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Volunteer opportunities in Germany: A guide to getting started

Are you thinking about doing voluntary work in Germany? Depending on the sector you wish to volunteer in and the length of time you’d like to volunteer for, your options are varied. We explain what you need to do to be able to come to Germany to do some volunteer work.

There are many opportunities for people all over the world to do some voluntary work in Germany. These will give you an opportunity to learn the German language, travel to nearby countries and also make the world a better place.

Germany offers some programmes that offer food, accommodation and some pocket money in return for your work. However, there are certain terms you need to meet. If this option doesn’t work, you can also look for a placement yourself.

Why you should come to Germany for volunteer work?

For many young people in particular, voluntary service is a formative and personality-developing experience. Many older volunteers in the BFD , which, unlike the FSJ , the FÖJ and the IJFD , is open to all age groups, brings their rich life experience to bear there.

Both German citizens and foreigners from EU and non EU states can participate in the Voluntary Social Year (Freiwilliges Soziales Jahr or FSJ) which is a government-funded program that allows participants to volunteer in either Germany’s social sector, or that of a foreign country, for 12 to 18 months.

There is also the Voluntary Ecological Year (Freiwilliges Ökologisches Jahr) which is run according to the precise same regulations as the FSJ, but volunteers work in the environmental sector in Germany or abroad. Both programs enable volunteers to learn more about a possible vocation, are limited to 18 months (24 months in special cases) and are open to school finishers up until the age of 27.

Starting the search on volunteer work in Germany: Selecting a city and applying for a visa

You will need a visa to stay in your Germany and this is something one can ask their future employer what kind of visa you might need and how long it should last.

You can find a concrete placement by searching either the BFD or FSJ database or using one of the job exchanges for voluntary work. There are many possibilities: especially in large cities like Munich or Berlin the work on offer ranges from social and environmental projects to programmes of political education.
Read also: How to apply for a German visa and the required documents in 2023

How to come to Germany with a job-seekers visa

What are the language requirements?

If you’re worried your German skills may inhibit your options, in many cases only the bare minimum is needed. This is of course something to discuss with the organisation you are volunteering with, who may or may not be concerned with your German. The flip side of volunteering with limited German, of course, means it provides an avenue for improving your language skills.
Read also: German citizenship: how to prove adequate knowledge of the German language

Partner organisations

If you are looking to come to Germany as a volunteer, it’s worth exploring the option of doing it through a program that works in cooperation with your home country. As with undertaking any sort of work in Germany, whether it be paid or voluntary, you need to know what legal documents you require to be there. If you are an EU citizen, you can live and volunteer freely in Germany, needing only to register your German residential address.

As a citizen of a non-EU member state, you will require a visa that permits you to reside in Germany for the duration of your placement and be able to financially support yourself. If you are in Germany as an accompanying spouse, double check what your particular visa allows. If in doubt, ask your local Foreigner’s Office (Ausländeramt).

How you can come to Germany for volunteer work: Is there housing allowance for volunteers?

It is always possible to apply for housing benefit while participating in a voluntary service, namely at the respective housing benefit authority of the municipal, city, office or district administration in the centre of life of the applicant.

According to bfd, It is repeatedly reported that the procedures are often too lengthy to reliably enable housing benefit to be received at the beginning of a voluntary service. It is also not possible for the federal authorities to influence the processing time or order of processing.
Read also: Wohngeld (Housing allowance) in Germany 2023: Here’s how much you are entitled to?

What sectors might be better suited for the voluntary work?

Tolerance against racism

Should you want to promote respectful cooperation in Germany, there are a myriad of government and social initiatives against racism. Educational work against discrimination and in favour of tolerant coexistence is carried out in all German states and at the local level.

Protecting the environment and preserving cultural heritage

Others devote their efforts to “sustainability”. If you want to support a sustainable way of life, you will find inspiring examples of private and municipal sustainability initiatives in Germany.