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Voluntary work

Voluntary work

Old Aug 9th 2011, 12:14 pm
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Question Voluntary work

I'll be moving over on an H4 visa in October. I haven't worked full time since I had my children but I do a lot of voluntary work with a breastfeeding support charity (the Breastfeeding Network) and within that I support mums in clinics and do home visits as well as training peer supporters and health professionals.

I'm aware that it's not likely I'll be able to continue in this line of work (I'll be outside my insurance cover by working outside the UK for a start!) but I'd really like to continue to do some sort of voluntary work. Is this possible on an H4 visa? I can't imagine it would be a problem but I'm aware of how careful immigrants need to be to maintain their status and I don't want to do anything to jeopardise that.
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Old Aug 9th 2011, 12:26 pm
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Default Re: Voluntary work

Hi there, I did a lot of volunteer work with the MS Society and Salvation Army while I was waiting for my work permit to come through, I came over on a K1 visa. I explained my visa status to both organizations and they didn't ask for further information regarding my visa.

Volunteermatch.org is a helpful website and will give you an idea of the volunteer opportunities in your area.
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Old Aug 9th 2011, 12:47 pm
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Default Re: Voluntary work

Theres a very big breastfeeding commuity over there, I think its the LLL but might be getting mixed up. There is one over there that Im sure would appreciate the help. Have you tried contacting them?
We intend to volunteer and I hear alot of expat wives do to stop the boredom and to meet people.
good luck with it!
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Old Aug 9th 2011, 3:22 pm
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Default Re: Voluntary work

True voluntary work is allowed, soup kitchen, animal shelter, that kind of stuff.

Any position where someone might be paid, such as helping out at a charity shop, wouldn't be.

The onus is on you to stay legal, especially if you have any long term plans to stay in the US.
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Old Aug 9th 2011, 4:08 pm
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Default Re: Voluntary work

Originally Posted by Bob View Post
True voluntary work is allowed, soup kitchen, animal shelter, that kind of stuff.

Any position where someone might be paid, such as helping out at a charity shop, wouldn't be.

The onus is on you to stay legal, especially if you have any long term plans to stay in the US.
Why might you get paid to volunteer in a charity shop? Is it different than here then?
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Old Aug 9th 2011, 4:09 pm
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Default Re: Voluntary work

Originally Posted by gypsygirl View Post
Theres a very big breastfeeding commuity over there, I think its the LLL but might be getting mixed up. There is one over there that Im sure would appreciate the help. Have you tried contacting them?
We intend to volunteer and I hear alot of expat wives do to stop the boredom and to meet people.
good luck with it!
Yes LLL is very big here.
http://www.llli.org/webus.html
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Old Aug 9th 2011, 4:22 pm
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Default Re: Voluntary work

Originally Posted by gypsygirl View Post
Why might you get paid to volunteer in a charity shop? Is it different than here then?
Not everyone that works in a charity shop is voluntary, some do get paid, some volunteer.

You don't want to be in a situation where there is any confusion, because it would likely be considered "work".

The UK is no different in that regards...not all those folks in Oxfam are voluntary, some of them are paid staff and paid quite nicely.
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Old Aug 9th 2011, 5:16 pm
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Default Re: Voluntary work

Originally Posted by Bob View Post
Not everyone that works in a charity shop is voluntary, some do get paid, some volunteer.

You don't want to be in a situation where there is any confusion, because it would likely be considered "work".

The UK is no different in that regards...not all those folks in Oxfam are voluntary, some of them are paid staff and paid quite nicely.
My kids volunteer here and dont get paid. So do you think getting it in writing that you are not getting paid would cover you? Its something we will probably look into again.
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Old Aug 9th 2011, 6:46 pm
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Default Re: Voluntary work

Originally Posted by gypsygirl View Post
My kids volunteer here and dont get paid. So do you think getting it in writing that you are not getting paid would cover you? Its something we will probably look into again.
If it's a position someone would normally get paid for, even getting it in writing that you aren't getting paid is not going to cover you.

You can't do any work for which someone else would normally get paid.

If NO one ever gets paid for that position, then you can do it for no pay.

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Old Aug 9th 2011, 6:50 pm
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Default Re: Voluntary work

I think people are getting a bit anal about all this 'volunteering can be construed as working' worry.

Does anyone actually know of anyone who has been penalised in some way through any kind of volunteering?

I know that it's not unusual for H4s to do all kinds of stuff that is kind of borderline.
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Old Aug 9th 2011, 7:32 pm
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Default Re: Voluntary work

Try looking up your local CASA - Court appointed special advocates - for children.
A great volunteer organization that appoints volunteers to work with children in the fostercare system.
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Old Aug 9th 2011, 7:34 pm
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Default Re: Voluntary work

Originally Posted by Elvira View Post
I think people are getting a bit anal about all this 'volunteering can be construed as working' worry.

Does anyone actually know of anyone who has been penalised in some way through any kind of volunteering?

I know that it's not unusual for H4s to do all kinds of stuff that is kind of borderline.
I assume they would have to prove you had an income from it to be able to retract your visa? If you werent getting paid then they couldnt. People would have to pay for someone to do a job that needed doing, if they couldnt get any volunteers anyway. I think it must be common sense.
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Old Aug 9th 2011, 7:58 pm
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Default Re: Voluntary work

Originally Posted by Elvira View Post
I think people are getting a bit anal about all this 'volunteering can be construed as working' worry.

Does anyone actually know of anyone who has been penalised in some way through any kind of volunteering?

I know that it's not unusual for H4s to do all kinds of stuff that is kind of borderline.
Whilst pottering around on the H4, chances are probably nothing will come of it.

Down the line, going for greencard and/or citizenship, that's when it'll likely come to bite you on the butt.
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Old Aug 9th 2011, 8:00 pm
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Default Re: Voluntary work

Originally Posted by gypsygirl View Post
I assume they would have to prove you had an income from it to be able to retract your visa? If you werent getting paid then they couldnt. People would have to pay for someone to do a job that needed doing, if they couldnt get any volunteers anyway. I think it must be common sense.
There is no common sense to this.

It's not about you getting paid or not.

It's not about if some folks volunteer for free or not. If the charity do have paid staff doing that work alongside volunteers, you can't do it as you aren't work authorised.
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Old Aug 10th 2011, 5:46 am
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Default Re: Voluntary work

Just one word of caution, some places you might want to volunteer at might insist on a background search and in order to do that insist on a SSN (which you won't have on an H-4). I had a couple of places turn me down for that, just because it messed with their policies. Might apply to you seeing as you might be working in an area where I can see them possibly wanting a background check.
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