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Can I volunteer under the Visa Waiver Program?

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I want to know if I can volunteer under the Visa Waiver Program. I want to volunteer at a school for 6 weeks. This school has a 501 ©(3) status so it's a nonprofit organization. I won't get any compensation I'm just there to help and support the teachers and students. If I can't use the vwp what visa would I need? It is just 6 weeks. After that I would still spend two weeks there just to visit my boyfriend and travel.

Thanks for your help :)

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Likely you'll need a background check to volunteer in a school and that might take a few weeks to process - have you contacted the school about meeting their volunteer requirements?

good luck


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The school just wants a tuberculosis test and a live scan that is completed there.

Just in addition: I asked the same question at a lawyer forum and a lawyer said:

"Your VW "visitor" admission rules do not allow you to do any "volunteering" activities, whether remunerated or not, since the tasks to be performed in the course of such volunteering undoubtedly constitute "work", whichever way one looks at it.

Consequently, engaging in such activity will in all likelihood constitute a violation of the VW terms under which you were temporarily admitted into the country (without a visa, I might add) and if caught or denounced are sure to land you in removal proceedings with ICE - not even an immigration judge, since when admitted under VW you have "waived" so many of the rights bestowed upon foreigners admitted on regular B-1/B-2 visas, among which your right to be heard by an immigration judge."

I don't understand that because i'm just there to help and it is just for 6 weeks. I don't get anything but a new experience. I even got a letter from school that i can show the border patrol that confirms that i'm just there to volunteer.

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**** Moving from Introductions to Tourist Visa forum as a more appropriate forum where Op can get more answers *****


Bye: Penguin

Me: Irish/ Swiss citizen, and now naturalised US citizen. Husband: USC; twin babies born Feb 08 in Ireland and a daughter in Feb 2010 in Arkansas who are all joint Irish/ USC. Did DCF (IR1) in 6 weeks via the Dublin, Ireland embassy and now living in Arkansas.

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The school just wants a tuberculosis test and a live scan that is completed there.

Just in addition: I asked the same question at a lawyer forum and a lawyer said:

"Your VW "visitor" admission rules do not allow you to do any "volunteering" activities, whether remunerated or not, since the tasks to be performed in the course of such volunteering undoubtedly constitute "work", whichever way one looks at it.

Consequently, engaging in such activity will in all likelihood constitute a violation of the VW terms under which you were temporarily admitted into the country (without a visa, I might add) and if caught or denounced are sure to land you in removal proceedings with ICE - not even an immigration judge, since when admitted under VW you have "waived" so many of the rights bestowed upon foreigners admitted on regular B-1/B-2 visas, among which your right to be heard by an immigration judge."

I don't understand that because i'm just there to help and it is just for 6 weeks. I don't get anything but a new experience. I even got a letter from school that i can show the border patrol that confirms that i'm just there to volunteer.

Voluntary Work

Individuals participating in a voluntary service program which benefits a U.S. local community, who establish that they are a member of, and have a commitment to, a particular recognized religious or nonprofit charitable organization, may be eligible for a B-1 visa or visa free travel under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) if the work to be performed is traditionally done by volunteer charity workers; they will receive no salary or remuneration from a U.S. source, other than an allowance or other reimbursement for expenses incidental to their stay in the United State; and they will not engage in the selling of articles and/or the solicitation and acceptance of donations.

A voluntary service program is an organized project conducted by a recognized religious or nonprofit charitable organization to provide assistance to the poor or the needy, or to further a religious or charitable cause.

If your proposed activities as a voluntary worker are not exactly as described, you will require either an exchange visitor (J-1) or temporary worker (H-2B) visa.

Please Note: When applying for entry into the United States as a voluntary worker with a visa or under the VWP, you should furnish a letter from your U.S. sponsor which contains the following information:

  • Your name and date and place of birth;
  • Your foreign permanent residence address;
  • The name and address of initial destination in the U.S.; and
  • The anticipated duration of your assignment.

Please read the areas highlighted in red to establish if you meet this criteria.

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