Volunteers from Overseas

Open up your volunteering opportunities to Non-UK nationals; people who were not born in the UK. This can include visitors, overseas students, refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.

Involving volunteers from overseas will bring much to your group; different knowledge, skills, experiences, enthusiasm, commitment and  drive to be involved, learn new skills , and positively contribute to your activities. It can also be benefit as a means to create links to hard to reach communities, and will make your group more representative of your locality. The development of relationships with individuals can be mutually beneficial to your group and migrant community groups and individuals.

We understand that some people may be hesitant about offering volunteering opportunities to people were born outside of the UK, or are not resident here. This can be due to misinformation and misunderstanding of immigration law and the right to work and volunteer here. However, the good news is that generally you can involve non-UK nationals in volunteering, whether they are resident in the UK or visiting.


Immigration rules, Visitors Appendix 3. Permitted Activities for all visitors

Pt 4: A visitor may undertake incidental volunteering (i.e. the main purpose of the visit is not to volunteer), provided it lasts no more than 30 days in total and is for a charity that is registered with either the Charity Commission for England and Wales; the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland; or the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.

For more information on visa requirements, visit www.gov.uk and search under visa or see the guidance on NCVO which provides and overview on recruiting volunteers form overseas.

Right to work checks

If an individual meets the definition of a volunteer, there is no requirement for them to have the right to work in the UK and therefore no right to work check is required.  – From the Volunteers from Overseas page on NCVO Knowhow.

Refugees and Asylum Seekers

A refugee is someone who has been forced to live outside of their country or home due to persecution and for their safety, they are unable to return.   In the UK, when someone has be awarded refugee status, they have been granted leave to remain. Therefore, there is no restriction on them being able to work or volunteer in the UK.

There is no restriction to asylum seekers being able to volunteer. More information is available in the government publication – Permission to Work and volunteering for Asylum Seekers page 13/14

Refugees and asylum seekers

Volunteering and Voluntary Work

When involving people from overseas as volunteers, or indeed anyone wishing to volunteer, it is important to understand the difference between volunteering and voluntary or unpaid work. This is a legal distinction made by the home office and can have an impact of your volunteers.

Please note, this is not a substitute for legal guide and due to the complexities of immigration law we are unable to give legal advice. To access legal advice, you will need to speak to a registered immigration adviser.