Do paid internships fall under the protection from discrimination based on citizenship or immigration status?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Do paid internships fall under the protection from discrimination based on citizenship or immigration status?

My boyfriend is trying to apply for summer internships while studying in the U.S. The majority of the companies state that they will not hire people without permanent residence. These are not for jobs after graduation but short term summer internships. Since the summer internships will not require sponsorship at all for the majority of international student applicants, are they allowed to do this? New Link Destination
me, it seems that their work permits as students should qualify them for this type of short term employment and refusal to interview for a position of this type is discriminatory, so long as they don’t need sponsorship. I am a U.S. citizen and my boyfriend and I have discussed marriage. He should have a CR1 visa after graduation. He has stated this to potential employers but they say that they are only interested in people who have more stability in their work status. Regardless of whether Q1 is discriminatory, in a situation like this where future employment will not depend on sponsorship but the documentation hasn’t been processed yet and he’ll be eligible to work the entire time, can they refuse to interview?

Asked on September 27, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Colorado


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

No, this is not discrimination. Many companies legitimately only offer internships to people who might be available to later transition to permanent employment, if the situation worked out for both the employee and employer: the intership is a training and recruiting tool for future employees. They don't want to spend time and resources on what is likely a short term only situation. Since there is an issue about long-term ability to work, it is not discrimination to not interview or offer a job, since there is legitimate, non-discriminatory reason (potential future availability) to refuse to do so. A company can refuse to offer work to someone based on legal status without that being national origin discrimination.

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