Involving Volunteers from Outside the UK

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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.

Visitors from the European Union, EEA and Switzerland

Visitors from the European Union, European Economic Area and Switzerland do not normally need a Standard Visitors visa when entering the UK as a tourist, for visits of up to six months. Such visitors are not permitted to do paid or unpaid work for a UK company or as a self-employed person, however, there is no stated exclusion for volunteering. It should be noted that visitors on a Standard Visa are explicitly permitted to volunteer for a charity for a maximum of 30 days total during their visit and in the absence of clarification from UK Visa and Immigration, it may be prudent to assume that this same limit applies to EU, EEA and Swiss visitors who do not have a Standard Visitors visa.

European Union Member states are:

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

European Economic Area Member states are Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

People coming from outside of the EU, EEA or Switzerland

People who visit the UK on Standard Visitors visas, which usually means as a general tourist 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 providing 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 EEA 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" if 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 EEA 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. Information on this and other requirements can be found on Tier 5 (Temporary Worker - Charity Worker visa).

People coming to the UK on Marriage/Civil partnership visas

People who visit the UK on a Marriage/Civil Partnership visa 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.

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

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'[1] . 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'[1].

Asylum seekers can volunteer whilst their claim is considered without being granted permission to work. It is Home Office policy to support asylum seekers volunteering for charities or public sector organisations. However, this must not amount to engagement as an ‘employee’ or a ‘worker’ and it is the responsibility of the individual and the organisation they are volunteering for to check that such activity does not mean they are working in breach of conditions. The organisation should also undertake all relevant safeguarding checks required. Any personal details provided by the claimant as part of the immigration process cannot be confirmed by the Home Office for use in any other context other than immigration matters[1].

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

To know more about involving refugee volunteers, you can read the top ten tips guidance on Involving Refugee Volunteers.

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.


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