There is a very fine line between work and volunteerism as defined by Labor and Immigration laws and statutes. This is an extremely complicated issue for International students, as their visa status can be impacted if something they are doing for free is considered work under one of these laws. To ensure each International student is maintaining their visa status, any volunteer work performed by an F-1 visa holder that is not school sponsored, must first be reported to the International Student Services Office. Students need to e-mail the name of the volunteer site and the nature of the assistance the student is providing at least 1 business day prior to beginning any project.
The Federal Statute 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(9)(ii)(A) places strict restrictions on employment for F-1 visa holders, and per guidance from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), those who violate those restrictions by working off campus without the prior proper authorization are in violation of their visa status and shall have their record terminated from the Student & Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). To be certain that no international student is violating this statute, those wishing to participate in any volunteer opportunity, either off campus or within UNT Health, will need the permission of the International Student Services Office to do so. Any international student found violating the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) or SEVP regulations regarding employment, is also then in violation of the Student Code of Conduct, which states that students are subject to discipline if found violating federal, state, civil or criminal laws or city ordinances. (4.B.11) As such, students will be subject to a disciplinary hearing and/or SEVIS record termination for each perceived violation.
“Volunteer” means 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. (29 CFR§553.101)
- Work. “Work” means time spent “in physical or mental exertion (whether burdensome or not) controlled or required by the employer and pursued necessarily and primarily for the benefit of the employer and his business” is considered work and must be paid in accordance with the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the FLSA. If a non-resident alien is providing a service normally provided by a paid employee, then the activity is considered work, even if no financial payment is made to that alien.