This information is meant for MIT international students. It is for general informational purposes only. If you are an MIT student and you have further questions about travel and your visa status, please contact the International Students Office and arrange to talk with an International Student Advisor.

Federal regulations significantly limit the opportunities for international students to pursue employment in the United States. Any work related activity, on- or off-campus, paid or non-paid, will require appropriate authorization before beginning the activity.



The U.S. Department of Labor defines a volunteer as:

An individual who performs hours of service for a public agency for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons, without promise, expectation or receipt of compensation for services rendered, is considered to be a volunteer during such hours. DOL 553.103 (pdf)

The Fair Labor Standards Act Advisor further states:

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, are not considered employees of the religious, charitable or similar non-profit organizations that receive their service. (

Examples of volunteering may include providing your time and service to a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, being a registered in an established volunteer program at a hospital, or giving your time to your church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or similar religious entity.

Any activity or service that does not meet the above definition of volunteering is considered employment with respect to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and requires appropriate authorization as specified within our employment webpages listed above.

Please contact your ISO advisor if you have questions or concerns before beginning a volunteer activity.


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