Confused About Volunteering in the UK for Non-UK Nationals?
We often get queries from people from outside of the UK who want to volunteer, or from organisations who’ve been approached by people from outside the UK who want to volunteer. This includes students, refugees and asylum seekers, as well as tourists and people in the UK waiting for their marriage to a UK national.
The answer, unfortunately, isn’t as straightforward as we’d like, so we thought we’d post Volunteering England’s Accepting Volunteers From Overseas to provide clear, written guidance.
Involving volunteers from outside the UK really depends on where the volunteers are from. Within the EU is no problem (with the exception of Romanians and Bulgarians – unless they have a work permit); outside of the EU can unfortunately sometimes be a barrier to volunteering (depending on the visa they have).
If, after reading the Volunteering England document, you’re still unsure then your best bet would be to contact the UK Border Agency.
Here’s a few key points to highlight:
‘Generally there should be no problem with an organisation accepting someone from outside the UK as a volunteer, but the individual must ensure that immigration rules allow them to do so.’
Refugees and asylum seekers
People who have refugee status or who have exceptional leave to remain, and their family members, are allowed to volunteer.
Asylum seekers are allowed to volunteer with
- registered charities;
- voluntary organisations; and
- bodies that raise funds for either.
Coming to the UK to work for a charity on an unpaid basis
If an organisation wants to engage a volunteer or unpaid worker from outside the EU, it will need to apply to become a ‘sponsor’ organisation. This means the organisation will be licensed to issue certificates of sponsorship for their workers.
Volunteering in addition to the central purpose of the stay
If someone is already in the UK and wants to volunteer they must check their own visa or entry clearance conditions to ensure they are allowed.
However, someone who is in the UK on a visitor or student visitor visa is not allowed to volunteer. Someone on a student visa should be allowed to volunteer, although there may be restrictions so they should check the conditions.
It is important that individual volunteers take responsibility for ensuring they are allowed to volunteer, because they could jeopardise their immigration status. If in doubt they should contact the UK Border Agency for advice.
Remember, if you’re an organisation you can also contact our Best Practice Manager, Rupal by email or phone 020 7424 9990. She is able to provide guidance on this and all best practice queries.