized separately from one another - and that means using two different visa categories. If you are in the USA with an F-1 visa, you can organize an internship on site and then apply to the US immigration authorities for a status adjustment, ie a change from category F-1 to category J-1 ("internal") . But that costs a lot of money ($ 340) and often takes weeks, if not months. The internship cannot start before the application is approved.
The better option is therefore to make the language course / study and internship clear from Germany and to apply for both visas (F-1 and J-1 intern) at the same time. This works out. However, you will then have to leave the USA and return to the country between the two projects, for example by taking a short detour to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean islands. And a certain residual risk remains, because re-entry is not guaranteed: If you arouse suspicion among the border guards, you may have to return home.
Some language travel providers in Germany advertise with the offer "language course and internship" in the USA. A bit of caution is advisable here, because as we now know, this is actually not possible. The trick with these offers is that the "internship" is declared as a special form of learning English and is therefore not a job at all, but rather a language course. However, this means that these internships cannot be full-time positions, but a few hours a week, and that you shouldn't expect to be given particularly demanding tasks here, because you shouldn't officially gain work experience, but rather To learn English. Depending on how extensive the work is and what responsibility is transferred, you can get into a gray area under immigration law.
No entry with two different J visas
Returning to Germany is also the only option for those who only study for one semester with the J-1 student visa in the USA and then want to do a self-organized internship with the J-1 intern visa. Since American law forbids issuing two J-1 visas at the same time, in this case you have to go back home and apply for a new J-1 visa for the internship.
But it doesn't always have to be that complicated: US immigration law offers a simple and generous regulation for those who would like to take a little vacation in the USA before or after their studies. You can enter the country up to 30 days before the official start of your studies and stay in the country for up to 60 days (F-1 visa) or 30 days (J-1 visa) after the end of the program without any further formalities.
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