Legal Implications: Unpaid Internship for International Students Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1303 Words
Date:  2022-06-19

In the United States, some laws govern how the voluntary work and internship programs should be undertaken. Thus, both domestic and international students are always advised to read them and abide by them. These rules apply a little different to the local learners then they do for the international students. In some cases, it feels inconveniencing to the international students such that some people suggest they be treated just like the domestic learners. From the perspective of the Department of Labor (DOL), these learners are supposed to understand what constitutes to unpaid internship (Honrubia, 2017). If an internship program is categorized as paid by the DOL but the international students fail to get paid, they are operating contrary to the provisions of the law. International students have to be employment authorized for them to engage in a paid internship program which is not the case for the domestic learners. Should the international students be treated like the local students when it comes to the idea of paid and unpaid internship? Indeed, the international students should be treated differently to the domestic learners when it comes to the concept of unpaid internship since this concept abides by the Department of Labor laws.

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Making the international students abide by the DOL laws that concern the idea of both paid and unpaid internship is a sound idea to the Americans. According to Webb, (2015), the system of education in the United States welcomes learners from abroad to study in the country. However, they have to undertake all their learning activities while adhering to the United States' labor laws regarding the immigrants and anyone who is not a United States citizen (Honrubia, 2017). In most cases, DOL gets active to investigate whether the idea of an unpaid internship is being implemented in the right way. In the course of an internship program, the employer should not aim to gain profit from the efforts of the student. Instead, they should endeavor to inculcate knowledge to the student to make him/her more experienced and conversant with the field of study. Since the government does not want learners to get exploited in the name of undertaking an internship program, this explains why there are DOL laws in place.

Additionally, DOL has continued to exercise the concept since it is highly beneficial to the international students. The idea helps to differentiate between internship and employment. The paid internship is categorized as employment whereas unpaid internship is not regarded as employment. Particular elements within the DOL laws specify whether an internship is supposed to be paid or unpaid. Before undertaking any internship program, it is essential for a learner to understand how to differentiate between paid and unpaid internship as defined by the DOL laws (Carnevale, & Hanson, 2015). If an international student wants to participate in a paid internship, he/she will have to acquire an approval that will make him/her employment authorized. If a student fails to conduct proper research and engages in an internship that is known to the employer as an unpaid internship, but on the legal setting of the DOL laws it is categorized as a paid internship, then the student shall have violated the law. Such a student will be operating in unauthorized employment. In the worst case scenario, the student might face deportation which might be a blow to his/her education.

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), people should be paid for the work that they executed (Grant-Smith, Gillett-Swan, & Chapman, 2017). In most cases, employers have circumvented this requirement by citing that they are offering internship programs to the learners. Especially for the international students who are indeed in need of industrial and professional exposure, they are at times subjected to a work that ought to be compensated during their practicum months. Since it is fair to pay them and they do not have an origin in the United States, it is crucial that they are presented with the right documentation to ascertain this. There is no discrimination at all to the international students, but they have to abide by the legal provisions concerning the paid internship as defined by the DOL laws. In most internship programs, trainees are paid, and this prompts the use of DOL laws. If it is a funded internship program, the employer has to meet the federal requirements for the minimum wage. Then this explains why the categorization of whether the internship is paid or not is pretty essential. With the right documentation for the international students, a person can sue the employer in case of a dispute without any fear in case of fallout. If the international student does not have the right documentation, it will be much difficult to present him/her in the court of law and file a petition.

A particular proportion of people are of the view that the international students should be treated like the domestic students when it comes to the idea of paid and unpaid internship programs. They should not seek to be employment authorized for them to accept pursuing a paid internship program. According to Capek, Klein, & Gassman (2017), they cite that this will reduce the legal complication involved in determining whether an internship program should be paid or unpaid. Some international learners are caught on the wrong side of the law due to the complexities involved in determining whether an internship program should be paid or unpaid. If the DOL laws are lessened, they will have an easy time in undertaking their internship program (Capek, Klein, & Gassman, 2017). Nevertheless, this proportion of the people fails to observe the benefits that are associated with the legal provision. The law is good because it helps to save students from exploitation by the employers who want to use free labor. International students are not restricted from undertaking paid internship but are required to do this within the legal framework. If they comply with this provision, it will be easy for the government to take care of the international students by knowing their working conditions and ensuring that they meet the required standards.


To conclude, the international students should be subjected to the DOL laws since this makes their live safe in the United States. Under the DOL laws, an international student should be employment authorized to enable him/her to undertake a paid internship. It is not possible to treat a foreigner the same way as the citizens of the United States since the constitution does not approve it. All foreigners have to be subjected to particular laws that authorize their presence in the United States. Anyone residing in the United States as a foreigner has to have a document detailing all that he/she is doing in the country at the given time. When the person is there for employment reasons, such certificate will indicate it. Mostly, this is done for the sake of the United States people's security. DOL laws are not harsh to the international students because once they comply with them; they do not face difficult life with the American authorities.


Capek, M., Klein, J., & Gassman, J. (2017). Paid versus Unpaid Internships: Perspectives of Students and Nonprofit Directors. The International Undergraduate Journal For Service-Learning, Leadership, and Social Change, 7(1), 11-20.

Carnevale, A. P., & Hanson, A. (2015). Learn & earn: Career pathways for youth in the 21st century. E-Journal of International and Comparative Labour Studies, 4(1).

Grant-Smith, D., Gillett-Swan, J., & Chapman, R. (2017). WiL wellbeing: Exploring the impacts of an unpaid practicum on student wellbeing.

Honrubia, V. P. (2017). From Mailroom to Courtroom: The Legality of Unpaid Internships in Entertainment after Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Inc. NYU J. Intell. Prop. & Ent. L., 7, 107.

Webb, W. (2015). Ontario interns fight back: Modes of resistance against unpaid internships. tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique. Open Access Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society, 13(2), 579-586.

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