Volunteer in the United States
Home > North America > United States | Written by Brina Patel | Last updated on 11th Jan, 2023.
When people imagine the United States, they often think of the glitz and glam of Hollywood. Or of the hustle and bustle of New York City. The U.S., though, is far more nuanced than most would believe. It’s a land of dreamers, most of whom have started anew from other countries. The United States manages a fine balance between ethnic enclaves and cultural melting pots, creating a society that has a rich and vibrant heritage.
If you volunteer in the United States, you will get a taste— both literally and figuratively—of this nation that’s anything but a monolith. From its multitude of languages, climates, and regional differences, the U.S. has something to offer for everyone, no matter your interests or ambitions.
We’ve put together this guide that will take you through the steps necessary to volunteer in the United States. It’ll answer any questions and ease lingering worries you may have.
Steps to volunteering in the United States
The United States is comprised of 50 states, 14 territories, and a federal district (District of Columbia). Its total population is 328 million, with California being the most populous state and New York City being the most populous city.
Hot dogs and fast food burgers stereotypically come to mind when one hears 'American cuisine'. However, the culinary scene in the U.S. is diverse as the inhabitants themselves. In most parts of the country, one can find Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Italian food. The southern states are known for 'soul' food, which is influenced by the African American community and consists of dishes such as fried chicken, black-eyed peas, and cornbread.
The U.S. is home to 63 stunning National Parks. Yosemite, Zion, and Yellowstone are among the most frequented National Parks in the U.S., and offer a wealth of outdoor activities.
Touchdown! American football is the most popular spectator sport in the U.S.
The United States is home to over 45 million immigrants, higher than any other country. Spanish, the Chinese languages, and Tagalog are most commonly spoken after English.
When and where can I volunteer in the US?
The United States is home to myriad climates, ranging from tropical beachy areas to mountainous highlands. In addition to seasonal weather changes, you may also want to take factors like heat waves (common on the west coast) and hurricanes (common in the southeast) into account. Spring and autumn tend to provide cool to mildly warm weather in many parts of the country, and aren’t subject to dramatic temperature patterns.
You can volunteer in one of many states in the U.S., from the lush islands of Hawaii to the rustic farmlands of Texas. We have opportunities scattered throughout the country, so you’ll have no shortage of possibilities to choose from.
Volunteering opportunities available on HelpStay
There are plenty of options when it comes to choosing a project that suits your interests. Here are the main categories:
Can I volunteer for free in the US?
You can with HelpStay as none of the volunteer opportunities listed in the United States charge fees.
In exchange for your volunteer efforts, you will receive free room and board. Your host provides a comfortable place for you to stay and will serve you healthy meals.
Is it safe for a solo female traveler?
Women traveling solo will feel safe in the U.S. Of course, one should always take precautions, such as avoiding being outside alone after dark and keeping valuables close to oneself while taking public transportation.
Is it safe to volunteer as a person of color?
Most definitely! People of color can safely volunteer in the United States. While the mainstream media depicts race relations as a contentious topic in the country, be assured that in the majority of places, one is welcomed and treated with kindness. No matter the color of their skin.
Can I volunteer with kids, as a family?
If you are traveling with kids, you needn’t worry.
Several of our hosts accommodate families with children. When looking at a project listing, check the tab that says 'What else?' -- you’ll see whether or not that specific host accommodates families.
Are older volunteers welcome?
Absolutely! Given that you are able, you can volunteer at any age. Volunteering can be a great hobby for retirees and older individuals.
Can volunteer work be considered an internship?
Volunteer work can be akin to an internship in that it provides concrete, real-world experience in a given field. For those looking to build their repertoire or boost their resumé, volunteering is a superb way to accumulate desired skills.
Here you'll find specific opportunities that we offer, that are structured as volunteer work, but are deemed internships.
Can a foreigner volunteer in the United States?
Of course! Foreigners and U.S. citizens alike are welcome to volunteer in the United States.
Do I need a visa to volunteer in the United States?
Citizens of most countries will need to obtain a B-2 visitor visa in order to enter in the United States. These visas are valid anywhere from 1 month to 10 years, depending on your nationality, and often allow multiple entries. Each entry allows for a maximum stay of up to 6 months.
If you are from one of these 39 countries, you can apply for the Visa Waiver Program, which allows stays of up to 90 days. Canadians and Bermudians do not need a visa to volunteer in the United States.
Keep in mind that HelpStay is not paid work nor a paid volunteer program. HelpStay is an educational and cultural experience, and helpers are the guests of their host. The United States has strict labour and immigration laws prohibiting foreigners to "work" without a proper visa. If you say you are coming to ‘do volunteer work’ and you do not have a work visa, immigration officers will likely not let you in.
Also, note that when you enter the United States, you cannot enter as a ‘Helper’ since this term could be misunderstood by immigration officials. So be aware of this important distinction: as a helper, you are a tourist, not a worker nor a volunteer. HelpStay is not responsible for any problems you may encounter with immigration.
Health, Safety, and Covid-19
To prioritize your utmost safety, it’s wise to secure travel insurance before your trip. In case unexpected predicaments arise, this will provide peace of mind in knowing that you are covered. SafetyWing is the insurance partner we prefer.
Information surrounding Covid-19 is constantly changing. You can find recent data surrounding Covid-19 in the United States at this link.
Building your profile & writing your volunteer application.
After you’ve become a member, you can fill out the 'About You' section of your dashboard. Here’s what to include in your profile:
A photo of you.
Where you hope to go.
When you plan on traveling.
Projects that interest you.
Information about you -- Here’s where you’ll want to make a strong impression. Focus on your attributes and talents!
Once you’ve entered all of these fields, you can message hosts. Messages with potential hosts are important, because they’ll allow hosts to get an idea of who you are. Be respectful and courteous.
These tips will make your application stand out:
Fully read the host’s listing so you’re aware of expectations.
Clearly communicate how long you’d like to stay. State your availability, and whether your intended dates are flexible.
Express why you’re drawn to this specific host’s project.
Share any sorts of activities and outings you’d like to do when you’re not helping with the project.
Talk about special skills or talents of yours that qualify you for this particular project.
If you have any food restrictions, list them.
Getting there and backup plans
You can book your flight to the U.S. after you’ve found your host. The United States has an abundant amount of airports, so you’ll find it easy to fly to your destination, or the city closest to it. Though many bigger cities have public transportation, suburban and rural towns rely largely on cars to get around.
It’s important to have something to fall back on, in the event that your original plans don’t play out as expected. Our volunteer abroad guide explains why it’s imperative that you have a backup plan.
Explore available opportunities