UNHCR Internship: How to Apply

UNHCR Internship

The goal of this internship program is to provide a practical understanding of the work developed by UNHCR. Therefore, it is suitable for those who seek professional experience in issues related to the promotion of better quality of life for refugees from different regions of the world. Interns will be guided and monitored by UNHCR professionals in their activities, take part in meetings and engage in relevant projects of the institution. Therefore, an internship in this organization will be a valuable asset to your curriculum and a great distinctive feature in future selection processes, since you will have the opportunity to know and experience the work dynamics, internal policies, and routine of the organization.

Organization overview

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is a UN agency dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless persons. UNHCR seeks to ensure that such individuals have access to basic social services and may find shelter and refuge from violence, wars or natural disasters. Its headquarters are located in Geneva (Switzerland), but it has dedicated staff in 130 countries around the world.

Organization’s main focus: To expand social protection and rights of refugees on a global scale.

Themes addressed by the organization:
  • Advocacy
  • Education
  • Public Health
  • Human Rights
  • Environment, disasters, and climate change
  • Social Protection
  • Child and youth protection
  • Sexual and gender-based violence
  • Private sector development

Description of the internship program

Fields of study:

This internship program includes students and recent graduates from the most diverse fields of knowledge. The areas of study with the highest demand in this program are:
  • Communication
  • Information System
  • Social Sciences
  • Law
  • Human Resources
  • Management Studies
  • International Relations

Internship activities:

The activities performed vary according to the opening and the requirements of the different departments to which interns are allocated. However, generally speaking, the main duties are:
Support administrative and operational activities;
  • Carry out research, collect and analyze data on topics relevant to the agency’s activities;
  • Help prepare and execute projects;
  • Write and review reports and other types of documents;
  • Help organize events (logistics);
  • Prepare presentations;
  • Take part in meetings and training programs with agency staff.


The internship period ranges from at least 2 months to 6 months at most.

Weekly workload:

The internship programs are full-time. Interns shall therefore work between 35 and 40 hours per week.


Most openings are for the organization’s headquarters in Geneva (Switzerland), but there may be other opportunities in its Field Offices around the world: Arab States, Africa, Americas and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, and Central Asia.

When the internship starts:

The initial date of the internship shall be coordinated between the intern and the organization.

Feedback following the internship:

At the end of the internship, the supervisor is in charge of preparing an assessment report of the intern’s performance.

Subsequent employment:

Participation in the internship is not related to future employment with the agency. During the internship period and within six months immediately after the program you will not be eligible to apply for or be appointed to any effective position in the organization. However, the work experience in the agency will be a distinctive feature in your curriculum, which may facilitate your hiring by other organizations inside or outside the UN System.



  • Be enrolled in a graduate school program (Master’s or Ph.D.), or;
  • Be enrolled in the last school year of an undergraduate school program (Bachelor’s level or equivalent), or;
  • Have graduated from an undergraduate or graduate course in the last 12 months.


Fluency in English is required. Knowledge of French, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, and Spanish will be advantageous in the selection process.


Applicants must be citizens of a UNHCR member state.


The main competencies required are:
  • Excellent written and verbal communication and interpersonal skills are essential;
  • Strong team player;
  • Experience with Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and basic administrative skills;
  • Flexibility, organizational skills, ability to work quickly under pressure and juggle multiple tasks essential;
  • A proactive approach to work with a proven ability to work independently and problem solve.

Other requirements:

Most internships require no work experience. However, previous experiences may be an advantage in the selection process.


An applicant may not be a child or sibling of any organization staff member.

Application process

When to apply:

The application process varies according to the UNHCR office. The Geneva headquarters receives applications at any time for its database through the online recruitment system. If applicants are not contacted within 6 months, it means their application was not successful.

For internships in Field Offices around the world, it is recommended that applicants contact the desired office directly. Some of these offices require the submission of documents via email.

How to apply:

For openings in the UNHCR headquarters in Geneva, the application process is done through the agency’s online recruitment system and comprises the following steps:
  • Access the online application form;
  • Fill out the profile data (academic and professional background);
  • Submit the application. (The application is valid for 6 months)

Internships in Field Offices may require forwarding the Personal History Form and other documents by email directly to the corresponding office.

Phases of the selection process:

The selection process may vary depending on the department or office to which the intern is applying, but generally comprises the following steps:
  • Creating a profile and preparing an application;
  • Submitting the application;
  • Evaluation of the application;
  • Competency-based interview;
  • Selection notifications.


Usually, only selected applicants will be contacted for the interview, which lasts about 30 minutes and maybe done via phone. The main points covered in the interview vary according to the opening and department chosen. In general, however, the questions address subjective or behavioral aspects, such as your expectations about the job, your interests in the area of expertise you are applying for, and your previous experiences.

Documents to submit:

  • CV
  • Cover/Motivation Letter
  • Undergraduate or graduate degree (if concluded).

Evaluation criteria:

You will be evaluated regarding your previous experience, skills and competencies, and educational background.

Costs incurred

The organization offers no financial aid to cover costs related to preparing for or doing the internship. However, you may request financial aid from a sponsoring institution, for example, a university and/or government agency in your country.


You or your sponsoring institution will be responsible for the costs and arrangements of obtaining the visa (if needed to do the internship).


You or your sponsoring institution will be responsible for the costs of enrolling in a valid global medical insurance plan.


You or your sponsoring institution will be responsible for accommodation expenses during the internship period.


You or your sponsoring institution will be responsible for the costs and arrangements of the trip to the workplace to which you have been assigned.


Internship Programme:

Contact for inquiries:
E-mail: hqintrns@unhcr.org

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