Internships, Volunteering, and Unpaid Work

Internships, Volunteering, and Unpaid Work

Overview and Background

Many international students want to do an internship or volunteer while they are in the United States. The U.S. has specific immigration and labor laws that apply to internships and volunteering, and it is important for international students to be aware of and comply with these laws to protect their immigration status. In considering opportunities for volunteering, working, gaining experience, and employment, F-1 and J-1 can take the following steps to ensure they are protecting their immigration status:

  • Carefully consider both immigration law, labor law, and all the factors that define employment.
  • Obtain proper authorization to engage in employment before beginning employment. Any off-campus employment for F-1 or J-1 students must be authorized. Without proper work authorization, off-campus employment would be considered a violation of your F-1 or J-1 requirements.
  • Obtain and keep documentation of the nature of the work opportunity and proof of work authorization that corresponds to the period of the work experience.

Remember, F-1 and J-1 students must be specifically authorized in writing before engaging in any off-campus employment. Without proper work authorization, off-campus employment would be considered a violation of F-1 or J-1 requirements with serious, negative consequences. Consult OIS to find out if the opportunity you are considering may be considered employment and require work authorization before engaging in the opportunity.

Immigration and Labor Laws

Volunteering

Internships

Unpaid Work