Regulations regarding voluntary work vs volunteering

International Students

Regulations regarding voluntary work vs volunteering

Are you an international student at Keele?

Did you know that there are certain regulations regarding your Visa and getting involved in volunteering?


There is a difference between unpaid employment (voluntary work) and volunteering, and you should always check with the organisation which offers you a volunteering opportunity whether it can be regarded as unpaid employment. This is because the time you spend doing unpaid employment counts towards your maximum number of hours of work a week.

Students with a work prohibition must be particularly careful not to undertake work that could be regarded as unpaid employment. Taking unpaid employment would be a breach of your work prohibition and is treated very seriously by the Home Office - your immigration permission will be curtailed (cut short), you could be removed from the UK and you will have difficulties returning. If in doubt, do not undertake the work.

The Tier 4 policy guidance confirms that Tier 4 students can volunteer and explains how the Home Office differentiates between 'voluntary work' and 'volunteering'. For example, volunteers do not have a contract and are not paid, though reasonable travel and living costs can be reimbursed. Volunteers usually help a charity, voluntary organisation or public sector organisation.

To help understand the difference between Volunteering and Voluntary Work here is a useful guide.

  • If you have a Tier 4 Visa it should be ok for you to volunteer during term time but there is a limit of 20 hours per week. This limit is for 20 hours of work and includes both voluntary and paid work.

  • If you have a short-term student visa, you can volunteer but not carry out voluntary work. Please see the handbook for more details of what this means to you.

For more information about KeeleSU Volunteering please read the Guide Booklet below.

Volunteering International Student Guide 2016 Click here for the International Student Volunteer Guide


This is not a definitive explanation of international student volunteering. For more information please look on the UKCISA website or the UK Government website.