Volunteering is a great way to participate in your community and help people where there is need. Students in valid F-1 status may engage in volunteer activities, as long as the activity is in compliance with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s and the U.S. Department of Labor’s regulations.
Volunteering refers to hours of service performed for a non-profit organization for “civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons, without promise, expectation, or receipt of compensation for services rendered.” (U.S. Department of Labor).
If you plan on volunteering, please remember that you cannot receive any form of compensation or payment from your volunteer or internship activity. If the volunteer activity is a position for which an employer would otherwise officially hire someone, you cannot volunteer in that same activity.
Volunteering should not exceed 20 hours per week while school is in session. We recommend that students wishing to engage in volunteering seek the guidance of their International Student Advisor before engaging in the activity.
An unpaid internship is different from “volunteer” work. For an unpaid internship you must receive Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization.
If you are engaging in bona fide volunteer activity, it is advisable to get documentation from the organization explaining the nature of your work. You should keep this with your other immigration records (such as your previous I-20s, etc.).