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Volunteers in Germany: volunteer programs, voluntary social (service) and environmental year in Germany, visa getting

Volunteering or good causes are very popular in Germany, foreigners from different countries can engage in them as well. On this page you will learn, which state-supported volunteer programs are underway in Germany, what the conditions for participation are, as well as how to find a suitable position for the volunteer activities, to obtain a volunteer visa, and to arrive in Germany.


§ Volunteer programs in Germany

The Federal Volunteer Service is very popular in Germany, and about 30% of the country population is engaged in some volunteer or community activities. The Basic Law, regulating the volunteer activities of the youth and covering the major volunteer programs, is the “Youth Volunteer Services Act, JFDG)”. The “Federal Volunteer Service Act (Bundesfreiwilligendienstgesetz – BFDG)” regulates volunteer activities of adults and younger people in the social, ecological, and cultural spheres. Links to the laws see below on the page.

Volunteer workers are provided with housing, food, are socially protected and receive pocket money.

Volunteer activities are organized by various associations, initiatives, and charity organizations, both public and private or religious. Volunteer assistants are either full-time engaged in social work, or devote some time to this weekly. Apart from the country residents, foreigners, too, may take part in the volunteer activities. The volunteer workers are usually provided with housing and meals as well as are socially protected. They receive pocket money, the amount of which depends on the program of the respective land/ federated state, the hosting institution as well as other factors, and usually makes 150-200 euros and more. In particular, the programs being underway in Germany and open for new participants are as follows:

List of volunteer programs in Germany

Below on the page you will find a description of these volunteer programs and the main conditions to participate in them.

§ Volunteer agencies, movements, initiatives in Germany

Implementation of large-scope volunteer programs as well as other volunteer missions and movements in Germany is being attended by multiple agencies, services, and initiatives, which offer consultations, help in search for and selection of the hosting party, and provide support for volunteers. The Federal Association of Volunteer Agencies (in German: Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft der Freiwilligenagenturen or BAGFA) unifies over 200 agencies in many cities of Germany, and the full list/a comprehensive list of such member agencies can be found on its website. Below are the major German and international agencies and services operating in the country.

List of volunteer agencies and services in Germany

§ Volunteer Social Year in Germany

Voluntary social (service) year (in German: Freiwilliges Soziales Jahr, or FSJ) is one of Germany's largest youth volunteer programs. Young people who have finished school, and up to 26 years of age inclusive, are invited to participate in this program. Under this program, participants are paid for room and board, as well as some pocket money. Volunteer youth spend a voluntary social year helping in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, kindergartens, etc.

Title in German Freiwilliges Soziales Jahr, FSJ
Age limits from 16 through to 27 years of age
Duration 6, 12, or 24 months
Venues of volunteer activities
  • Hospitals, nursing homes for elderly people;
  • Monuments care/ maintenance;
  • Sports associations;
  • Kindergartens and schools;
  • Theaters, museums, and clubs;
Disbursements and provision Accommodation, meals, social payments, pocket money, professional and pedagogical support
Website of the FSJ Association pro-fsj.de
Website of youth programs jugendfreiwilligendienste.de

§ Volunteer Ecological, environmental year in Germany

The Volunteer Ecological Year/ Voluntary environmental year (in German: Freiwilliges Ökologisches Jahr or FÖJ) is a large-scale government volunteer program, under which the participants perform the volunteer works related to the protection of nature and climate and care for animals, as well as help in forestry and agriculture. The association of organizations taking part in the given program includes over 50 organizations, which offer 3600 volunteer jobs. This program is intended for young people under the age of 27 years old. A voluntary environmental year usually begins with the start of the school year.

Title in German Freiwilliges Ökologisches Jahr, FÖJ
Age limits from 16 through to 27 years of age
Duration 6, 12, or 24 months
Venues of volunteer activities
  • Organizations for nature protection, climate protection;
  • Institutions for environmental education;
  • Nature reserves and national parks;
  • Zoos, pet corners/ nature corners;
  • Agriculture, gardens;
Disbursements and provision Accommodation, meals, social payments, pocket money, professional and pedagogical support
Website of the FÖJ Association foej.de
Website of the ÖBFD Association oeko-bundesfreiwilligendienst.de

§ Federal Volunteer Service in Germany

The Federal Volunteer Service or volunteer/voluntary activities (in German, Bundesfreiwilligendienst, or BFD) are a large-scale government volunteer program in Germany without any age limitations. Within the framework of this program, thousands of jobs are offered in such spheres as ecology, social work, sports, and culture, where participants can join the volunteer activities. Places of work have to be pre-approved by the state. On the official website of this program it is possible to choose a suitable place for the volunteer work. The participants are not required to have a certain level of education or professional experience. Foreigners, too, may participate in the given program; to this purpose they have to obtain a permit to stay in Germany.

Title in German Bundesfreiwilligendienst, BFD
Age limits No age limits
Duration 6, 12, 18, or 24 months, full-time and part-time work
Venues of volunteer activities
  • Social activities;
  • Help in schools and kindergartens;
  • Help in hospitals as well as in nursing homes for elderly people;
  • Ecology, assistants in parks and zoos;
  • Sports and sports activities;
  • Integration;
  • Work at institutions of culture;
Disbursements and provision Seminars, clothes, accommodation, meals, insurance, social payments, and pocket money
Website www.bundesfreiwilligendienst.de

§ Volunteer camps in Germany

The volunteer or work camps (in German, Workcamps) are a program of volunteer activities to implement minor-scale projects. The volunteer camps are organized for young people who wish to engage in voluntary activities. In such camps, the volunteers are provided with accommodation and meals, as well as with time for rest, learning/ training, excursions, etc. The volunteers spend part of the day being busy with the socially useful works, and devote the other part of the day to having rest. So, this program offers an excellent opportunity for volunteers work and rest. Volunteer camps operate throughout the world and invite young people at the age between 16 and 26 years old, although in some cases there can be exceptions in terms of age. Usually young people work in such camps for several weeks.

In Germany, they organize over 350 camps per year, and each group usually includes up to 20 persons from different countries. Setting and development of the camps is the responsibility of about 60 organizations being unified in 6 central offices and accountable to the German Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. The given program is financed from the government funds.

Title in German Workcamps, Jugendgemeinschaftsdienste
Age limits From 16 through to 26 years old, with exceptions
Duration 2 – 4 weeks
Venues of volunteer activities
  • Social and cultural projects;
  • Preservation of monuments;
  • Ecological projects;
  • Care for senior people;
  • Youth clubs;
  • National wildlife reserves;
  • Restoration works;
Website workcamps.org

§ Getting a visa for volunteer work in Germany

Citizens of foreign states other than those of the European Union, have to receive a volunteer visa in order to enter Germany and take part in one of the volunteer programs. For receiving the related consultation, it is necessary to apply to the German Embassy or Consulate in the applicant’s home country by the place of their residence. The organizations implementing the said programs usually help foreigners in processing their documents for the visa issue. In order to receive the visa, a foreigner has to collect a package of documents, the major of which are listed below. Depending on the visa type and country of origin, a different list of documents may be required. Depending on the visa validity term and the volunteer service duration, it may be necessary to extend the visa or obtain a permit to stay in the country; to do this, contact the Foreigners Registration Office local department (in German: Ausländerbehörde).

Documents for a volunteer visa to Germany

Prospects, Opportunities

Participating in the volunteer activities, young people from other countries can get to know Germany better, while communication among the Germans would give them a chance to improve their knowledge of the German or English language, along with gaining interesting life experience. Besides, young people can get the experience of working in a certain sphere of activities, which might be useful in the choice of their future profession, so the chances of getting a suitable place for education/ training would grow.

If a foreigner wants to work or study in Germany in future, participation in the volunteer activities may improve their chances to this regard. As in the course of their volunteer activities foreigners usually attend the German language instruction courses and communicate with Germans, they would substantially improve their knowledge of German, while the advanced level of proficiency in the German language is a condition for receiving a job or a vacant position for studies in Germany. Besides, the foreigners, who have already lived and worked in this country within the framework of the volunteer movement, improve their chances for getting a job in Germany, and while being in the country in their volunteer capacity, they can find out the available opportunities for employment and study.


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