What is the Volunteer Visa?
The Volunteer Visa grants successful applicants permission to come to Ireland and work in a voluntary role for more than 90 days. It’s a type of Irish long stay visa. You can only apply for a volunteer visa if you get a suitable role from an eligible organization in Ireland.
With a volunteer visa, you can stay in Ireland for up to a year. You can extend the visa duration for an extra year if you’re not done working. The visa allows you to travel out of Ireland for short periods. Furthermore, you can change your sponsoring organization during your stay.
If the volunteering role you’re filling is for less than 90 days, you can’t apply for a volunteer visa. Instead, you’ll apply for a short-stay visa. The Irish volunteer visa also has its limits. You cannot work in any paid position, no matter the kind of work.
Also, you must have enough funds to support yourself as you won’t have access to any state benefits or public services. You can only change your sponsor once in 12 months, and you can’t sponsor your family members to come to Ireland.
Volunteer visa holders can’t stay in Ireland for more than 2 years. You also cannot change your immigration status. If you have stayed for up to 2 years, you’ll have to leave the country. But you may be able to extend for another year in exceptional circumstances.
Conditions of the Volunteer Visa
You must meet several requirements to qualify for the volunteer visa, which include:
- You must not be an EU/EEA or Swiss national
- You must be at least 18 years
- You must have a volunteering role offer from an eligible Irish organization
- You must have the necessary qualifications for the volunteering role you want to fill
- You must show that you can meet your financial needs, or that the organization sponsoring you will handle your finances throughout your stay
- You must provide a recent police clearance certificate or equivalent. The report shouldn’t be more than 3 months old
- You must have medical insurance with an authorized Irish company throughout your stay. This company must be authorized by the Health Insurance Authority
- You must have the necessary clearance to work with children and vulnerable adults if your volunteering role involves them
Eligible forms of volunteering work
Sectors that qualify for volunteering work in Ireland includes:
- Arts, heritage & culture activities
- Religious and faith-based support activities
- Health support services
- Education and youth services (outside of school)
- Sport and physical recreation
- Welfare and work for the community good
There are up to 3,000 volunteering opportunities in Ireland. Aside from the above sectors, you can also become a volunteer in any non-paid work that benefits the society and yourself.
The organization sponsoring you also has to meet some requirements to be eligible. This includes:
- The organization must be a not-for-profit, non-government body, charitable, or voluntary body.
- The organization must have active presence in Ireland
- For charitable organizations, they must feature on the Charities Regulator’s Public Register of Charities
- For sports organizations, they must have a national governing body recognized by Sport Ireland
As a volunteer, your sponsor is responsible for your conduct during your stay in Ireland. They’ll work with the immigration authorities to ensure that you don’t stay in Ireland longer than you should. Also, your sponsor can withdraw your sponsorship at any time if directed by Irish immigration authorities.
Required documents for Volunteer Visa application
Having complete documentation is very important when applying for a long stay volunteer visa. You’ll have to provide all or most of the following documents.
- Current international passport and all other previous passports
- Sponsorship letter from the Irish organization sponsoring you
- Online application form
- Signed declaration
- Two passport size photographs
- Evidence of fees payment
- Your full bank statement for the past 6 months
- Your sponsor’s bank statement for the past 6 months
- Documents to prove that you have the qualifications to fill the volunteering role
- Police clearance certificate from your resident country that’s not more than 3 months old. Also, you can provide a clearance certificate from any other country you’ve resided in for the last 3 years
- Documents to prove that you’re qualified to work with children and vulnerable adults if your work requires them.
- Proof of medical and travel insurance
If you have any previous visa refusals or deportation history, in any country, you should provide the documentation too. It may affect the success of your application if the immigration authorities find out themselves.
The first step of applying for a long stay volunteer visa is by completing the AVATS online application form. It’s advisable that you apply for your visa early, at least 3 months before your intended travel date.
After filling the application form, you have to print the summary page as confirmation and also the declaration document which you’ll sign. Both are vital supporting documents. You must provide only genuine details in your application. The Irish immigration authorities can ban you for 5 years if you provide false details.
The next thing to do is to pay the application fee and submit all supporting documents. You must submit your supporting documents within 30 days after completing the AVATS online application. If your application is approved, you’ll get a Long Stay D visa (Volunteer) stamp in your passport.
You can travel to Ireland after getting the visa. Before traveling, however, endeavour to check that your visa is void of error. As mentioned earlier, volunteer visas are valid for one year with option to extend to another one year. However, you must enter Ireland within 6 months of getting your visa. The visa will expire if you don’t use it to travel within 6 months.
Keep in mind, however, that the visa alone doesn’t grant you permission to enter Ireland. Upon arriving in the country, you must present your visa to an immigration officer; you should bring your supporting documents too.
You can only enter Ireland if the immigration officer approves of your visa. If you’re cleared, the immigration officer will stamp a landing stamp in your passport. Getting clearance to enter Ireland also doesn’t give you automatic permission to live in the country.
Hence, after entering the country, you have to register and get an Irish Residence Permit (IRP). This permit makes you a lawful Irish resident. You must register for a residence permit before your landing stamp expires. With an IRP, you can travel out of Ireland and return on short trips.
The following visa fees may apply when applying for a volunteer visa:
- Long Stay ‘D’ Visa: €60
- Visa single entry (valid for 90 days): €60
- Visa multiple entry: €60
- Irish Residence Permit (IRP) fee: €300
Some additional charges may apply especially for submitting your documents. You’re exempt from paying application fees if you’re a national of an Irish Short Stay Visa Waiver Programme country.
How can IAS help?
If your application to volunteer on a long-term basis in Ireland has been declined, IAS is here to help. If you’re on the look out for the advice of an immigration lawyer, our team of specialists are better.
Our immigration team have extensive experience when it comes to appealing decisions, often succeeding in achieving desired results.
It may be that your initial application did not provide sufficient supporting documentation or that there were minor inconsistencies – whatever the issue, we can assess the decision and advise you on how to proceed from there.
To find out more about our immigration services, call us on 0333 305 9375.
Last modified on August 8th, 2023 at 3:45 pm
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Yes. For that, the new sponsor will write a letter of sponsorship and you have to pay the €50 processing fee. Next, you submit the letter to the immigration. Changing sponsors doesn’t extend your stay in Ireland. Volunteering in Ireland is normally limited to 2 years, regardless of how many times you change sponsors.
You can apply for a one year extension of the usual two-year period. It must be for your current sponsor, not a new one, and they must show proof of genuine need for your service.
They’ll have to write a new sponsorship letter which you’ll submit to the immigration authorities along with supporting documents.
If your visa application is denied, you’ll get a mail/letter explaining why. The denial letter will also state whether you can appeal the decision. In some circumstances, you can’t appeal. An example is if you provide misleading or fake details in your application.
If you can appeal, you will need to provide documentation to counter the decision of the immigration authorities. You must make your appeal within 8 weeks of getting the denial letter. No fees apply.
In your appeal letter, you must address all reasons as stated in the refusal. You must submit your appeal in hard copy; emails or faxes are not accepted.
If you will be working with children or vulnerable adults, you must have a recent clean police record and clearance by An Garda Sochána.