visas and immigration

BREXIT will not affect WWOOFing plans in the immediate or near future.

Welcome European friends!

VISITORS FROM OUTSIDE EUROPE 

IMPORTANT! Read this page, print it, and take it with you.

1. The main reason for your trip to the UK must be tourism, not volunteering.

2. You cannot volunteer for more than 30 days during your visit

3. WWOOFing must be 'incidental' to your visit, meaning volunteering is not the main reason you are visiting the UK. 

4. It'll help if you have a return or onward travel ticket showing you'll leave the UK

5. WWOOF UK is a legal registered charity but it's your responsibility to understand the rules and how they relate to your visit to the UK, so read on...

The section of the Immigration Rules which applies especially to visitors is here Appendix V, and the full set of rules is here Immigration Rules.

If in doubt, point Border Force Officers to these UK Government websites, so they can see where you got the wording from.  Don't assume that everyone working at the UK border knows all the details of all the rules.

The UK Home Office ‘Immigration Rules’ state:

Volunteering

A visitor may undertake incidental volunteering (i.e. the main purpose of the visit is not to volunteer), provided it lasts no more than 30 days in total and is for a charity that is registered with either the Charity Commission for England and Wales; the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland; or the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.


Border Force Officers - please note:

Changes were made to the UK Immigration Rules in 2015 which clarify the type of activities visitors to the UK are permitted to undertake, and for how long.

 WWOOF UK is a charity registered in England and Wales 1126220 and in Scotland SC045524:

All WWOOFers and WWOOF hosts are members of the charity.  When a WWOOFer volunteers with a host, they are volunteering for the charity; giving their time for free as part of a learning exchange.

We have also applied to become a charity in Northern Ireland.

We have confirmation from the UK Border Force that WWOOF UK is legitimate and about what 'incidental' means:

From a letter to WWOOF UK from the UK Border Force on 27th March 2017; 'Border Force officers at all ports have access to guidance which indicates how to process arriving travelers who are seeking entry to undertake incidental volunteering at WWOOF.  Furthermore officers are aware that facilities are available at ports to confirm the charitable status of your organization.'

And from a letter from the UK Border Force on 8th June 2018: ‘The word incidental means not the primary reason someone is seeking entry as a visitor. For example, someone is planning a trip to London to visit the sights and travel around the UK to see other cities. However, while here they may decide to do some volunteering. The volunteering in this respect would be incidental.

An alternative would be someone who has signed up for WWOOF and is coming to do volunteering for them in the UK. While here they may also visit some tourist sites. In this respect the volunteering is the primary reason for the visit and the other activities would be incidental.’

 

WWOOF UK observations of immigration:

Immigration issues are rare, but the most common problems we have seen recently are

  • USA citizens trying to enter the UK directly from the USA
  •  non-EU WWOOFers trying to enter the UK from another EU country, not necessarily from their own country (e.g. a USA citizen entering the UK on a flight from Croatia, or on the Eurostar train from France)
Most of the time there’s no problem, but in these rare cases the WWOOFer can get turned away and sent back to the country they have travelled from.

The Immigration Rules are the same, regardless of which country you travel from, but non-EU citizens should make the extra effort to understand how the rules apply to them.

UK Immigration Officers will want to be sure that you are not intending to stay in the UK forever. 

Where possible bring the following things with you when you enter the UK;

  • Return or onward travel ticket out of the UK (print out - not just a reference number)
  • Specific rationale as to why you are in the UK and how long you will stay
  • Details of where you will be staying in the first few days e.g. name, address, phone number of hostel/hotel/friend/WWOOF host and any other confirmation of accommodation you may have.
  • Proof of your finances that will cover the length of trip e.g. bank statement or credit card info so it won’t appear that you will be trying to work illegally or have to use the UK's welfare system
  • Proof of why you will be returning to your home country e.g. a job you will return to, registration for school, ownership or lease on a house etc
  • Proof that you are covered by your own medical insurance
  • We have heard that if you look at all scruffy you are more likely to attract the attention of the border officials, so it might be an idea to try to look clean and tidy.
  • See this UK government website for more information about what to expect at border control; https://www.gov.uk/uk-border-control/overview

 

What is a 'Code 3' stamp in your passport?

'Code 3' is a stamp that immigration officers might put into a visitor's passport after questioning them at the border but still allowing them into the UK.  It means the visitor’s details have been kept on file, and that they are likely to be questioned again when either leaving or re-entering the UK; so the visitor needs to be extra vigilant that they have not flouted immigration rules and have all the evidence necessary to prove they are not likely to overstay (e.g. proof of income, of a reason to go home, details of where they're staying as suggested above).

 

We cannot offer any advice on individual circumstances – our website tells you all we know!

However we are always trying to make it easier for our members to understand the immigration rules, so please get in touch with us if you or anyone you know has had any problems when coming to WWOOF in the UK - info@wwoof.org.uk

Tier 5 (Charity Workers) visa

We are frequently asked about the Tier 5 (Charity Workers) visa. We believe that this visa cannot be obtained for WWOOFing. Neither WWOOF UK nor its host farms can act as sponsor for Tier 5 visa applications.

Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme

If you are from Australia, Japan, Canada or New Zealand and aged between 18-30 years old, you might be eligible for the Youth Mobility Scheme. You can only get this kind of visa once in a lifetime, and if you have previously visited the UK on a working holidaymaker visa you will not be eligible for this scheme.

Visiting the UK on the Youth Mobility Scheme entitles you to stay in the UK for up to 2 years, and undertake whatever work you like, including voluntary placements – such as WWOOFing. To be eligible you must satisfy the following criteria:

  •  Aged between 18-30
  •  Have no dependents
  •  Be from a participating country
  •  Demonstrate that they have at least £1890 in available funds
  •  Obtain entry clearance

 

For more details and to download an application form, visit the UK Border Agency website:

http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/workingintheuk/tier5/youthmobilityscheme

Other visas for volunteering in the UK from outside the European Union or EEA*

If you are coming to the UK principally for an activity other than volunteering (such as employment, studying, or as a spouse), it is possible that you will be able to volunteer with WWOOF as an additional activity. Please make sure to check your visa or entry clearance requirements, and make sure that you are allowed to volunteer on your visa.  

Neither WWOOF UK nor WWOOF hosts can write letters of invitation, or allow their address to be used on visa application forms - please do not ask your host to do this.

You can check the UK border Agency website for the details of your specific visa or entry clearance:

http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/

* The European Economic Area (EEA) comprises the countries of the European Union, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.