For the UK, there are many reasons to accept foreign individuals into the country. In many cases, there is a requirement for these immigrants to show they are going directly into employment, and to demonstrate that they have useful skills to benefit the economy. However, charity workers also play a valuable role in the country’s welfare, and it’s important that a pathway exists to allow entry for individuals intending to help vulnerable citizens.
The requirements of a Tier 5 Charity Worker visa are very different to most other visas; many of the rules requiring a certain level of salary do not apply, and instead the emphasis is placed on identifying what field the applicant will be volunteering in. Because this type of application is so different from other visas, it’s important that candidates familiarise themselves with its criteria before submitting an application.
This article will cover some of the main issues that applicants for a Tier 5 Charity Worker visa must consider, and highlight the various requirements they must fulfil. Applicants should be sure to refer to the Government’s own documentation on the subject for full details on how and when to apply, which can be found on the Home Office website.
Who is the Charity Worker Visa for?
As the name implies, this visa is targeted towards individuals who will be undertaking unpaid voluntary employment in the UK. Whilst in the UK, it is possible for applicants to undertake work in other fields at the same time as carrying out their primary charity work, but they cannot receive payment for work at any time.
The charity worker visa also has a relatively short lifetime; entrants will only be permitted to remain in the UK for the duration of their employment plus 28 days, up to a total of 12 months. This means that if a role last for ten months, the applicant can remain for ten months plus another 28 days - however, if the role lasts for 12 months, the applicant will not be permitted to remain for an additional 28 days, and their visa will expire.
Much like with applicants who are entering long-term employment within the UK, charity workers will also need to prove that they are intending to fulfill a specific role once they arrive. To do so, they will need to provide a “certificate of sponsorship reference number”, which may be obtained from their employer in advance of submitting their application. This reference number will give details of the role the worker will be carrying out, how long the role will last, and how much they will be paid. This information allows the Government to determine what specific sector the applicant will be working in, and allows them to reach an appropriate decision on whether or not to grant entry.
Charity workers may receive a “multiple entry” certificate of sponsorship, which allows the applicant to leave and re-enter the country during the visa’s term. This can be useful for members of international charity organisations, who may need to visit other countries whilst living in the UK.
Entrants to the UK are typically not permitted to access public funds, and must support themselves. To ensure that immigrants do not enter the UK without sufficient finances to afford food, transport and accommodation, the Tier 5 Visa requires applicants to have held at least £945 in their bank for a period of more than 90 days (this helps prove that they aren’t living day to day, and can afford to save up this sum).
This requirement can be waived in some cases, if the applicant’s sponsor vouches for them. In this case, the sponsor will certify the applicant’s maintenance, and will be responsible for providing them with the necessary support to live in the UK. Of course, as a charity worker the applicant won’t be receiving any income, so it’s vital that applicants have a plan in place for their maintenance whilst in this country.
As with any visa, there are some activities which entrants are not allowed to undertake. In the case of the charity worker visa, entrants are not allowed to receive any payment for any work they undertake, no matter what field they are working in. They are also not permitted to make use of public funds, nor can they take on a permanent job; this reflects the nature of the visa, and highlights its temporary nature.
However, the Tier 5 Charity Worker visa does allow entrants to take on a variety of different roles, working both in their primary capacity as a charity worker but also taking on up to 20 hours of additional unpaid work in a similar role. For instance, a care worker for disabled children could perform similar roles for two different organisations, even if only one is sponsoring them. In addition, charity workers can take on up to 20 hours of unpaid employment in a “shortage occupancy”, a role where there is a lack of skilled UK workers.
Charity workers are permitted to study in the UK during their stay, although students in certain sensitive subjects may need to apply for an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate.
Costs and Timeline
As with most visa applications, charity workers may apply for their visas up to 3 months in advance of the date they intend to begin working in the UK. However, unlike many other visa types, charity worker visas are usually processed within 3 weeks (while most other visas take at least 8 weeks).
If this isn’t fast enough, and a decision must be received as soon as possible, a premium “priority service” is also available, which can provide a decision in just 10 days. This comes at a cost, however, of an additional £500, and is only available to applicants within the UK. A Tier 5 Charity Worker visa costs £230 to apply for, whether the application is made in person or online.