By Alex Braun
Recently on our Answers forum, I ran across a question that I almost rushed too quickly to answer.
On the surface, it seemed totally simple. Why couldn’t you intern virtually for a foreign company? Virtual internships, by their very definition, can be done from anywhere with the right software and a decent internet connection.
But I also had a few doubts, as I expressed in my response:
“My gut feeling is that there would be some international tax issues to figure out if the internship is paid, depending on whether or not you’re a U.S. citizen. And if it’s unpaid, there might be some issues with the legality of the internship itself if you’re not receiving direct instruction/education or academic credit.”
So I did a little research this afternoon. My verdict? Not as complicated.
Yes, you can intern virtually pretty much anywhere, even if the internship is paid. If you do receive payment for the internship, you’ll need to report it on your taxes just the same as you would for an internship or job in the United States. Generally, this income is taxable by the federal government.
If it’s unpaid, it doesn’t mean the internship is illegal. With tools like Skype, you can receive enough educational instruction from a foreign supervisor to satisfy the Department of Labor’s internship guidelines. And even if the internship did in fact turn out to be exploitative, it’d be pretty impossible to sue — but very easy to walk away from.
So should you do it? Obviously, it’s not as fun as physically going overseas, but it can be an eye-catcher on a resume — and it’s a lot safer and less expensive. Plus, getting a chance to work on foreign language skills might be very useful in the future.
I’d say try it out — but that’s up to you.