Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Student Life: Making the move to DC

Today we introduce readers to a fountain of knowledge for non-U.S. nationals at SAIS DC, including those who spend their first year in Bologna and second in Washington.

Noppadon Moapichai is director of the International Student and Scholar Services at SAIS. He helps ensure SAIS Bologna students make a smooth transition to Washington. He recently came to Bologna to advise students who are turning their sights already to their year in DC. We asked him what questions he is most frequently asked.

Most questions relate to employment or internship opportunities in the United States and whether U.S. visa regulations allow a non-U.S. student to pursue an off-campus internship or job during the summer between the first two years of study or after graduation from SAIS.

When talking about internships, we have to distinguish between paid and unpaid posts.

Noppadon Moapichai 
First, let's consider unpaid internships in the United States during the summer between Bologna and DC. In general, non-U.S. students in the United States are allowed to pursue unpaid internships. Most non-U.S. students from Bologna come to DC at the beginning of the fall. So the student visa sponsored by SAIS will have a fall semester start date.

Non-U.S. students who want to work an unpaid internship in the United States in the summer before the fall semester can do so as long as they can secure a visa to enter the United States.

It is best if the institution offering the unpaid internship can help the student obtain a U.S. visa for  the summer. However, in many cases the institution cannot help the student obtain a visa. It then becomes the student's responsibility.

In this case there are two ways forward. A non-U.S. student can attend a summer course or courses in DC and thus work the unpaid internship while in summer school. SAIS can help the student obtain a U.S. visa that starts with the summer program and carries through to the fall.

Alternatively, a non-U.S. student can apply for a business/tourist visa at a U.S. Embassy; students from some countries can apply for a visa waiver under the U.S. Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). This type of visa allows students to work an unpaid internship. At the end of the internship, a non-U.S. student must leave the United States and the re-enter before the start of the fall semester on a student visa sponsored by SAIS.

Paid internships are more complicated. To enter the United States, non-U.S. students generally need a U.S. visa that is sponsored by the institution offering the internship. There is a limit on pay if a non-U.S. student enters on a business/tourist visa or under a visa waiver.

A few words of advice: Do your research in advance. Consult Career Services. Don't limit your search for internships to the United States.

Looking past SAIS, a non-U.S. student can apply for authorization to work in the United States after graduation. A student on an F-1 student visa must be enrolled full-time in DC for at least one full academic year, fall and spring, before being eligible to apply for authorization.

Students also ask many questions about jobs on the SAIS DC campus.

A non-U.S. student can work up to 20 hours per week on the SAIS DC campus when school is in session. During school holidays, a non-U.S. student can work full-time. In most cases non-U.S. students are allowed to start working on campus as many as 30 days before the start of the fall semester. There is no guarantee there will be on-campus jobs. On-campus job openings are usually posted with the Career Services Office.

At which U.S. embassies can non-U.S. students apply for student visas?

That depends on the student’s summer travel plans. A non-U.S. student can apply for a student visa in their home country.

But most non-U.S. students at SAIS Bologna can apply for their U.S. student visa at the U.S. consulate in Florence or Milan before leaving Bologna. A non-U.S. student can apply for a student visa as soon as four months before the start of the fall term in DC. A student can enter the United States 30 days before the start of the fall semester. Procedures for applying for a student visa vary by country. A non-U.S. student can go to www.usembassy.gov for more information.

Noppadon Moapichai

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