Are you interested in volunteering in the U.S.? Students in F-1 and J-1 status may pursue volunteer activities as long as the activity is in compliance with U.S. immigration regulations and labor laws.

Definition of Volunteering

Volunteering is when you donate your services for "public service, religious or humanitarian objectives" for a religious, charitable or non-profit organization (U.S. Department of Labor). Volunteering means you will not receive compensation and you will not be considered to be an employee of the organization. Also, as an F-1 or J-1 student, you may not volunteer your time or talent if other individuals would be paid for doing the same activity.

See this fact sheet to learn about what is considered to be a non-profit organization.

International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) Policy on Volunteering

F-1 and J-1 students are NOT required to obtain work authorization to engage in legitimate volunteer activities. However, it is advisable to get documentation from the organization explaining the nature of your volunteer work. Keep this documentation with your immigration records.

Examples of Permissible Volunteer Work

  • Serving food in a soup kitchen
  • Walking dogs at the humane society
  • Donating blood at an on-campus blood drive
  • Helping to pick up trash on the highway
  • Visiting a senior citizen at a local nursing home

Still Have Questions about Volunteering?

It can be challenging to distinguish between a position for an employee (one who provide a service or provides labor) and a volunteer (one who provides a charitable or humanitarian service). Please contact ISSS if you have questions about whether a particular position qualifies as volunteer work.

Report an issue - Last updated: 12/17/2020