Information for Asylum Seekers and Refugees

It is now possible for those currently going through the asylum seeker process to volunteer their time with charities, fundraising organisations and public sector organisations such as the council or the NHS.

Why Volunteer?

Volunteering means spending your time to do unpaid work in the community for the benefit of others. There are many reasons people choose to volunteer:

  • To get to know your new community
  • To reduce isolation and meet new people
  • To keep active
  • To develop new skills, knowledge and experience
  • To enhance your CV
  • To keep your skills active
  • To help an organisation that has helped you
  • To be involved in a cause you are passionate about
  • To gain confidence and self-esteem
  • Try out a new career
  • Understand a new culture
  • Practice your English skills

Before you Start

  • There is a difference between volunteering and voluntary work.
  • Volunteers are not paid for the work that they undertake and are not covered by employment rights.
  • Voluntary Workers are employees who are covered by employment rights but are exempt from being paid. The main example of voluntary work is in internships.
  • Asylum seekers are only permitted to undertake volunteer opportunities and not voluntary work.
  • You will not be paid to be a volunteer, however, money that you spend during the course of your voluntary work will be repaid- these are called expenses and can be paid to cover travel costs, food you have to buy whilst at your voluntary position, any equipment you have to buy to volunteer and, sometimes, childcare costs incurred whilst volunteering.
  • There should be no contract for a volunteer, so you are not required to continue volunteering once you start and can quit at any time.
  • You can only volunteer for a registered voluntary or charitable organisation or a public organisation such as Stockton Borough Council.
  • Volunteering can be done at any point of the asylum process but any activities must not interfere with any appointments or regular reporting or documentation that you have to do as part of your asylum claim.
  • Some voluntary opportunities require a DBS background check. For asylum seekers and refugees this can take longer than for a resident and can often interfere with an opportunity being started. If getting a DBS check may become a problem it is always best to talk honestly with your volunteering coordinator as an alternative might be available.

Useful Links

For more information on volunteering and the benefits system take a look at these websites: