US students often ask about volunteering opportunities while in the UK. If you have a Tier-4 Visa you may work or volunteer. If you are a student visitor you are now able to volunteer for clearly-defined periods of time. From the UK government website‘s Immigration Rules Appendix 3:
- 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.”
You may find the guidance provided on the UCL’s Student Union page to be useful in explaining what does, or does not, constitute volunteering as opposed to unpaid work, which is treated differently.
Every hosting university Students’ Union has information on local opportunities, and often a dedicated officer or coordinator. Most universities designate certain times of the year to run intensive charity RAG [Raise and Give] programmes.
Many universities have mentoring programmes that place university students in schools to help younger students with homework.
University alumni clubs in the UK or the Cornell-Brown-Penn Centre can sometimes help identify contacts.
* Please note that there are background checks for anyone wanting to work with vulnerable groups such as children, asylum seekers and the elderly. Look into getting a background check in the US before coming to the UK. There are many volunteering opportunities that do not require such checks. References are sometimes necessary, so some organisations (e.g. hospitals) are unlikely to be able to offer volunteer places to students who are in the UK for less than six months.
London students will have the opportunity to engage with their older neighbours at events run by North London Cares, ask Bianca for more details.