Can an International Student Work as a Volunteer?


If you are an international student wondering if you can work in the U.S. as a volunteer, the answer is yes, you can! Anyone in the U.S. can perform volunteer work as long as it is truly voluntary. Volunteer work means you will be providing a service without expecting and receiving any monetization for it. Although, working without receiving compensation does not necessarily mean voluntarily work. For example, an unpaid internship is not considered volunteer work.

International students are not allowed to work off campus without authorization. All exchange students must know the regulations in order to avoid violating any laws. If an international student works without prior permission, they are in breach of a condition of their visa. Participating in such unauthorized employment is considered working illegally.

Before you consider a volunteer position, make sure it meets the U.S. Department of Labor rules for volunteering. Some of the rules are as follows:


  • You are providing an entirely voluntary service

You are not obligated to perform any work and you have no legal obligation to the employer.


  • You are providing volunteer work for a nonprofit organization

You are providing service for nonprofit organizations and not for profit companies. A typical volunteer position can be to help the local community such as shovel the walk or rake leaves, collect clothes and give to the shelters, participate in a cleanup day at a beach, get involved in a civic cause or charitable activity, etc.



  •  You will not be receiving a pay check in exchange of your service

You should not expect or receive any payment in exchange for your service and time. You could receive money to cover some expenses, such as food or transportation, but that is totally up to the employer.



  • You are not working full-time hours

Volunteers should work on a part time basis and never perform the same work as a paid employer with regular hours.



Do you have any question? Let us know in the comments below.