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Geneva Internships: Frequently Asked Questions
Friday, 02 December 2011 15:21




About the application



This depends on the type of program for which you are applying. Refer to the ‘vacancies’ section for details.


Please also note that if you are a non EU/EFTA citizen and the internship is not integral to your studies, or if you are a non EU/EFTA citizen and have already completed an internship in Geneva, we may not be able to secure your work visa.



You will need to submit the following:

  • an application form (to download in the internship webpage)
  • a CV (with two references, preferably academic or a previous employer)
  • a covering letter with a clear indication to which program you would like to apply

PLEASE NOTE: Incomplete applications and those which fail to specify a particular program will not be considered.



No. You will be sent a recruitment task if your initial application is successful. 



You must have an excellent command of English. It is necessary to have a very good level of written English for the UN monitoring internships. Good command of French is also an asset. You need to be fluent in French for the Regional & National team and the Finance and Administrative team.


The official language of the office is English. Any other language is a plus.



Yes, undergraduates can apply to ISHR internships.



There is no deadline. ISHR recruits throughout the year. Vacancies are indicated on the internship web page.


All applications remain active for a period of 6 months. Applicants are asked to reapply if they were not offered an internship within this period.



If your application has been shortlisted, you will then be contacted by the Internship Coordinator to undertake a recruitment task. You will be notified shortly on whether or not your application has been successful.



The number of intern positions for the UN monitoring team varies and is dependent upon the time of year, since much of the work is based around the activities of the United Nations. There is one intern at a time for all the other teams.


Cost associated with the internship



The internship is unfortunately unpaid.



Travel from your country, accommodation, insurance and relocations costs are not covered by ISHR. While in Geneva, ISHR will cover your monthly public transport card (you will need to retain the receipt to ensure reimbursement). Visa fees are also covered by ISHR.



The Swiss Government estimates a need of 2,540CHF per month.  In regards to the necessary funds, this is a Government recommendation based upon the high cost of living in Geneva. It is a very expensive city in which to live.  Depending on how much you pay for your accommodation you could need up to 2,540CHF.


All successful candidates will need to provide a bank statement and a letter from a guarantor to demonstrate they can cover necessary expenses in Geneva (2,540CHF per month). This doesn’t mean a guarantor needs to transfer this amount of money into the intern's account every month. 



ISHR is not currently able to fund internships.



With the residence permit you receive to undertake your internship at ISHR, you have the possibility to get a weekend job.


Please note that the intern contract with ISHR specifies that during the course of the internship the intern will work exclusively for ISHR, unless arrangements have been made in advance with ISHR.


Permit, visa & insurance



The process varies depending on your citizenship status.


If you are an EU/EFTA citizen (Bulgaria & Romania not included), you benefit from the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons. An announcement of your arrival is made by ISHR to the Swiss authorities and can be carried out shortly before the starting date of the internship.


If you are a non EU/EFTA citizen or a citizen from Bulgaria and Romania, ISHR needs to request a work authorisation. It takes about 8 weeks to get a Swiss work permit and then a few more days to get your visa (please note that the entire process can take up to 3 months). Once we have received your file with the documentation required, we send it to the authorities in Switzerland for approval. Three different sections need to approve your file: the OCP (Cantonal Government), the ODM (Federal Government) and the SEC (Foreigners Section). Visa will be delivered only if we have all of these 3 authorisations. The authorities will then notify ISHR of the outcome of the process. As soon as we get the information we will let you know about it so that you will be able to process your visa at the Swiss Embassy or Consulate.


PLEASE NOTE: It is strongly advised that you take the above information into consideration before booking your flight ticket.  Note that your contract is conditional upon the issuing of resident and work permits by authorities, and last minute announcements can occur.

When booking your flight to Geneva, make sure you have the required visa for the countries via which you may transit.


Once you are in Geneva, you will need to make an appointment with the OCP to get your biometric visa.

  • Intern => ISHR : File with all documents required to send


  • ISHR => Swiss authorities: File to send

TIME FRAME: ASAP (but not before 4 months before the start of the internship)

  • Swiss authorities => ISHR: Notification on authorisations (3)


  • ISHR => Intern: Notification of the Authorities' decision


  • Intern => Swiss Embassy: Visa to edit (contact your nearest embassy for more details)


  • Intern => OCP (Geneva): Biometric card

TIME FRAME: take an appointment the first week of your arrival in Geneva


If you have any further question on visa and entry procedures, please refer to the Swiss Federal Office for Migration website:



It depends on the type of permit and if you are an EU/EFTA citizen or not.


Interns are usually requested to provide: a copy of the passport, photos, copies of university diplomas/certificates or transcripts, a CV, a work permit form, proof of medical insurance, and proof of funding.


More information on this will be given to you should you be successful in the application.




A valid health and accident insurance is obligatory to reside in Switzerland (for stays of 3 months or more). Interns who do not hold a European Health Insurance Card and who are staying for more than 3 months will need to have the ‘Check form for the equivalent of the Swiss Health Insurance’ sent to their insurance company so that they can certify full coverage according to the specific Swiss rules for the duration of the program. Should such a certification not be possible, interns will need to sign up for insurance upon arrival in Switzerland. More information on this can be given to you should you be successful in your application.




Dress code & First days


Smart at UN and casual at office. 



The first days of your internship will be dedicated to induction training. On your first day you will need to go to UN to get accredited. It is necessary that you bring your passport in order to collect your UN badge and laptop (if you have one). You can dress quite casually at the office but you may like to bring smarter clothes for the UN.



ISHR is located at 1 rue de Varembé, near the United Nations. The area is well serviced by public transport, restaurants and a supermarket. Check the Geneva public transport website for more details:


You will also have access to a large choice of international organisation’s staff cafeterias such as the UNHCR. By public transport, ISHR is only a short trip from the train station, the airport and the city centre.




PLEASE NOTE: when looking for accommodation in Geneva, avoid making advance payments or providing guarantee sums in advance of your arrival. Scams in Geneva are unfortunately very common.


PLEASE NOTE: finding an accommodation in Geneva can be very challenging. It is highly recommended that you look for accommodation as soon as you are selected.



ISHR does not cover any costs for living expenses during the internship. If you are selected, you will be asked to join our online interactive platform where you will find numerous resources for getting established in Geneva. You can also liaise with the current interns in the forum.



Successful applicant are advised to begin searching for accommodation as early as possible, meaning right after receiving an acceptance letter from ISHR.


Once you have secured accommodation, please remember to cancel your applications with other agencies and to send us the details of your address in Geneva.



You can live in French border region if you are from the EU/EFTA zone. Citizens from Bulgaria and Romania are limited to the Swiss border zone. For the rest of you not part of the EU/EFTA zone you can only live in France if you have a French residence permit.



No, you need to provide your address in Geneva. It is however acceptable that you give ISHR’s address (office’s address not the post office box) for parcels to be delivered.


Length of the internship



For the internship to be worthwhile and effective, interns will be accepted for a minimum of 3 months and a maximum of 6 months. 



An internship may be extended with agreement from the supervising team concerned (and pending of the work permit status) but cannot be longer than 6 months in duration.


Working hours, holidays and leave



Interns can work full-time (7 hours per day, 35 hours per week) or it may be possible to arrange a shorter work schedule (e.g. 2.5 days a week).


The working hours are from Monday to Friday. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. This includes a lunch break of one hour. As the work entails extensive coverage of human rights meetings, interns undertake to make themselves available, as far as possible, to cover such meetings whenever they take place. This may include evening sessions beyond the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. work schedule. In such cases, an agreement should be reached between interns and their supervisor on compensating overtime with time off.



You can change the working hours for the entire internship, with the agreement of your supervisor but there is no possibility of having flexible daily working hours.


Except for the sessions at the UN, you are expecting to be at the office at all times. You need to ask your supervisor to work at the UN library for example.



Yes, interns are entitled to the same amount of leave as ISHR staff (1.67 day per month). Vacation will have to be discussed with and agreed to in advance by your supervisor.



An intern is not expected to work if he/she is unwell but it is important that the supervisor be informed of any absences. Any expense relating to illness/accident is the responsibility of the intern.


Learning & social activities



It is strongly advised that you become familiar with the ISHR website and the various resources contained there prior to arriving in Geneva. It is also useful to become familiar with the OHCHR website ( You may wish to check out the calendar of events to see what upcoming UN activities will be occurring during your internship, and become familiar with the information relevant to those activities.



As soon as you will get the confirmation of your internship, you will receive a login and a password to access our educative social platform Moodle. It is both an e-learning tool and a networking resource. It will give you the opportunity to access extensive reading materials on the UN human rights system, to access the internship guide, and facilitate discussion between interns and staff.


We will also provide you with an intern buddy who will answer your questions before you arrive and help you settle in once you are here.



Professional development and training are a strong component of the internship. After your induction training, you will regularly have team, intern and staff meetings. There are also a lot of opportunities to attend presentations at ISHR, to attend external events and to participate in Geneva-based trainings organised by ISHR. Eventually, you will get practical career workshops and an exit interview. Please refer to the ‘professional development & training section’ for extensive information.




ISHR unfortunately cannot fund a language course. There are however cheap (or even free) options. A list of these possibilities will be provided to the successful applicants.



A range of social activities are organised such as birthdays and farewell parties. A day out to one of Switzerland’s cultural hotspots is also organised twice a year. 


Internships tasks



This will depend on the needs of the team to which you are assigned. See the internship webpage for reference. 



Interns who contribute articles to the Human Rights Monitor Quarterly (the Quarterly) have their names included in the ‘List of Contributors’ that appears on the inside front cover of the publication. ISHR does not include by-lines on website news stories or Quarterly articles; due to the team nature of our work, it is often difficult to fairly attribute an article to just one or even a small group of authors. However, on request, we are happy to supply written confirmation of the published work an intern has contributed towards.





Interns are required to adhere to a confidentiality commitment.

Interns agree to keep any and all work-related matters confidential during, as well as after, the period of his/her internship. Details will be given at the induction training.





The intern coordinator continues to keep in touch with over 150 former interns and assists them with their questions, keeping up-to-date with their professional activities after leaving ISHR.  She is still the main point of contact to provide references for interns seeking scholarships, university places or employment.  Last year, ISHR launched an e-mail group for former interns in order to facilitate networking, share job opportunities and keep up-to-date with their activities and progress for future success stories. 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 June 2013 13:31
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