Involving Volunteers from Outside the UK

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Key Points

Using information from UK Visas and Immigration, this article will help you when considering whether you can involve a volunteer who is not from the UK. The situation surrounding migrants into the UK is complex and the information contained here is given as a general guide. If you need more guidance you must check with the UK Visas and Immigration.

European Union Members

Citizens of European member states are able to volunteer within the UK. The member states are as follows:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden (and the UK).

People coming from the European Economic Area

There are no restrictions regarding volunteering for people who have come from the European Economic Area or Switzerland. While in the UK, EEA nationals are free to volunteer if they wish.

Members of the EEA are those citizens from the EU plus citizens from Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

People coming from outside of the European Economic Area as "general visitors"

People who are here in the UK as general visitors, which usually means on a general tourist visa for up to six months, are free to do incidental voluntary work (ie the main purpose of the visit is not to volunteer) while they are in the UK, provided it lasts no more than 30 days in total and is for a registered charity.

It is also worth being mindful of best practice in paying volunteer expenses and not provide any in-kind benefit (meals, small payments etc) as this can potentially lead to a breach of national minimum wage legislation.

People coming from outside of the European Economic Area as Tier 4 Students.

People who are in the UK on a Tier 4 Student Visa are permitted to do volunteering.

Please note that the guidance covering Tier 4 Student visas unhelpfully talks about "volunteering" and "voluntary work" with different rules applying to each definition. Most volunteering as defined in Volunteerwiki should be considered as "volunteering" ie there is no contractual obligation for the 'volunteer' to undertake an activity and the 'employer' is not contractually required to provide the work. However if you need further guidance please go to UK Visas and Immigration.

People from outside the European Economic Area entering specifically to do voluntary work.

Non-EU/EEA nationals can apply to come to the UK specifically to do voluntary work. They do this under Tier 5 (Temporary Worker - Charity Worker) points based immigration system.

Before someone can come to the UK to volunteer under Tier 5 they must have a "Certificate of Sponsorship" from their Sponsor. Their Sponsor will be the Charity or Voluntary Organisations for whom they will be volunteering. Any Sponsor organisation must be licensed as such and therefore will be registered with the Home Office.

Please note that there are other requirements such as the individual having to have sufficient funds to support themselves and information on this and other requirements can be found on Tier 5 (Temporary Worker - Charity Worker visa.

Refugees and Asylum Seekers

People who are in the UK seeking asylum are permitted to "give their time for free to charitable or public sector organisations". Please, bear in mind that "volunteering can be undertaken at any stage of the asylum process but such activities must not interfere with scheduled events such as a substantive asylum interview, regular reporting event or re-documentation interview".

There are conditions and you should check Permission to work and volunteering for asylum seekers.

Getting Specific Help

This article has been produced to help answer the most common situations regarding volunteers who are not UK Nationals. It cannot cover every eventuality and if you are in doubt you should visit UK Visas and Immigration.

More help?

If you would like more help or advice please contact Volunteer Edinburgh on 0131 225 0630 or email: hello@volunteeredinburgh.org.uk
Or you can drop in and see us:
Volunteer Edinburgh
222 Leith Walk, EH6 5EQ