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Before Your Internship


The Office of Internship Programs (OIP) facilitates internships centrally. We are responsible for ensuring all internships abide by internal and federal policy, coordinating stipend payments and international paperwork, and organizing general orientations and enrichment activities. OIP also manages several central internship programs. Interns should look to the office for assistance regarding the onboarding and stipend payment processes, any changes in tenure dates, or concerns about their internship experience. 

For most of your time as a Smithsonian Intern, your primary contacts will be your Mentor (supervisor) and Unit Intern Coordinator. (If you do not already have the contact information of your unit’s academic appointment coordinator and your mentor, please contact OIP.) Your Mentor and Unit Intern Coordinator will assist you with day-to-day questions such as what to do on your first day, dress code and other cultural norms at your unit, and resources needed for your internship.  

The entire Smithsonian is dedicated to your learning, growth, and well-being during your internship. Never hesitate to reach out with questions, even if you’re not sure who to ask, and someone will point you in the right direction. 



The Smithsonian is a large and complex institution, and as such, there are a lot of policies and procedures to attend to prior to the start of your internship. 

Award Letter

Your official award letter will come directly from the Office of Internship Programs. It will include your tenure dates, your mentor and unit coordinator, and (if applicable) stipend information. If any of this information does not align with your expectations, be sure to contact us immediately.  

You should note in your official award letter any health and safety requirements as well as any mandatory training. Your internship is contingent on your compliance with certain mandatory Smithsonian training requirements, including but not limited to Prevention of Workplace Harassment (POWH). In addition, interns are subject to  Smithsonian health and safety protocols. The Smithsonian may require proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 regardless of location or arrangement (e.g., onsite, virtual, remote, etc.), subject to such exceptions as required by law. Talk to your unit coordinator and mentor for details on any requirements that apply to you.

This award may also be contingent on you passing a background investigation. if you need a Smithsonian network account, Computer Security Awareness training is also required. Your mentor and unit coordinator will inform you of any additional training requirements for your internship.


If you are receiving a stipend, please sign and return the award agreement, W-9, and EFT (banking) form as soon as possible. It will take up to six weeks to process a stipend payment from the time we receive these forms.  

Foreign Nationals 

If you are not a US citizen, you should already have received additional guidance from OIP and the Office of International Relations regarding additional paperwork to be completed. All Foreign Nationals will receive the Foreign National Request Form. This form should be returned directly to the Office of International Relations.  If you have not, please contact us immediately. For more information on processes for Foreign Nationals, visit the OIR website.


Background Checks

SI badges are required for interns who will be onsite for some or all of their internship. Nearly all interns will require SI network access, which provides you with an email account and access to electronic files and internal web resources. 

All interns who require network access and/or an SI ID badge must pass a background check through the Smithsonian’s Office of Protection Services (SOPS). The process will differ depending on whether your appointment is local (DC or NYC) or non-local. The basics of both processes are described here for your reference, but your unit coordinator can guide you through the process. 

Interns who are local to DC or NYC 

When you receive your initial welcome email from your unit coordinator, it should include information on initiating your background investigation. We encourage you to make an appointment with the Personnel Security and ID Office before the start of your internship to speed up the onboarding process for your internship. Due to the ongoing pandemic, all PSIO offices are appointment only. Call (202) 633-1598 to make an appointment. 

When you go to your appointment, be sure to bring a copy of your offer letter, your completed SI-4008 and Background Forms (your Unit Coordinator can provide these), and two forms of ID. If you’re under 18 years old, you also need to bring a release form signed by a parent/guardian. You will be fingerprinted and photographed for your badge during the appointment. Your Mentor and Unit Coordinator will be notified via email when the background investigation is completed. 

Non-Local or Virtual Interns 

If your appointment is at a Smithsonian site outside of NY or DC, or if it is virtual, you will need to be fingerprinted on an FD-258 form.

Take this form to your nearest law enforcement agency, courthouse, notary with fingerprinting authority, or campus protection services office to be fingerprinted. You may also be able to find fingerprinting services at a local UPS or FedEx location. You will then mail your fingerprints, along with your SI-4008 and Background Forms, to our Office of Protective Services. Your Unit Coordinator can provide the forms you need and more detailed instructions for mailing them. 

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