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I am struggling to work out the appropriate visa to apply for. My situation is as follows:

  • I am an Australian citizen.
  • I am currently completing my Masters of Social work in Australia as a full-time student.
  • A compulsory part of the degree is a 500 hour (over 3 months) unpaid placement within an organisation.
  • I am planning to complete this in New York with a non-profit organisation that has indicated their willingness to take me on for 500 hours as required by my Australian university.

What is the correct visa to apply for as I will not be engaged with any American university (student visa) nor will I be a paid worker of the organisation (working visa)?

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    What is your citizenship? Also, as far as "roughly 3 months", an important question may be whether it's more or less than 90 days. – Nate Eldredge Jan 11 '17 at 4:25
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    Finally, is the organization a charity or other nonprofit? – Nate Eldredge Jan 11 '17 at 4:27
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    Possibly helpful: nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/… – Nate Eldredge Jan 11 '17 at 4:27
  • Hi @NateEldredge thanks for your q's. It will definitely be for longer than 3 months, I am Australian and it is with a non-profit – user55910 Jan 11 '17 at 4:30
  • Is the "non-profit" organization a US corporation, or is it an international organization (such as a UN department or agency)? – phoog Jan 11 '17 at 11:56
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  1. If you want to stay as a visitor in the United States over 90 days you need a B1/B2 visa.

  2. The volunteer situation is well described in Is volunteer work allowed in the US while visiting under the VWP or a B1/B2 visa? (VWP or B1/B2 is the same):

The most significant restriction is that you can only volunteer to do things that are normally done on a voluntary basis, i.e. without pay.

You also can't do "anything that would benefit a commercial enterprise", and there are restrictions on things like unpaid internships. However assuming that the Planetary Society of Pasadena is a not-for-profit you should be fine.

See links at that answer.

In my opinion, and understand that I am not an USCIS officer and I do not even play one on TV, you have a pretty solid case to get this visa if

  1. you can provide credible proof you have enough funds for a stay in New York this long. At least $20 a night for accommodation (expect to live in a cupboard under the stairs) and at least $10 to eat a day (hope you like ramen, anything better will be rare at $10). A more realistic number is $50 a day, at least. So 3000 or rather 5000 USD at 100 days.

  2. the organization provides a letter, preferably notarized, stating their intent towards your placement and their non-profit status.

  • Thanks for your answer, it is much appreciated. Where did you get the highlighted text from? I am not sure whether I fully fit the category of only doing work that is usually unpaid, but it will be for a not for profit.. – user55910 Jan 11 '17 at 5:24
  • I got it from the answer linked. – chx Jan 11 '17 at 5:34
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Your purpose may fit under a J-1 visa:

The J-1 Visa provides countless opportunities for international candidates looking to travel and gain experience in the United States. The multifaceted programs enable foreign nationals to come to the U.S. to teach, study, conduct research, demonstrate special skills or receive on the job training for periods ranging from a few weeks to several years.

because you're undergoing training as part of your degree.

The problem is that the program requires a sponsor who works with various employers and companies to place people. You might take a look at agencies local to your proposed organization, contact them and see if the sponsor would be able to get the employer certified to host a j-1 person. For instance, there's an American Australian Association in New York City. They even say that you don't have to have job when you arrive in the US. It would be more expensive than a B-1/B-2: US$840.

  • Thanks! I contacted the AAA and they advised: "Thank you for your email - we cannot help in your circumstances since all work done with the J1 visa has to be paid the minimum wage." – user55910 Jan 12 '17 at 5:42

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