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Can Foreign Nationals Volunteer While Waiting for Work Authorization?

by | Mar 3, 2023 | HR Resources, I-9 and E-Verify, Immigration, Nonimmigrant Petitions

🤔 I’m often asked by employers ….

👉 My employee wants to Do Volunteer Work while waiting for his/her work authorization… CAN WE DO THAT? 

Although volunteer work is essential and good for our communities to thrive because this work makes a tangible impact on the lives of people, animals, and organizations, in the context of the question above, volunteer work is NOT allowed.

The Department of Labor (DOL) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) consider 🚫Unauthorized Volunteering a Violation of the Person’s immigration status, if the individual expects compensation, reward, or future benefit from the work.

For example, the foreign national CANNOT perform work as a volunteer in a position that would normally be a paid position or if the foreign national believes that some form of compensation will follow. USCIS views such volunteering as “work” and it requires employment authorization!

So, is there any Allowed Volunteering?

Yes! 👍 Volunteering is permissible for foreign nationals to participate in as long as no compensation is involved or expected.  

Here are the guidelines to consider: 

✔️The volunteer does not displace a genuine employee.  

✔️The services are entirely voluntary and not the same for which the person was paid or is expected to be paid.   

✔️The services are performed for a nonprofit organization for civic, charitable or humanitarian purposes.   

✔️The opportunity is officially advertised as a volunteer position and there is no expectation of compensation now or in the future for the services.  

If you can answer Yes to all of the above, then the position should be considered volunteering. If you answered NO, then the foreign national and the employer can be subject to heavy penalties for unlawful employment.  

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