Updated on Friday 1 March 2013
There are many opportunities for international students interested in tourism internships in the U.S. Both the tourism and hospitality industries make up a large portion of the US economy and provide an abundance of internship options. Some examples of tourism and hospitality internships in the U.S. are operation management, event planning, tourism development, marketing, and customer service.
The requirements are similar for most tourism internships in the U.S.; non-US students must have a Grade Point Average (GPA) above 2.0 at their college or university. Also international students must be working towards either a Master's or Bachelor's degree at a college or university and be between the ages of 18 and 26. Students can either be a freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, a recent graduate, or are working on graduate studies. Also, to participate in hospitality internships in the U.S., individuals may need to have proficient English speaking skills.
Some US-based companies that help students find internships are Dream Careers, GlobalExperiences.com, and GlobalChoices.co.uk. It may be a good decision to use placement services like these because they can help international students with visa issues, situate students in specific locations and give them a particular type of internship they may be looking for. Many placement companies guarantee internship placement and are rated by the Better Business Bureau.
The work permit and visa process can be complicated for international students. International students enrolled in a degree program at an American college or university will typically have an F-1 visa. Under this visa, international students can apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT) status as long as the internship is considered part of their area of study. Once an international student is accepted into an internship program, he or she should go to the international student office at their school and fill out the necessary forms (check the timeline as sometimes it may take a few months to be approved). Once a student is approved, their I-20 form will specify that they are able to participate in the CPT or OPT.
Exchange students or scholars can also come to the US on a J-1 visa. Usually it is the internship program that will sponsor this type of visa for their internship. Students who have a J-1 visa will be required to leave the States within 30 days of completion of their internship and will not be permitted to re-enter the USA for 2 years. The reason for this is because students are expected to take the knowledge and skills they gained during their training and use them in their native countries.
The H-2 visa is also another option for students interested in hospitality internships in the U.S. This is a more short-term visa and is usually used during summer internship programs. These internships however, are for gaining a more general work experience in the hospitality industry. An individual with an H-2 visa commonly works or interns as front desk agents, servers, ski-instructors, housekeepers, etc. Students who wish to have a more administrative internship experience such as working within the corporate offices of a resort chain may need a J-1 or F-1 visa to do so.
The hospitality and tourism industries are major parts of the U.S. economy. For this reason many international students choose to come to the US to pursue an education and gain internship experience in these fields. Students can acquire the proper visas and permits to participate in these internships though their universities, colleges, or internship programs.