Can You Still Volunteer in Europe Post-Brexit?

3 minute read

Whether you’re itching to get back to volunteering with migrants in Greece or feel heartbroken at the humanitarian crisis in Syria, you’ll want to clue yourself up on how Brexit might affect your travels.

So what should you be aware of if you’re looking to volunteer in Europe post-Brexit?


What does the Brexit deal mean for UK volunteers in Europe?

UK citizens are no longer able to use the EU’s fast track passport controls and customs lanes which may impact the time management of volunteer programmes. Charities are also seeing changes in their operations as a result of some of the key rulings.

soft skills for volunteers

European travel  

As the UK is no longer a member of the EU, British citizens are classed as third-country nationals, so non-EU traveller rules apply. But what does this mean for you?

If you’ve accepted to a project to volunteer in Europe, make sure your passport was not issued more than 10 years before your arrival in an EU country, and make sure the expiry date is more than 3 months after your intended day of arrival back in the UK.

And what about healthcare? 

Your healthcare entitlement under the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) differs in selected European countries so you should take out sufficient health insurance before travelling.

As part of the Brexit agreement, UK residents are able to use their EHIC card to access emergency medical support in the EU. If your EHIC card has expired, you can apply for a new Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC).


Professional qualifications 

As a skilled volunteer, your professional qualifications may not be recognised by EU member states. This will depend on whether they match up with the host-country’s rules surrounding professional requirements. So be sure to double-check this with your charity before you travel.  

volunteering in Europe post-Brexit

The UK’s withdrawal from Erasmus

Erasmus is an EU exchange programme which combines all the EU’s current schemes for education, training, youth, and sport. It creates a pathway in and out of Europe for students and volunteers. The UK joined in 1987 but has now withdrawn as part of Brexit. It has introduced the Turing scheme instead, which allows students to study and work abroad on a more global scale.


What does the Brexit deal mean for EU volunteers in the UK? 

As a result of Brexit, EU nationals will no longer be able to enter the UK under free movement arrangements. UK immigration rules for volunteering consist of the following: 

“A visitor may undertake volunteering provided it lasts no more than 30 days in total. It should be 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.” 

Immigration rules

You’ll need a passport to travel to the UK. In addition to this, you’ll need to provide proof of funds to cover the duration of your visit and a return flight. If you’re doing unpaid volunteering for a charity, you will need to apply for a Tier 5 Charity Visa through a registered volunteering provider to work in the UK.  

volunteer leader

Keep in regular contact with your charity  

Our main advice is to stay in regular contact with the charity you’re volunteering in Europe with. Keep asking questions if there are any areas that you’re unclear about. While some regulations have changed, there are still plenty of opportunities available. So don’t let Brexit stop you from volunteering in Europe for a cause you feel passionate about!

Still looking for the perfect volunteering opportunity? Take a look at what’s currently on offer here.


This post was originally published by the author in 2021 but has been fully updated by CharityJob to ensure relevance and to reflect the current job seeker experience.


Keith Tully

Keith Tully is a partner at Real Business Rescue, a reputable service provider of business turnaround services with an extensive network of offices across the UK. Keith advises distressed company directors on restructuring measures to renew company health.

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