Can You Still Volunteer to Work in the EU 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. As we settle into the post-Brexit era, the upcoming months will be crucial in determining the UK’s position among EU member states. But what will this mean for charities? And what should you be aware of if you’re looking to volunteer in the EU post-Brexit?  

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

We already know that UK citizens will no longer be able to use EU’s fast track passport controls and customs lanes and this will impact the time management of volunteer programmes. Charities are also likely to see changes in their operations as a result of some of the key rulings. 

soft skills positive volunteers

European travel  

As the UK is no longer a member of the EU, British citizens will be classed as third-country nationals, so non-EU traveller rules will apply. But what does this mean for you? For a start, your passport will need to be valid for six months, rather than the length of your stay. If you’ve applied and been accepted to a volunteer project abroad, make sure well in advance that your passport will be in date at the intended time of travel.  

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 will be able to use their EHIC card to access emergency medical support in the EU. If your EHIC card is 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 until a mutual recognition agreement is implemented as part of the Brexit deal. So be sure to double-check this with your charity before you travel.  

why people volunteer

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 The UK joined in 1987, but has now withdrawn as part of Brexit.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.  

Erasmus plus released a statement addressing the status of ongoing volunteering schemes: 

“Participants who study, train, volunteer or spend time abroad through Erasmus+ and ESC exchanges that were successfully bid for during the Erasmus+ and ESC [European Solidarity Corps] programmes (2014-2020) will be able to participate fully and for the full duration of their exchange. This covers UK participants going abroad, as well as international participants coming to the UK.” 

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

Until 1st October 2021, EU, EEA or Swiss National ID cards will be valid for entry into the UK. After this, you’ll need a passport to travel. 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.  

Settled Status

If you are an EU national living in the UK, you will need to apply for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme before 30 June 2021 to stay in the UK, work, study and access the services offered by the NHS.  

Charities are making all current and prospective volunteers aware of the new rules. If you feel you need to apply for settled status, reach out to your charity. Ask to be signposted to organisations that can support you.  

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Keep in regular contact with your charity  

Our main advice is to stay in regular contact with the charity you’re volunteering 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 for a cause you feel passionate about! 


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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