Not all activities conducted off campus or with outside agencies require ISSO or USCIS authorization.

In some cases, you may perform unpaid civic, charitable, or humanitarian service for an organization as a volunteer. For instance, you may wish to volunteer for a charity race or public radio fund drive, serve as a member of a nonprofit or cultural organization, or participate in religious service at your church, synagogue, mosque, or temple without receiving any compensation.

Volunteering can be a great way to network in your professional field or to engage with a community of interest, and may be a way to gain valuable experience to enhance your in-class learning.

There are a few guidelines to help you determine if the service you wish to perform is an appropriate volunteer opportunity:

  • I am performing a service for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons.
  • The services I am performing are primarily for the benefit of the organization, not primarily for my professional or personal benefit.
  • I am not receiving any compensation (salary, stipend, etc.) or anything of value (for instance, housing) in exchange for volunteering.
  • I am performing the services without promise, expectation of future employment, deferred payment, or other tangible benefit.
  • I do not hold a role that is usually a paid position and am not displacing a U.S. worker through my volunteered services.

If you have questions about any of these guidelines, contact your ISSO advisor or an immigration attorney before you begin your volunteer role.

Keep in mind that any internship or placement conducted as a curricular requirement (required for your degree or required for course credit) may not be an appropriate volunteer position and may require Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or another authorization, whether or not it is paid.