Alice is an asylum seeker with her EAD pending renewal with 179 days of unauthorized work under her belt total. Bob is a recipient of the labor or service of Alice.

Is she entitled to engage in labor or provide a service (for e.g. cleaning, shopping for groceries, transporting with a vehicle from A to B etc.) based on a contract strictly for no remuneration of any kind may be provided and will not be accepted with entire agreement and written-amendments-only clauses, and allow — but not stipulate as a prerequisite for the service or labor — labor or service recipients to leave a tip?

Is such a contract achievable that would withstand inquiries for removal or deportation on the grounds of violations of employment and similar laws or is the law established in a way that under no circumstances could any such or similar contract allow effectively for free no-strings-attached service and/or labor provision of Alice and also to accept any non-obligated tips from Bob?

Does it make a difference if Alice regularly engages in such labor or provision of services although predominantly to a different person each time?

If not, what laws would prevent acceptance of such tips? (For e.g. could this be considered panhandling, soliciting etc.) Presume all ancillary laws are followed and complied with (for e.g. paying taxes since Alice had been already provided a social security number etc.)

Alice, if wasn’t hypothetical, would greatly appreciate it!

  • 2
    Not enough for an answer, but if Alice worked for free but received enough tips to constitute a living wage, authorities would probably consider this to be the wage for paid employment snd respond accordingly.
    – Patrick87
    Dec 11, 2021 at 19:57
  • Thank you! That is obviously the concern, but is this decided? Or is there statute that rules in such a strict way? Would you be able to give any cites?
    – Kashtben
    Dec 11, 2021 at 20:09

2 Answers 2


If Alice receives nothing in return for doing the work, there is no contract, as consideration has not been provided. See the canonical question about what a contract is and requires.

If Alice receives anything in return for the work, this is income from employment and, because nobody asks this question unless they're trying to circumvent restrictions on whether they can be employed, it is almost surely illegal.

Alice would do well to consult a lawyer on exactly what they could do to earn permitted income, and in the mean time avoid jeopardising their refugee status by doing things they are not permitted to do.



  1. Without consideration, there is no contract.
  2. In most jurisdictions, people who work must be paid the minimum wage for the job. Unpaid workers are only permitted in very narrow circumstances such as educational internships or when volunteering for charities.
  3. This fails the duck test. Immigration authorities and courts are interested in what things really are, not what duplicitous people say they are. If this came to light, Alice would be on the next flight home.
  • Couldn’t Alice undertake whatever those duties as the subject of a unilateral contract in privity with and by the acceptance of Bob?
    – kisspuska
    Dec 11, 2021 at 22:25
  • @kisspuska without consideration on both sides there is no contract. Alice can do things for Bob and vice-versa but neither is legally obligated to fulfill their promises. Once there is a quid pro quo we have a contract even if that quid pro quo is “secret”. And we also have a visa violation.
    – Dale M
    Dec 12, 2021 at 0:37
  • “[A]n unqualified right to modify or terminate the contract is not enforceable[;] the fact that one party reserves the implied power to terminate or modify a unilateral contract is not fatal to its enforcement, if the exercise of the power is subject to limitations, such as fairness and reasonable notice." (Cobb v. Ironwood Country Club (2015) 233 Cal.App.4th 960, 183 Cal.Rptr.3d 282) (internal citations omitted) implied therein is the legal obligation to generally be bound by the non-quid pro quo contract
    – kisspuska
    Dec 12, 2021 at 1:12
  • There isn’t necessarily a visa violation, INA allows a 180 days of work without a work permit, and if Alice truly is willing to carry out services under each a contract without expecting that each or all of them would provide anything in return, than it is no more then a mutual declaration that nothing will be construed as a quid-for-pro contract but only such that imposes duties on Alice. If she walks away without a tip, I think she not violating labor law more than Uber would try to circumvent them. I don’t see how the government can prohibit free labor or the acceptance of a tip.
    – kisspuska
    Dec 12, 2021 at 1:15
  • And I’m not sure if “duplicitous” is the right way to describe someone who’s willing to undertake labor for free in hope maybe those receiving services will throw a buck or two at them in tips. A massive class action by ASAP on USCIS don’t giving a crap about reasonably processing renewals has been filed a few weeks ago. In a half-decent country not providing either a temporary right to work or shelter and alimentation would be equivalent to refoulerment, but the U.S., of course, doesn’t have to undertake the basics of international law about asylum. Most immigrants would simply work without.
    – kisspuska
    Dec 12, 2021 at 1:40

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