Internship opportunities in technology startups and growth companies remain strong. Remote coding internships have become more popular for a few reasons. First and foremost, COVID-19 has resulted in travel restrictions into and out of the U.S. Consequently, international interns cannot reach their destinations without first quarantining and are concerned about being able to return home after their internship ends. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommended that higher education institutions cancel study abroad programs in 2020 to minimize transmission, and international interns might want to follow suit.

Additionally, the U.S. State Department substantially curtailed its operations during the pandemic. As a result, the State Department suspended the processing of many non-emergency visas, including J-1 visas for international interns. Thus, even if an intern comes from a country that currently allows travel to and from the U.S., an intern might not be able to legally enter the U.S. for an internship. Furthermore, on June 22, President Trump signed a proclamation suspending entry into the U.S. of certain immigrants and nonimmigrants including J-1 Interns and Trainees through December 31, 2020.

However, even absent the pandemic restrictions and proclamation, remote coding internships have many advantages over traditional in-person programs.


Advantage #1: Larger Pool of Applicants for Remote Coding Internships

As an employer, you likely want access to the largest talent pool possible. By shifting to remote internships, many of the limitations on your applicant pool are lifted, including:

  • Financial: Applicants who might not able to afford to apply for a visa and travel to the U.S. for an internship will be much more likely to do a virtual internship. Moreover, since you also have much lower expenses for remote coding internships, you might be able to offer a stipend for remote interns when you might not customarily pay interns.
  • Immigration: Virtual internships can attract applicants who might not be able to secure a J-1 visa to travel to the U.S. Examples of immigration limitations might include interns from countries where U.S. policies limit visas or interns with past problems that might block them from receiving a visa. Finally, internship visas are only available to current students or recent graduates. Remote internships that do not require visas can be opened to applicants of any education status.
  • Language: The language barriers are much lower for virtual internships, particularly coding internships online. Living in the U.S. requires a fairly high level of fluency in English and is a requirement for a J-1 visa. However, for interns who remain in their home countries, language barriers for instruction and communication might be overcome with translation software.

By gaining access to a larger pool of applicants, you have many more applicants to choose from. The outcome should be that you will be able to pick stronger interns for your program.

Advantage #2: Set Your Timeline for Awarding Remote Coding Internships

Without the time pressures of arranging visas, travel, and housing, your interns can accept offers later, meaning that you can make the offer on your schedule and not be otherwise constrained.

Put another way, many companies, government organizations, and other intern hosts feel that offers need to go out as early as possible so interns can apply for visas, arrange travel, and rent housing. Without those tasks, you will be relieved of the pressure to send out early offers.

Instead, you can use this time to make sure you get the right interns for your internship program. Thus, if you have coding internships for beginners, you might be able to spend the additional time to choose an intern based on fit. However, if your coding internships require prior experience, you can use the time to make sure your interns can complete the assigned work.

Advantage #3: Flexibility in Setting Up Your Remote Coding Internships Program

When a visa sponsor works with a host to set up an internship program, the visa sponsor and the host have responsibilities. The host’s responsibilities include developing a Training/Internship Placement Plan that outlines how the internship program will provide entry-level training and experience for interns. Moreover, the host must notify the sponsor if it changes the program.

Thus, an in-person international internship program must offer coding internships to those with no experience and train interns in the basic steps of coding. However, remote coding internships can be tailored for each intern rather than providing all interns with entry-level training and experience.

Importantly, since a remote internship is not subject to visa regulations, a host has the flexibility to tailor the program without notifying a sponsor. Thus, you can get a feel for your interns’ experience level and abilities after they begin working. This will allow you to set up individualized plans that will provide them the greatest benefits and you the greatest help.

Advantage #4: No Responsibility for Intern Safety

Hosts and sponsors have a legal and moral responsibility for intern safety during in-person internship programs. Specifically, in the workplace, normal worker protections are available to interns. These protections are intended to keep interns safe from workplace injuries, discrimination, and sexual harassment.

Moreover, while the host and sponsor are not legally responsible for the safety of interns outside the workplace, they do have some moral duty to keep them safe. Specifically, hosts are the emergency contacts for interns after they arrive in the U.S. and have some role in helping them find safe housing.

However, when a host implements a virtual internship program, these legal and moral responsibilities vanish. Since the interns remain in their home countries, the host is not responsible for monitoring the interns’ safety in the workplace. Moreover, since interns need not find housing in the U.S., hosts need not be concerned about unsafe neighborhoods or other dangers to interns like auto accidents.

Advantage #5: Remote Coding Internships are Less Expensive

International internship programs are expensive for sponsors, hosts, and interns.

  • Interns: Interns usually incur some expenses for visa application fees, travel, housing, and essentials. While some interns are compensated by their host, some internships are unpaid, and all costs fall on the intern.
  • Sponsors: Sponsors spend a significant amount of time and money vetting hosts and applicants. Moreover, sponsors are responsible for monitoring compliance of hosts to ensure they meet both federal guidelines for internship visas and the sponsors’ own program rules.
  • Hosts: Hosts incur costs hosting internship programs. Although hosts hope to recoup their investment through the work performed by the interns, interns are usually less productive than more experienced workers. This means that most hosts operate internship programs as loss leaders that are intended to identify possible recruits for permanent positions after the student enters the job market.

Remote internships are significantly less expensive for all parties involved. Interns do not need to pay for visas, travel, or housing in the U.S. J-1 sponsors are not necessary because visas are not required for remote internships. Hosts can still pay interns but could also justify unpaid remote coding internships since the interns can remain in their home countries while working for the host. However, in order to remain competitive, it is recommended that remote interns be compensated based on their experience level, skills, and knowledge. With remote internships, host companies have access to a larger pool of talent at a broader pay scale, due to interns living in areas with lower cost of living.

Advantage #6: Easier Compliance with Remote Coding Internships

Compliance is a burden that falls on both hosts and sponsors.

  • Hosts: Under federal regulations, a host must complete mandatory intern evaluations during the internship. The host must also abide by all sponsor rules, local ordinances, state statutes, and federal laws and regulations when operating its internship program. Essentially, this means that the host must describe how its program works and must not involve the intern in any illegal or illegally unsafe activities.
  • Sponsors: Sponsors likewise have compliance duties. The sponsor must conduct the vetting, placement, and visa application process according to federal regulations. Moreover, sponsors are responsible for monitoring the compliance of hosts. This means that sponsors can be found non-compliant for their own breaches and also for the breaches of the hosts.

Remote internships are largely unregulated. This means that compliance costs are fairly low.

The primary regulation source businesses that want to conduct remote international internship programs face is financial regulation. These must be complied with when paying an intern located outside the U.S.. The U.S. and the receiving country will have banking and tax regulations that cover international payments. However, sponsors have programs to process interns’ pay from remote hosts, eliminating the host’s compliance duties, and cutting the sponsor’s compliance duties to payroll processing. Remote internships may also require evaluations on the part of the sponsor or placement service in order to ensure consistency and integrity of the remote internship program.

Advantage #7: Year-Round Access to Interns

Most in-person internship programs are coordinated with school calendars. Thus, many internships run one school year or one semester, the start and end date picked so that the internship does not interfere with the intern’s school schedule.

Once an internship program shifts to a virtual model, these time constraints become much less of a concern. Rather than coordinating with their school schedule, interns can start or end at any time. Moreover, host businesses can work with interns to design an internship that allows the intern to work and attend school at the same time. As a result, internship programs can run throughout the year, overlap with each other, and start or end at any time. This level of flexibility is a significant advantage over an in-person internship.

Advantage #8: More Productive Internship Program

A survey from 2019 suggests that office workers are much less productive than workers at home. Some possible explanations include office workers spending more time daydreaming, conducting personal business, and socializing on the job than home workers. People who work from home often find more solid work times than office workers. For remote coding internships, such as medical coding internships, uninterrupted work time can be critical to completing work accurately.

Translating this to an internship program, both interns and supervisors may become more productive during virtual internships than in-person internships. Interns cannot socialize with each other or with their co-workers when in a virtual setting. Meetings can be focused on the meeting topic rather than wandering off into other subjects. Interns can be assigned work as needed, rather than trying to keep them busy full-time as an in-person internship might require.

Equally importantly, productive work time can be tailored to the interns’ and supervisors’ schedules. With interns spread throughout different time zones, work can be assigned and completed at all hours. However, supervisors can schedule specific times to meet with each intern to train and answer questions. This allows the supervisor to be more productive while still providing interns with the training they hoped for.

Advantage #9: Easier to Terminate Remote Coding Internships

If an intern simply is not working out, terminating a remote intern is much easier than terminating an intern who has traveled to the U.S. and signed a lease to work and live here.

To be clear, an intern on a J-1 visa can be terminated. Upon termination, the intern is expected to leave the U.S immediately and is not entitled to any grace period for travel. Since the intern is expected to leave the country after termination, many hosts and sponsors are reluctant to terminate in-person interns for minor problems or mere incompatibility.

However, a remote intern can be terminated simply for not working out. For example, communication problems, sub-standard work, or refusal to follow company policies can be resolved by terminating the remote intern.


Setting Up Remote Coding Internships Abroad

Shifting to a remote internship program, at least temporarily, provides substantial advantages to host companies, organizations, and government agencies.

Fortunately, with in-person internships suspended by many hosts and sponsors due to the State Department’s operational suspension, some sponsors have shifted to supporting virtual internships. In these virtual internship programs, the program sponsors are relieved of the duties that come from sponsoring an intern’s visa application. However, the program sponsors can still perform many of the functions provided by an internship sponsor such as intern and host company vetting, recruitment, and placement services.

Specifically, sponsors can continue to vet interns to ensure that each intern is fluent in English and that they meet the desired requirements for the internship position while connecting interns with hosts in their field of study. Finally, sponsors can provide payroll processing services so that paid interns can receive paychecks without burdening hosts with foreign banking and tax compliance.

Learn more about how we can assist you in setting up remote coding internships whether you're looking for an internship or for your business, non-profit organization, or government agency.

Sep 18, 2020
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