Nonprofit organizations frequently depend on the service and commitment of volunteers as well as labor of employees. At first glance, the simple difference between these two types of workers is that employees get paid and volunteers do not. International students and scholars cannot accept paid/unpaid positions without approved work authorization. Although, volunteering may appear simple, it can be very complex and could have many pitfalls that could result in risking the international student or scholar’s immigration status. The U.S. Department of Labor regulations govern legal volunteering and enforce sanctions for violations of regulation. The information below will explore the definitions of employment versus volunteering and what factors the U.S. Department of Labor may use to determine valid volunteer status.
Employment is an agreement between an employer and an employee that the employee will provide certain services on the job in return for compensation. At the employer’s designated workplace, the employee will facilitate the accomplishment of the employer’s organization’s goals and mission.
A volunteer is defined as a person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task without pay. Under section 3(e)(4)(A) of the FLSA and 29 C.F.R. 553.101 and 553.103, United States Department of Labor defines volunteers as individuals who volunteer or donate their services, usually on a part-time basis, for public service, religious or humanitarian objectives, not as employees and without contemplation of pay, and are not considered employees of the religious charitable or similar non-profit organizations that receive their services. These individuals are not taking the place of regular paid employees.
Students who meet the following criteria are eligible to work as a student