If you considered a student internship this year, you may have run across the term “virtual student internships.” Virtual internships are those that are conducted online remotely. In other words, rather than traveling to the host business’s location physically, you remain in your home country and telecommute.
Growth in Popularity of Virtual Student Internships
While virtual internships have existed since about 2009, virtual internships have become a more popular option for both host businesses and interns. Some of the benefits that have led to this growth in popularity include fewer restrictions on interns and programs, ease of application, safety, and lower cost.
Virtual Student Internships Place Fewer Restrictions on Interns and Programs
In-person international internships are highly restrictive. In the U.S., for example, a J-1 visa is required for student interns to enter the U.S. To be eligible for a J-1 visa, an applicant must:
- Age: Applicants must be at least 18 years old.
- Educational status: Interns must be currently enrolled in a post-secondary program or have graduated no more than 12 months prior to the program start date.
- Language: Applicants must have sufficient proficiency in English to participate.
Virtual internships do not require a J-1 visa because no international travel is required. This means that even if an applicant does not meet all the requirements for a visa, they could receive the same educational and cultural experience through a virtual student internship with a host company.
For example, if you are not currently enrolled in school, you are free to apply for virtual student internships and see if your skills match the needs of a host company. If they do, you can work out the terms of your internship with the host company even though you would have been ineligible for an in-person international internship.
Virtual Student Internships are Easier to Apply For
You can apply for virtual student internships using online tools. For example, Intrax’s Virtual Internship programs can help you find your ideal placement opportunities. After you fill out an application, you can search for virtual internships that match your skills. When you find the best virtual internships for your skills, you interview for the internship remotely. After the host confirms that you meet the host’s needs, you start work.
Since virtual student internships are online, you do not need to apply for a J-1 visa from the U.S. State Department, pay visa application fees, or arrange travel before you can start your internship. Instead, start dates can be arranged with the host company for any day that is convenient for you and the host.
You are not limited by travel restrictions when you apply for virtual student internships. For example, if you can apply for a virtual internship in the UK even if you do not have a passport.
Virtual Student Internships are Safer
One reason for the surge of interest in virtual internships for summer 2020 is COVID-19. The U.S. State Department suspended the processing of non-emergency passport and visa applications, including the J-1 internship visa. Moreover, many businesses canceled their internship programs due to travel restrictions that prevented their interns from reaching the host company.
During this time, many businesses transitioned to remote work for their regular employees. Therefore, it makes sense that more businesses are both willing and capable of supporting remote internships. Not only do remote internships avoid travel restrictions that have been imposed due to COVID-19, but they are safer for the health of both the intern and the business’s regular employees.
Virtual internships can be conducted without international travel or needing to find a place to live in the host country, since both of these can be difficult, even without the risks of the pandemic. Although these risks are generally low, they are entirely eliminated by virtual student internships.
Virtual Student Internships are Less Expensive
Virtual student internships can save an intern a lot of money. Some of the expenses that an intern will incur for an in-person international internship include:
- Application fees: Applicants must pay for a visa from the U.S. State Department and registration with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s immigration system. If the applicant does not have a passport, the applicant will also need to apply for a passport from the intern’s home country.
- Travel: Interns pay for their travel to the host company’s location.
- Housing: Interns need to find housing in the U.S. and enter into a lease.
- Health insurance: Since the U.S. health system relies on private health insurance, J-1 visa applicants must prove they have access to healthcare while in the U.S. But it can be costly to purchase health insurance in the U.S. and may also involve co-pays and deductibles if an intern gets sick or has an accident.
- Living expenses: While in the U.S., interns will have living expenses, such as transportation, food, utilities, and entertainment.
Virtual student internships eliminate those costs. Rather than traveling to the host company’s location, virtual interns remain in their home country. This allows interns to avoid additional costs that might be incurred in their home country as well, such as terminating a lease, moving out of an apartment, and storing possessions.
How Virtual Student Internships Work
During the internship, the host company provides training and work opportunities for the intern. This training and work are handled remotely and might use video conferencing software, project collaboration applications, and email. Some internships may require specific software, for example remote coding internships.
Not all virtual programs are the same. When comparing virtual internship programs, there are a few considerations to look for. For example, Intrax has experience sponsoring in-person internship programs and uses that experience to implement virtual internships best practices by:
- Developing a plan: The U.S. State Department requires host companies for in-person internships to develop a training plan. Intrax retains this practice for virtual student internships. Intrax works with host companies to create a training plan that identifies the goals for both the intern and the host company during the virtual internship.
- Monitoring progress: One of the key jobs of an in-person sponsor for internships is monitoring the well-being and progress of interns to make sure they are advancing toward their program’s goals. Intrax brings this monitoring to virtual student internships with monthly check-ins with the host company to monitor progress.
- Processing pay: For paid internships, Intrax processes interns’ pay to ensure that interns receive payments on time and in compliance with local laws.
- Providing support: Intrax is available 24 hours a day for emergency support.
Benefits of Virtual Student Internships with Intrax
Intrax understands that an internship is a stepping-stone to an intern’s career. As such, it provides training and experience. By remaining involved in the internship and providing its considerable experience sponsoring in-person internships, Intrax ensures that the virtual student internship experience matches the in-person internship experience.