More than 50% of Warwick Volunteers’ members are international students because volunteering is an excellent way to experience the UK.
Volunteering brings with it many benefits, to the local community and to you – the volunteer. It can be a valuable experience for you personally and professionally, helping you to:
- develop your skills,
- meet new friends,
- get to know the community around campus,
- improve your wellbeing and
- do something worthwhile.
Warwick Volunteers will make it as easy as possible for you to volunteer, but you do need to be aware of some important legal issues:
Volunteering and Visa restrictions
Please be aware that some volunteering activity is subject to visa restrictions, and it is your responsibility to ensure that you adhere to these.
If you have the right to work in the UK without restriction then you will be able to volunteer.
If you have the right to work with restrictions, for example Tier 4 visa
You can volunteer while you are studying. However, if you have a limit on the number of hours you can work you need to be aware of the UK Border Agency's definition of 'voluntary work' which is distinct from 'volunteering', see below for an explanation. Hours of voluntary work (not volunteering) must be counted in the total number of hours permitted.
Warwick Volunteers does not run any volunteering opportunities which would be classed as ‘voluntary work’. Our voluntary opportunities help local charities, community organisations, voluntary or public sector organisations. We will not ask you to sign a contract and offer a variety of programmes requiring different levels of commitment from volunteers. We aim to ensure that all of the volunteering opportunities which we advertise in our Newsletter meet the definition of 'volunteering' but these advertisements are for opportunities external to Warwick Volunteers projects so if you are in any doubt, please contact Warwick Volunteers or Warwick's Immigration Service team before starting.
For further information, please refer to the Working Alongside Your Studies, Important Information for Tier 4 visa holders available in hard copy from the Immigration Service team or online from the link below:
If you do not have the right to work, for example short-term Student visas (formerly 'Student Visitor') holders may volunteer while in the UK provided that you:
- do not have a contract of employment
- do not take the place of an employee
- do not receive payment (travel reimbursement and/or subsistence allowance is permitted)
- do volunteer to help a charity or voluntary or public sector organization
The difference between 'volunteering' and 'voluntary work'
Tier 4 students can volunteer while they are studying but must be careful as voluntary work is distinct from volunteering. Hours undertaking voluntary work (not volunteering) must be counted in your weekly permitted working hour allowance (according to your Tier 4 conditions.)
Factors to take into account when considering if a particular activity constitutes voluntary work or volunteering are:
- Voluntary workers will usually have contractual obligations to perform the work (e.g. to attend at particular times and carry out specific tasks) with the employer being contractually required to provide the work - the contract does not have to be written
- A voluntary worker is usually remunerated in kind (for example, getting free or highly discounted accommodation while working)
- Volunteers do not have a contract, they must not be a substitute for an employee and must not be doing unpaid work - for example, receiving payments in kind (although they can sometimes be reimbursed for reasonable travel and subsistence expenses)
- Volunteers usually help a charity or voluntary or public sector organisation
In the UK, some roles volunteering with children or vulnerable adults require the volunteer to have a background check on their criminal record. As part of the safeguarding process for a role which requires a background check (Disclosure and Barring Service check, often shortened to DBS check), you will be sent an e-mail directing you to the Online Disclosures form.
For roles which require a DBS check, volunteers are also required to provide the equivalent of a DBS check from all countries where they have lived for 6 months or more in the last 5 years. Each country gives a different name to this process, with common names including ‘Certificate of Good Conduct’, ‘Certificate of no criminal conviction’ and ‘National Police Check’. The process for applying for one of these checks is different in every country. For more information on country-specific processes, please visit the Certificate of Good Conduct page for more information.
It can take up to three months for checks to be processed, so you are advised to apply early. You should request that the certificate is issued in English if possible and if not, obtain a translation from an official translation company.
You must safely retain the original copy of your Certificate of Good Conduct, it if valid indefinitely as a record of your good conduct for the period you were living in that country. Warwick Volunteers does not keep a copy.
Please keep your receipts, if you are charged for the Certificate of Good Conduct or translation, so we can reimburse you.
What do our international student volunteers say?
Being far away from my family has been extremely hard for me. Getting back into volunteering gives me joy that can decrease the amount of loneliness I'm feeling
I gained confidence in talking to people of different ages and from different background
Insight into a new career path that I now want to embark on!
Understanding of the British culture, interpersonal skills, new friends, relief from homesickness
I have met people from other countries
Volunteering has really helped to boost my self-esteem as well as my CV
It's been a thoroughly enjoyable experience
I made a lot of friends who are outside of my course. Volunteering has enriched my university experience
I met new and link-minded people, I was able to develop my teaching and presentation skills, and became more confident overall