Volunteering in Ireland

Permission to be a volunteer allows you to work in Ireland in a volunteering role with an eligible organisation for up to 2 years (with an option to extend for a third year), subject to the conditions below.

Do not apply for this permission if you will stay in Ireland for less than 3 months.

Please note: You will not be permitted entry to the State for the purpose of working as a ‘long stay’ Volunteer by an Immigration Officer at the Border unless you can produce the appropriate preclearance approval letter.

1. About this permission

The initial permitted period of residence under this Scheme is 1 year (12 months) and the maximum is 2 years (24 months). You may, for example, spend 24 consecutive months in the State or break the period into two separate lots of 12 months each, separated by time. If you are currently in the State on this permission, transitional arrangements will apply. Please see the policy document for further details.

You must apply for immigration preclearance to enter the state as a Volunteer before you travel to Ireland. Please note that an applicant must be resident outside the State when making an application for permission to come to work as a Volunteer for a period longer than 90 days. Proof of residence outside the State may be requested, and the applicant must remain outside the State while their application is being processed. You will not be permitted entry to the State by an Immigration Officer at the Border, for the purpose of working as a long stay Volunteer, unless you can produce a Preclearance Approval Letter.

 

Permission to be a volunteer in Ireland allows you to:

  • Work in a volunteering role with an eligible organisation
    • Your role must match the criteria for volunteering described below
    • The organisation must match the criteria for eligibility described below
  • Stay in Ireland for 1 year initially, up to of 2 years (with an option to apply for an extension for a third year)
  • Apply to change the organisation you volunteer for once in any 12 month period
  • Travel abroad for up to 90 days e.g. for a vacation, conference etc., subject to re-entry visa requirements where applicable
 

With this permission you cannot:

  • Do paid work of any kind
  • Bring any family members with you to Ireland
  • Apply to change your immigration status while in the State
  • Change sponsors more than once in any 12-month permission period while in the State under this Scheme
  • Rely on public services or claim any state benefits e.g. health services, education
  • Spend more than two years on aggregate volunteering in the State
 

If your application is successful, you will be granted permission based on immigration stamp 3.

2. Eligibility and conditions

Who can apply

You are eligible for permission to be a Volunteer if you:

  • Are aged 18 or older
  • Are a non EU/EEA and non-Swiss citizen
  • Have been offered volunteering work by an eligible organisation
  • Can be fully supported financially for the entire duration of your stay by the organisation that is inviting you to Ireland
  • Are qualified and able to do the activities expected of you
  • Are of good character and good standing, e.g. you can provide a police clearance certificate or equivalent not more than 3 months old
  • Are cleared to work with children and vulnerable adults (if necessary for your role), e.g. you can provide a child clearance certificate from An Garda Síochána (this can be obtained by your sponsor prior to your arrival in Ireland)
  • Have medical insurance from a company authorised by the Health Insurance Authority of Ireland to cover you for the duration of your stay

 

Volunteering work you can do

The work you do as a volunteer must be a structured activity that is undertaken:

In an approved sector, including (but not limited to):

  • Arts, heritage, culture
  • Out of school education and youth services
  • Religious and faith-based support activities
  • Health support services
  • Sport and physical recreation
  • Welfare and work for the community good
  • For no financial gain by you and for the benefit of society, while also bringing benefits to you as a volunteer

3. Who can you work for

You must be invited to Ireland by an eligible organisation. An eligible organisation may be either:

  • A non-governmental, not-for-profit, voluntary or charitable body that is already established and active in the State and listed on the Charities Regulator’s Public Register of Charities or
  • A sports organisation that is already established and active in the State and whose national governing body is recognised by Sport Ireland

The eligible organisation that invites you to Ireland is your ‘sponsor’. Your sponsor has important obligations and is responsible for you in several ways Sponsorship also means that the eligible organisation undertakes to cooperate with the immigration authorities to ensure that the volunteer leaves the State on the expiry of his or her permission, or if directed to do so by immigration authorities, by withdrawing the sponsorship. Failure to cooperate with immigration authorities in this regard will impact on future sponsorship by that eligible organisation. Before you apply, your sponsor must send you a sponsorship letter and supporting documents. You must submit these documents as part of your application. You will not be granted permission if you do not have sponsorship from an eligible organisation, or if you are sponsored by an organisation that does not match the criteria above.

 

Other requirements

 

Clearance to work with children /vulnerable adults

You must be in possession of a clean police record (documentary evidence, including a current (not more than 3 months old) criminal records check and police clearance certificate from your home country or certified English language translation of a criminal records check and police clearance certificate.

You must be, where the work demands it, cleared to work with children and vulnerable adults (verification will be required). This has to be sourced locally in Ireland through An Garda Síochána and you will not be permitted to work with children and vulnerable adults until such clearance is received.

Medical Insurance

You must be covered by private medical insurance, from a company authorised by the Health Insurance Authority for the duration of your time in the State. Your sponsor may include you in their group insurance scheme. Travel insurance may suffice but only during the first year of your stay provided it covers you:

  • For the full period before you arrange private medical insurance
  • At a minimum of €25,000 for accident and €25,000 for illness and disease and
  • For any period of hospitalisation
  • In addition, it is advisable that applicants have insurance to cover repatriation in the event of serious illness or unforeseen events.
 

4. Fee

A non-refundable fee of €100 applies to this application and must be paid in full at the time of the Preclearance application. The fee must be paid by Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT). The bank details for EFT are set out on the application form. When making any transfer please take into account potential bank charges and currency exchange rates. To avoid additional bank charges, or exchange rate fluctuations, you may wish to make an arrangement with your sponsoring organisation in Ireland for them to make payment on your behalf from within Ireland, and for you then to submit evidence of this to the Preclearance Unit. Other fees, including a fee in respect of a visa if applicable to you, and a registration fee, may also apply.

Non-EEA Nationals requiring an Entry Visa

If your Preclearance application is successful, you must then apply for a visa online.

However, persons resident in countries where biometrics are recorded as part of the visa application process must make their visa application at the same time that they make their Preclearance application, and have their biometric details recorded . The countries where biometrics are currently recorded are China, India, Pakistan and Nigeria.

When you have completed the online visa application process, you must follow the instructions on the summary application form that is created by the online system. The summary form will contain information on where you are to submit your passport. If you have already submitted all the required supporting documentation with your Preclearance application, you will not need to submit the documentation again for the visa application. You will just need to submit your visa application form and your passport.

Non-Visa Required Nationals

Non-EEA nationals not requiring a visa must have prior approval from the Department of Justice and Equality, Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) under this Scheme to enter the State as a Volunteer. If your application is successful, you will be granted a letter of approval. You must present your letter of approval to the Immigration Officer at the point of entry on arrival in the State, who will verify its contents by reference to the approval number contained in your letter. You will not be permitted entry to the State for the purpose of working as a Volunteer unless you can produce the prior approval letter obtained before you travel to the State.

5. Documents required

Your Preclearance application will not be processed if you do not attach ALL the supporting documentation required (listed below). If you submit any false or misleading information or false supporting documentation as part of your application, it will result in the refusal of your application. It may also result in you being prevented from making any further applications for a period of up to 5 years.

  • Copy of current passport (all pages) and full copy of any previous passports. The Preclearance Section reserve the right to request the originals of these at any time
  • - Letter of sponsorship on headed paper from your sponsor detailing your intended role in the State and how they intend to support you in the State. You must be financially supported by the sponsoring organisation within Ireland, financial support from sources outside the state will not be accepted as part of this scheme
  • Full six months bank statement from the sponsor
  • Full six months bank statement from yourself (the applicant)
  • Evidence of qualifications/experience
  • Audited accounts of the sponsor should be available if required by the immigration authorities
  • Police Clearance Certificate (not more than three months old) from your home country of residence. This must be issued by the police force of that country and must include a full check of that country’s national and local records. Criminal record checks conducted by private companies will not be accepted
  • Confirmation from your sponsor they have obtained Garda Síochána vetting for you if you will be working in a role involving children and/or vulnerable adults. If Garda Vetting is not submitted by you then there must be a clear written undertaking from the sponsoring organisation, in the sponsorship letter accompanying the application, that you will have no involvement with children or vulnerable adults during the course of your work in Ireland
  • You must be in a position to show evidence of medical/travel insurance for you, which covers the required amounts, when arriving in the state. See the published policy document for full details.

If you submit a document that is not in Irish or English, it must be accompanied by a full translation into one of these languages. Each translated document must contain:

  • Confirmation from the translator that it is accurate translation of the original document
  • Date of the translation
  • The translator’s full name and signature
  • The translator’s contact details

6. How to apply

You need to apply for immigration preclearance to be a Volunteer in Ireland before you travel to Ireland.

Application form (Version 1.0 published 30 April 2018)

Document icon

Preclearance application form - Volunteering in Ireland (.docx 317KB)

Please complete the Preclearance application form and send it together with the required supporting documentation (listed above) to:

 

Preclearance Section
Visa Division
Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service
13/14 Burgh Quay
Dublin 2
DO2XK70
Ireland

 

After you apply

After we receive your application and documents, we will check that you have:

  • Answered all questions
  • Attached all requested documentation
  • Paid the application fee

Applications are generally processed in the order they are received.

7. Decision and next steps

In general you can expect a decision within a 8 week period after your application is received. Applications are generally processed in the order they are received.

If your application is approved

We will notify you if your application is approved, and will send you a Preclearance letter. Your Preclearance letter is an important document. You will need it to cross border control into Ireland and to finalise your permission to enter the State as a Volunteer and immigration registration after you arrive here.

The Preclearance letter is valid for 6 months. If you do not use it in time, you must submit a new application from the beginning.

If your application is refused

We will notify you by letter if your application is refused outlining the reasons why your application was refused. You can request an appeal of this decision by responding to the refusal reasons with extra supporting documents if required. This appeal must be received by us within six weeks of the date of the refusal letter. The appeal process is free of charge.

Appeal of the decision

If your appeal is approved, we will send you a preclearance letter as described above.  If your appeal is refused, we will send you a letter outlining the reasons. You cannot request another appeal. Do not attempt to come to Ireland without preclearance approval (and a visa if relevant) as you will not be allowed enter the country.

Border Control

When you arrive in Ireland, you must show your original preclearance letter (and visa, if applicable) to the Immigration Officer at border control. If you cannot satisfy the Immigration Officer, you will not be allowed to enter the State. Both the letter and the visa must be valid on the date you arrive here. If you are given permission to enter, the officer will place a ‘landing stamp’ in your passport. The landing stamp gives you permission to stay up to the date indicated by the stamp (typically 90 days).

Important: A Preclearance letter and visa (if applicable) allows you to travel to Ireland only. They do not give you permission to enter the country or to stay here. An Immigration Officer at border control can refuse you entry even if you have a preclearance letter and visa.

Immigration permission and registration

After you enter the country, you must visit a registration office before your landing stamp expires to:

  1. Extend your permission to stay for longer than 90 days (i.e. as a Volunteer) and to
  2. Register your details with Immigration

If your visit is successful, you will be given immigration permission to stay as a Volunteer for an initial 12 month period based on immigration stamp number 3.

Read how to extend your permission and register for the first time.

Renew your immigration permission

You must visit a registration office to renew your permission and registration about 6 weeks before they expire. Immigration policy for Volunteers allows you to renew once, up to a maximum of 2 years.

8. Extend your immigration permission

You may be eligible for one extension of the standard two (2) year period of a further one (1) year. Such a request can only be for the service with your then current sponsor and will be considered only if your sponsor can demonstrate a genuine need of your service.

Ask your sponsor to write you a new sponsorship letter explaining why they want you to stay

Send the new sponsorship letter plus the same documents you would normally use to renew your permission/registration by post to:

Residence Division Unit 2
13/14 Burgh Quay
DO2XK70
Dublin 2
Ireland

 

Change your sponsoring organisation

To change to another Volunteer position in a different organisation, you must:

  • Apply to Residence Division, as set out above, before the initial one year period of permission ends
  • It costs €50 to apply to change your sponsor. Please check with Residence Division, regarding method of payment, when making the application

You will not gain extra time to stay in Ireland if you re-apply. You can only work as a Volunteer in Ireland for a normal maximum of 2 years total, no matter how many times you apply. If you choose you can break the normal 2 year period of permission/registration into separate periods e.g. 2 separate periods of 1 year

Transitional permission for pre-existing Volunteers

  • The Volunteering in Ireland programme also applies to all non-EEA nationals who have or had a permission to be in the State as a volunteer prior to 30th April, 2018
  • Any person who has been active in the State as a volunteer and whose aggregate time in the State currently exceeds three years will be permitted to finish out a current permission, but will not be granted any further extension.
  • Persons who are in their first or second year permission as volunteers, may apply under this Scheme, but 36 months volunteering in Ireland in the aggregate is the maximum permitted.

9. Applying online for your visa

AVATS is the online visa application system. To apply for a visa, answer all questions in AVATS fully and honestly.

Apply for an Irish visa online via AVATS

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Contact

Contact details of Preclearance Unit

Preclearance Unit
Visa Division
Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service
13/14 Burgh Quay
DO2XK70
Dublin 2
Ireland

 

If you have questions, email preclearance@justice.ie

 

The immigration permission and application system described on this page is based on the Immigration policy for Volunteering in Ireland published 30 April, 2018. The Department of Justice and Equality reserves the right to amend or suspend this policy at any time. The information above is intended as a guide only, the policy document Volunteering in Ireland outlines all of the relevant criteria for eligibility for this programme.

Updated: 9 July 2018