The J-2 visa is a non-immigrant visa for dependents (spouses and unmarried children under age 21) of J-1 Exchange Visitors. Each family member must possess their own Form DS-2019.
Depending on the type of activity, a J-2 dependent may or may not be able to volunteer at the NIH. Permissible volunteer activities for J-2 dependents are ones that are recognized volunteer activities. That is, they are open to any person who wants to volunteer and would not displace a U.S. worker. For example, volunteering with the NIH Clinical Center’s Patient Volunteer Ambassador Program would be a permissible, recognized volunteer activity.
HOWEVER, J-2 dependents can only be “Special Volunteers” at the NIH provided they have received a valid Employment Authorization Document from the USCIS. Special Volunteers do *not* fit the above description because they provide a service to the NIH, such as research services, direct patient care, clerical support, technical assistance, or any other necessary service for the NIH. The NIH receives a benefit from the unpaid service. Such service requires permission to work. See J-2 Employment Authorization Procedures.