Monday, March 29, 2010

Can I do internship/volunteer work in dependent status?

A very frequently asked question is whether the dependent spouse of a nonimmigrant can do an unpaid internship or volunteer work. The spouse is commonly in H-4 status, which does not allow for independent work authorization. 

My view is that you cannot volunteer in H-4 status if your position would normally be a paid position or if you are providing services to a US company for a benefit. The benefit might not be money; it could be career opportunity, vocational experience, useful contacts, free products, etc. You could volunteer at a museum, perhaps, or homeless shelter, but generally not in a for-profit business. Many people ask if they can do unpaid internships, for example, and this is generally not permitted.

CIS has taken the view, in a different context, that volunteer work is that which, for example, is done without any expectation of compensation, where the volunteer did not require free goods in exchange for volunteering (nor were they offered), and that the volunteer would have performed the services regardless of whether he or she were to receive free products.


  1. This is interesting. What about Universities?

  2. Thank you for this post, it cleared things up quite well.

    What do you advise for dependent students who are applying for an unpaid internship position through their university's intern program (for college credit, not money)?

    I would be so grateful if you could answer.
    Thank you!