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D-Visa: Volunteering/ Charity Work

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Doing good, acquiring new skills and getting to know the country: there are a number of volunteering opportunities in Germany. Even unpaid volunteering is considered employment and you will need a visa or residence permit authorising volunteer work.

Visa-free travel

British citizens do not require a visa or residence permit for short term charity work in Germany. Any visa-free stay in Germany may not exceed 90 days within 180 days and additionally the cumulative days of charity work may not exceed 90 days within one year. This privilege also applies to all other nationals that do not require visas for visits not exceeding 90 days.

In all other cases, a visa or residence permit authorising voluntary service/charity work is required.

British citizens may apply for their residence permits with the local immigration office (“Ausländerbehörde”) after arrival in Germany and without having obtained a visa prior to travelling to Germany. Please note that you need to register your new residence (“Anmeldung”) with the authorities (“Meldebehörde”) within 2 weeks of having moved in and apply for your residence permit with the local immigration office (“Ausländerbehörde”) within the first 90 days of stay in Germany. This privilege is also extended to citizens of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Korea (Republic) and the United States of America. It is important to note that you may only take up employment once you have been issued a residence permit explicitly authorising such employment. British and other citizens privileged as above may also choose to apply for a visa prior to travel, effectively permitting employment from the first day of visa validity.

All other nationalities require a visa prior to travel to Germany.

General Information

Visas may be issued for participants in the official voluntary service programs such as the Federal Volunteer Service (“Bundesfreiwilligendienst”, BFD), the Voluntary Social Year (“Freiwilliges Soziales Jahr”, FSJ) or the Voluntary Ecological Year (“Freiwilliges Ökologisches Jahr, FÖJ). There are slightly different requirements for the European Voluntary Service.

Visas may also be issued for other charity work exceeding 90 days within one year. Please contact us with details at the German Embassy London and the Consulate General Edinburgh.

How to apply for your visa:

1. Complete the online application form, print the form including the barcodes twice and sign both copies (application forms are required for each applicant separately; all children require separate forms).

2. Compile your supporting documentation:

  • 2 printouts of the online application form including barcodes
  • Valid passport signed by the holder, issued within the last 10 years and valid for at least 3 months beyond the validity of the visa applied for. The passport needs to have at least 2 subsequent blank pages.
  • 2 photocopies of the passport biodata page
  • Current UK residence permit (BRP)/ visa (foreign residents only).
  • 2 photocopies of the permit/ visa
  • 2 fully biometric passport photos, 35 x 45 mm, no older than three months. Digitally altered passport photos cannot be accepted.
  • Contract/ arrangement for your voluntary service in Germany:
  • Federal Voluntary Service (BFD) - Your contract must be signed by you and the Federal Office of Family Affairs and Civil Society Functions (BAFzA), as well as the placement department, headquarters and, where applicable, by the institution implementing the voluntary service.
  • Voluntary Social Year (FSJ)/ Voluntary Ecological Year (FOJ):
    Your contract must be signed by you and the respective institution, as well as, where applicable, the placement department.

  • Evidence of sufficient funds to cover your living expenses in Germany
    In most cases your volunteering sponsor will cover the cost of accommodation and board and possibly pocket money. In case the sponsor does not cover your living expenses, we will need to sight evidence that your have perosnal funds to cover your living expenses. Contact us for details.

  • Confirmation of health insurance cover commensurate with the level of statutory German public health insurance (”gesetzliche Krankenversicherung“) - in 2 copies

  • Curriculum vitae in German or English– in 2 copies

  • Personal motivation letter in German or English explaining in detail what motivates you to take part in a volunteering program and what you expect to achieve through this program – in 2 copies

  • Prepaid, self-addressed Royal Mail Special Delivery return envelope (up to 500g) in order to return your passport after processing.
  • Visa fees apply
  • Processing time: For some visa categories, we will require approval by other German government agencies, such as the Federal Employment Agency (”Bundesagentur für Arbeit“) or the local immigration office (”Ausländerbehörde“). If you have previously lived in Germany this will add to processing times, as the immigration office may need to look into your previous immigration record. Once a decision on your application has been taken, we will contact you.

  • In this visa category, based on previous experience most applications will usually be processed within 2 weeks. This also applies to accompanying family members.

  • Although we will provide you with a file number, please understand that we cannot respond to questions regarding the status of your visa application. Should we have any questions or should we require additional documentation to process your application, we will contact you.

3. Book an appointment to apply for your visa.

Where to book your appointment/ apply for your visa:

Please apply directly with the German Mission having jurisdiction for your place of residence

Additional Information

If your application is successful, you will be issued a limited validity entry visa - similar to a UK entry clearance. Once you have arrived in Germany please register your new residence with the local authorities (”Meldebehörde“) within 2 weeks of having moved in and apply for your Electronic Residence Permit with your local immigration office (”Ausländerbehörde“).

Further information on living and working in Germany is available here.

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