Updated: May 2
The fact that you're reading this Guide is a step in the right direction. You're new to the US or probably not. But you've heard from plenty of individuals, Instagram influencers, Job & Life Coaches and others that one of the best ways to gain some experience in the US is to volunteer for a non-profit. You could also always choose to volunteer just because you want to. The fact is, almost everyone asks you to volunteer but no one ever tells you where & how to find a volunteering opportunity. And that's precisely why, we've created this Guide.
There are plenty of dependents here in the US who are waiting for their spouse' i-140 to be approved. Until that happens, the dependent is usually tied to their homes with all their education and degrees and a long gap in employment for no fault of their own.
So, while you wait for the eventuality of legally working in the US by acquiring a Work Permit, it's better to volunteer at certain non-profits that gives you some amount of the elusive "US Work Experience".
Note: Of course, you can also just volunteer because you care about a cause and it could haven nothing to do with your Visa status.
You can also watch the Full Video on Volunteering on our YouTube channel. Please do subscribe to it if you find it helpful.
USCIS views on Volunteering
Before we move and share a list of great Volunteering options, it is always good to understand how and what is viewed as Volunteering by the USCIS. It is always better to know this lest you get in trouble for minor technicalities.
"A foreign national cannot perform work as a volunteer in a position that would normally be a paid position or if the foreign national believes that some form of compensation will follow.
The USCIS views such volunteering as “work” and requires proper employment authorization issued by that agency.
This specifically includes volunteering by a foreign national for a trial period leading up to compensated employment.
(A)n applicant for a change of status may not offer his or her services to a prospective employer, even on a volunteer basis.
The employment is unauthorized as long as the alien derives any benefit from it."
Long story short, you cannot work as a volunteer if you intend to eventually be hired by the same organization that you volunteered for and you can also not volunteer if you're making any money out of it.
As such, according to the USCIS, "As long as no compensation is involved, and the opportunity is officially advertised as a volunteer position, the foreign national may participate".
Top 10 Volunteering Websites in the US:
If you were to Google "Volunteering opportunities near me", you'd get 100s of links and 1000s of options which may or may not lead to decision paralysis and further confusion.
So, we've made that job easier for you.
The below list is collated and curated after speaking to multiple people who've tried volunteering before you as a Dependent in the US.
So below are the Top 10 Volunteering Websites for Dependents in the US:
One of the best websites out there. As the name suggests, Volunteer Match shares with you, Volunteering opportunities based on your current location. It filters volunteer roles based on different categories such as Education, Arts & Culture, Animal Care and more. It also allows you to check out various virtual volunteering opportunities.
Their website says, "Points of Light Engage pulls volunteer opportunities from sites around the web to provide the most comprehensive database of volunteer opportunities around the world. Individuals can search for volunteer projects, nonprofits can post and manage event sign-ups, and visitors are invited to start projects of their own – all in one place".
One of the best websites that helps you find volunteering projects based on your strengths. It matches professionals with a particular skillset to non-profits in need of the skills set. A win-win for both. Virtual options are available as well
JustServe is helpful for those looking for a short term volunteering opportunity. You can just enter your zipcode and you'll be shown multiple opportunities from different organizations that are looking for volunteers either for a a single day, a few hours to may be a week in some cases
DoSomething.org is a youth led movement for good. It is best for those looking to help the youth trying to make a positive impact. There are multiple campaigns that are listed and you can select form those. What's more, you will also get a certificate from them for having taken part in a campaign. You can also create a campaign for a cause that you're passionate about.
For those interested in construction or interior design, this is the best option for volunteering out there for you. The fact that this is a globally recognized organization is also an added bonus.
Habitat for Humanity helps in building houses for underprivileged people across the United States and around the world.
It offers you opportunities to build near your location, within the state / country and even globally.
Create the good connects you with volunteer opportunities to share your life experiences, skills and passions in your community based on your skills, location and experiences. It was created to expand on the traditional volunteer position, understanding that a standard volunteer opportunity isn’t a fit for everyone.
It is a volunteer website that focuses on early childhood development and education. It is best for those looking for structured programs that helps poverty-stricken children aged 3-6 years.
While most opportunities here are for College Students in their College Corps program, there are still plenty of Community Corps program established that allows adults to work with these underprivileged kids
Shot for South Asian American Leading Together (SAALT) is a non-profit that works towards multiple causes that impacts the 5.4 million South Asians in the United States.
Over the years, they've formed NCSS - National Coalition of South Asian Organizations, that provides support to, organizes, and advocates on behalf of South Asian communities.
As a non-profit, from time to time they need volunteers to forward their cause. Check out all the organizations in the NCSO, state-wise and the links to them here:
The good thing about Taproot+ is that involves an interview round. As silly as it may sound for a volunteering opportunity, the positive side of this is that it prepares you for interviews when you're finally looking or jobs with your work permit.
Non-profits post their projects in the database, while volunteers post their resumes and apply for specific projects. Both parties participate in an interview process prior to collaborating on a specific project. Role categories include: business planning and development, HR and leadership development, marketing and communications, and IT. Issue areas include animal rights, arts, legal services, community development, education, environment, health, housing and homelessness, human rights, social services, veterans and youth development.
Now that you have all the information that will help you find great volunteering opportunities across the country, what are you waiting for?
Also, if this blog has helped you in any way, please share it with as many people as possible. The good that you share with the world comes back to you in some form or the other.