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Volunteering in the UK

Travel Forums Europe Volunteering in the UK

1. Posted by hi8u3ri (Budding Member 8 posts) 7y

hi8u3ri has indicated that this thread is about United Kingdom

First, thanks for all the help I've received from you nice folks before.

I looked online and through these forums but didn't find anything that answered my questions completely....

I am a US citizen that wants to volunteer in the UK for three months, then leave for three months (to be in the Schengen region), then return to the UK to volunteer for an additional three months.

Here is a great website: http://www.volunteeredinburgh.org.uk/volunteer/volunteeringuk.htm

My questions:
1) I know I can visit the UK without a visa for a max of 6 months. Is this 6 months out of a certain time span (like the 90 out of 180 in Schengen)? I wouldn't think I would have 6 months for my entire lifetime. Perhaps I am granted 6 months stay at every visit to the UK, as approved by the border officers? If so, could I just leave after 6 months for a few days, then turn right back around and get in for another 6 months (providing they approve this second visit right after the first)?

2) What, if any, special documents/visas/status do I need to have to volunteer?

From the above website,

The general rule is that non-EU nationals need a work permit to take up "employment paid or unpaid", which includes volunteering. There are separate rules for refugees and asylum seekers (see below). Working holiday makers are permitted to volunteer. Spouses of work permit holders are allowed to volunteer.

The Home Office has made an important concession to the general rule. The concession allows people from non-EU countries to volunteer if certain conditions are met:

  • they volunteer with a registered charity
  • pocket money, board and accommodation may be provided, but no additional remuneration
  • the volunteer's work must be closely related to the aims of the organisation - they should be working with people rather than doing purely clerical, administrative or maintenance work (for which a work permit is required)
  • the volunteer may be allowed to stay in the country for a maximum of 12 months
  • the volunteer must not seek or take paid employment whilst they are here

This would mean I do NOT need a work permit. Also from the site...

Non-visa nationals can apply while in the UK to change their immigration status to allow them to volunteer. Applications are granted under the Home Office concession described above.
Application is made on Form FLR0 obtainable from the Application Forms Unit (0870 241 0645 or www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk (please note the on-line form is available as a PDF document). of the Immigration and Nationality Department. Applicants need a letter from the organisation they are volunteering with and evidence of funds. In January 1998 it was taking anything from 1 – 12 weeks to process applications.

In other words, I will absolutely, positively need to have an immigration status that lets me volunteer? Any ideas on the cost to change my immigration status? I know there are charity workers and religious workers (tier 5). Is this what the immigration status is refering to?

So, if anyone has any insight into this matter, any help would be appreciated! Thanks!
-Jon

2. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 7y

1) AFAIK you are granted 6 months every time you enter the UK.

2) Your immigration status is the condition on which you entered the UK.

As a US citizen entering the UK visa-free you are entering as a tourist. So tourist is your immigration status. You need to change this status to "non-profit worker" or "volunteer" (or what ever the Brits call it).

I would be very careful with this, there are some statuses which cannot be changed. I would also check with the UK authorities whether the information on the website above is still current, there was a major change in the UK immigration rules in Dec 2008. (Note the sentence on the website: In Janurary 1998...) Start by digging through the Homeoffice website.

[ Edit: Edited on 29-Jul-2009, at 23:52 by t_maia ]

3. Posted by hi8u3ri (Budding Member 8 posts) 7y

Thanks for the reply.

1) Any ideas if the UK folks care how often I take advantage of their 6 month limit? In other words, do you think it would be a problem to visit for three months, leave for three, then return for another three?

2) I think I understand better now. My thoughts are...I do not need a visa, I do not need a work permit, but I will need to have an immigration status that allows me to volunteer.... http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/workingintheuk/tier5/charityworkers/ I will be double checking this with the homeoffice and perhaps a few volunteer places. Any firsthand experience would be helpful though. (I wonder if they would even care too much if my immigration status is tourist and I do volunteer work? Probably so, and I don't want to do things that are not honest.)

4. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 7y

1) Well, if you stayed in the UK for 6 months, went to France for 1 day, got back and then stayed again for 6 months you would have to answer a lot of questions to the immigration authorities. But 3 months in the UK, 3 months inside the Schengen area and another 3 months in the UK should be fine.

2) I like your attitude.

Reading through the link you gave:

You can apply under the charity worker category now if you are:

  • applying for permission to enter the United Kingdom (known as 'entry clearance') under the charity worker category;

....

Switching is not allowed in or out of the charity worker category.

Go to our visa services website if you are applying from outside the United Kingdom. There you can find out more about the process in the country you are applying from and download the application forms.

So it looks like you need to apply while you are still in the USA. IIRC you can do that online through the Visa Agency website.

http://www.ukvisas.gov.uk/en/howtoapply/infs/inf27pbstempworker

And one little problem that I found:

How long can you stay?

If you are given permission to stay as a charity worker, you will be able to live and work in the United Kingdom for a maximum time of 12 months, or the time given in your certificate of sponsorship plus 28 days, which ever time is shorter.

If you have to apply while you are still in the USA you'll need to get a letter of sponsorship that covers you even during your 3 months inside the Schengen Area. Else you are screwed, you'd have a problem going back to your volunteer work for the second 3 months.

[ Edit: Edited on 30-Jul-2009, at 00:55 by t_maia ]

5. Posted by hi8u3ri (Budding Member 8 posts) 7y

t_maia, I read the part that says "Switching is not allowed in or out of the charity worker category."

I don't know what to think about that statement because in a different link (http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/workingintheuk/tier5/charityworkers/applying/whenandhowtoapply/), it has options for applying outside the UK AND from within. Obviously, to apply from within the UK as a charity worker, I'd already be in the country without the charity immigration status. I'll be checking with my volunteer organization to see what they do with "certificates of sponsorship". I am also considering doing a helpx.net stay for a few weeks....this is more difficult since these are mostly just individual families and not registered charities. I'll let you know what I find out!
-Jon

6. Posted by hi8u3ri (Budding Member 8 posts) 7y

Just for the record, I am hoping to volunteer with at least one "official" organization, and perhaps also volunteer with individual places/farms through helpx.net and wwoof.org. I do not know that there will be a difference here as volunteer work is volunteer work (I think). I know laws have recently changed. A friend's brother was denied entry into England because he did not have a work permit, or some sort of other document. He was going through helpx.net. Just some thoughts!

7. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 7y

Obviously, to apply from within the UK as a charity worker, I'd already be in the country without the charity immigration status.

No.

You cannot switch your immigration status from tourist to charity worker.

So to apply from within the UK you need to be in the UK as a charity worker already, with a valid permit to work as a charity worker that is about to run out.

If you are getting this permit to work as a charity worker for the first time you need to apply in your current country of residency, the USA.

A friend's brother was denied entry into England because he did not have a work permit, or some sort of other document. He was going through helpx.net. Just some thoughts!

That is exactly what is going to happen to you if you don't apply for the charity worker visa in advance.

8. Posted by karlkroger (Budding Member 4 posts) 7y

What if you're volunteering for a week, a month, 3 months--when can you just volunteer and when do you need the charity worker status?

9. Posted by mojorob (Moderator 1047 posts) 7y

Quoting karlkroger

What if you're volunteering for a week, a month, 3 months--when can you just volunteer and when do you need the charity worker status?

You already have a thread going on this, located here.

10. Posted by fabyomama (Respected Member 560 posts) 7y

It's like a sickness isn't it. Zombies at every door.

Probably shouldn't have said that.

[ Edit: Edited on 15-Aug-2009, at 07:46 by fabyomama ]