Can a foreigner volunteer in the USA?

Group at home construction community service project, portrait
As long as you're not being compensated for volunteering, you shouldn't need a work visa to volunteer.
Paul Burns/Photodisc/Getty Images

While working in the United States can be difficult for a foreigner, volunteering is usually pretty simple. Forget the hassle of work visas. As long as you aren't being compensated for your volunteer work, you shouldn't need one. Many volunteer positions will require that you speak at least enough English to take instructions, but beyond that, there are options for pretty much anyone with the desire to volunteer.

If you're simply looking to help in your neighborhood, just about all communities have local organizations that are looking for volunteers. Whether they serve food to homeless people or rescue animals, you can lend a hand. The easiest way to find one of these organizations is through the local chamber of commerce but you can also check with local schools and places of worship.


If you're interested in something bigger in scale, there are a number of national organizations that are constantly in need of volunteers. One such organization is the American Red Cross, which responds to emergencies like natural disasters. This agency's goal is to alleviate suffering and prevent it when possible [source: American Red Cross]. It's also well known for collecting blood. If you want to volunteer with the Red Cross, you can visit the Web site and fill out a small form. You will be required to complete a training course before you can volunteer.

Another national organization that's making a difference is Habitat for Humanity. With nearly 100 million people in the United States who have housing problems, Habitat's mission is to provide them with decent, affordable housing [source: Habitat]. You can help by swinging a hammer, carrying lumber or organizing a building project. Habitat is always looking for volunteers of all skill levels. If you don't mind a hard day's work, this might be right up your alley.

Of course, these are just a few suggestions. The opportunities for those who wish to volunteer are endless. You can find a volunteer opportunity that's right for you by visiting All you have to do is enter your interests and location. Based on those factors, you will be provided with a list of volunteer opportunities specifically suited for you. A similar Web site is It requires the same information, but it searches a slightly different database so you may find a few different opportunities.

At the end of the day, you don't have to be a U.S. citizen to volunteer in the United States. All you need is time and the desire to help others.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • American Red Cross. "About Us." (Accessed 5/26/2009)
  • Habitat for Humanity. "Volunteer opportunities at Habitat for Humanity International Headquarters - USA." (Accessed 5/26/2009)
  • Serve. "Welcome!" (Accessed 5/26/2009)
  • Volunteer Match. "Find a Place to Volunteer." (Accessed 5/26/2009)