How to Get an Internship in the USA on an F-1 Visa: My Story

Last updated on April 5th, 2024 at 01:22 pm

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Hi! My name is Laura, I’m from Colombia, and I’m an international student in the United States.

I graduated from the digital marketing program at Bellevue College, and I’m now part of the marketing and content creation team at Remitly, where I was able to get an internship on an F-1 visa.

Read on to learn more about how I got my internship, as well as tips on how to obtain an internship in the U.S. as an international student.

international students sitting in a circle discussing how to get an internship on an F-1 visa

8 steps to get an internship on an F-1 visa

Getting an internship in the U.S. can take some time and effort. One of my first and strongest advice for you is to keep a positive attitude and believe in your professional capabilities throughout the process. Let’s dive in!

1. Get on-campus experience at your university

One of the fundamental ways to secure a job is to demonstrate your skills. Take advantage of the jobs offered by your university and take the time to prepare and improve your professional profile.

Working at your university can help you understand how the corporate world looks like in the U.S. and will help you improve soft skills such as communication, leadership, teamwork, learning to prioritize, and many more.

2. Schedule meetings with your academic advisor and career coach at your educational institution

Your academic advisor can guide you in understanding the legal regulations of your internship process, such as updating your I-20 form, and help you make informed decisions to ensure your eligibility when applying for an internship.

Take advantage of resources such as a career coach to help prepare your resume and to effectively show your work experience on it.

3. Update your resume or CV

Keep your resume up to date and add any additional experience that applies to your academic program. Don’t forget to add technical skills if you have them.

As you start searching for jobs, you should continue updating and optimizing your resume according to the positions you’re applying for and the skills the company is looking for. This step goes hand-in-hand with writing your cover letter.

4. Write a cover letter

After optimizing your CV, focus on writing a cover letter. Most of the jobs you will apply for will ask for a cover letter. In it, be sure to state your skills, the reasons why you want to be part of the company, and how your profile matches their desired qualifications.

5. Start your internship search early

Looking for a job is not always a simple task. Give yourself plenty of time to apply and find the job that best suits your goals. Start in your first year of college to review job options in your field of study, even if you’re not ready to apply. This will give you great insights into potential job options.

6. Create a LinkedIn account

Creating a professional profile on LinkedIn and increasing your network can improve your chances of getting hired. You can start by adding members of your university faculty or classmates.

Remember to optimize your profile with new valuable content about your skills and achievements. Be sure to include any certifications you have obtained and update them regularly if they have expired.

7. Apply for internships that are aligned with your skills and your academic program

Narrow your job search to jobs that relate to the skills you consider your strengths. However, make sure you don’t limit yourself and rule out options that may also align with your career and personal goals.

8. Practice for your interview

The interview is perhaps one of the most important parts of your process. Practice your interview until you feel comfortable talking about your experience and goals. It’s especially essential to be comfortable speaking in English.

getting an internship on an F-1 visa requires an interview like this woman is doing over the computer

What are OPT and CPT?

International students need to know the difference between Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for internship applications.

OPT and CPT are job training programs that allow foreign students to obtain work experience while on F-1 student visa status.


Generally, for an internship, you will need to apply for a CPT, if it occurs while you are still in school or if the internship is part of your academic curriculum.

In my case, I applied for CPT, since I hadn’t yet finished my studies. In order to apply to CPT you need to have an established job offer.


OPT‌ allows you to work in jobs related to your academic studies after completing your college degree.

Each process has its own regulations and requirements. I recommend you consult with your academic advisor for specific questions.

How I got my internship at Remitly

My experience at Remitly has been enriching, both personally and professionally. Like you, I have the goal of continuing to grow professionally in the United States and I always knew that besides my studies, having an internship would help.

To secure my internship, I followed all the steps I explained above, especially focusing on improving skills relevant to my curriculum and career. I did this by implementing them on the on-campus jobs I had. I also tailored my resume and cover letter based on the positions I was applying for, and continued optimizing my LinkedIn.

Don’t be scared! It may seem like finding an internship is a tough process, but it can actually be a lot of fun.

6 tips that can help you get an internship

  1. Be clear about your goals, but don’t limit yourself
  2. Continue improving and optimizing your résumé and cover letter
  3. Take online courses related to your field of study to improve your skills
  4. Get certifications about relevant skills in your field of study and add them to LinkedIn
  5. Attend job fairs and job-related events at your university campus to network with potential employers
  6. Keep a positive attitude and continue learning English and other soft skills

Frequently asked questions about how to get an internship in the U.S. on an F-1 visa

Can I be paid as an intern on an F-1 student visa?

Yes, as an international student, it is possible to have a paid internship. Be sure to talk to your academic advisor to learn more about the restrictions in your specific case.

How long does the CPT application process take?

The time to complete the CPT process depends on certain factors, such as your university’s backlog, the academic requirements, job search, updating the I-20 form and so on.

Can I work full time as an intern?

Yes, your internship can be full-time or part-time.

What type of visa do I need for an internship?

Generally, you will need an F-1 visa. However, you can also work as an intern on a J-1, H-3, and sometimes, a B-1/B-2 visa.

Do I need an immigration attorney for my internship application process?

Not necessarily. Your academic advisor can guide you. For more information on CPT and OPT, you can also visit the USCIS website.

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