Volunteering as an International Student

Volunteering is a great way to get to know the UK and network within the local community during your time at university.

Volunteering and Visa requirements

As an international student, it is important to check your visa restrictions and understand how these apply to any volunteering you are wanting to take part in.

Some volunteering activity is subject to visa restrictions and it is your responsibility to make sure you adhere to these.

If you have a limit on the number of hours you can work, then you need to be aware of the distinction between ‘volunteering’ and ‘voluntary work’. ‘Voluntary work’ counts towards the hours you are permitted to work as outlined in your visa but ‘volunteering’ does not.

Voluntary workers:

  • usually have contractual obligations to perform the work (for example to attend at particular times and carry out specific tasks) with the employer being contractually required to provide the work – the contract does not have to be written - the worker is usually remunerated in kind.


  • do not have a contract - they must not be a substitute for an employee, and they must not be doing unpaid work – for example, receiving payment in kind (although they are sometimes reimbursed for reasonable travel and subsistence expenses).
  • usually help a charity or voluntary or public sector organisation.

If you are not sure whether the opportunity you have found would come under ‘volunteering’ or ‘voluntary work’ you can get in touch with Study Visa via StudyVisa@chester.ac.uk. You can also get in touch directly with the organisation offering the opportunity.  

Getting a DBS/criminal record check

Students wanting to volunteer with children/young people or vulnerable adults may need a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. The purpose of the check is to find out if a volunteer has a criminal record. The organisation you are volunteering for will usually arrange this for volunteers once you have been accepted to the volunteer role.

The DBS check system only has access to police records in the UK so if you are an international student you may need to go through a separate process to obtain a criminal record check from your home country, if requested to by your voluntary provider. If you have lived in the UK for a substantial amount of time you may also need to complete a DBS application.

Each country has its own process with different terminology – many countries are able to offer a ‘certificate of good conduct’ that can be used as a criminal records check. There is extensive guidance on the Government website broken down by country to help students understand what process they need to go through to obtain a criminal records check.

Want to find out more about volunteering?

  • Browse and apply for opportunities. You can filter opportunities by various categories including location and area of interest to find the opportunity that is right for you.
  • Complete the University of Chester Volunteering (UCV) awards by recording your volunteer hours on your profile and completing the tasks associated with each award level.
  • Visit our ‘Give it a Go’ page to find out about one-off sessions.
  • Book an appointment to speak to a member of the Volunteering and Mentoring Team about all things volunteering - we can help you use the Volunteer Hub to find the right opportunity for you and show you how to get started with the UCV awards.
  • Email volunteering@chester.ac.uk with any questions you have.