Volunteering as an International Student

Volunteering can help you build skills and connections and is a beneficial way to gain valuable Canadian work experience, especially for international students. 

International students need to be mindful that some volunteer opportunities may be considered “work”, based on Canadian immigration law and regulation, and therefore require proper work authorization, even if they are unpaid positions. See below for more. 

What is "Work"?

“Work” is defined in the Regulations as an activity for which wages are paid or commission is earned, OR that competes directly with activities of Canadian citizens or Permanent Residents in the Canadian labour market. 

Work is any activity that: 

  • You are paid to do, or
  • You are not paid to do but is a job that: 
    • You would usually be paid for, or 
    • Would be a valuable work experience for a Canadian citizen or Permanent Resident (for example, an unpaid intern). 


Pay includes money or commission: 

  • An employer gives you, 
  • You receive for a service, or 
  • You receive for any other activity. 


International students are advised to learn and understand the concept of “work” in Canada and ensure they have proper work authorization prior to entering into any employment agreement with employers. 


Please check Work while Studying page for detailed eligibility requirements and allowable hours for off campus work. 

Some examples of volunteering opportunities that are not considered as “work” and do not require work authorization: 

  • Volunteering to take a friend to a doctor or a disability center. 
  • Unremunerated helping of a friend or family member during a visit. 
  • Participating in events organized by local charities or non-profit organizations, such as helping with fundraising events, community clean-ups, or awareness campaigns. 
  • Offering voluntary assistance at religious or spiritual organizations by participating in community outreach programs, helping with events, or contributing to community service projects. 
  • Joining volunteer initiatives focused on environmental conservation, such as tree planting, park clean-ups, or wildlife preservation activities.