Volunteering on
a visa

Volunteering can be a great way to meet local people and learn more about Victorian life.  If you are in Australia temporarily, i.e. as a tourist or student, and asylum seekers awaiting a decision on their application, you may have the right to volunteer under your visa conditions.

What do we mean by volunteer?

All visas that include the right to volunteer require the work to be genuinely voluntary.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection considers genuine volunteering to be:

  • undertaken through a community organisation
  • not a replacement for a paid role
  • unpaid (but reimbursements are acceptable)

This is consistent with the definition of volunteering in Australia.

Applying to volunteer

It is common for people applying for a volunteer role in Australia to be asked to undertake various checks, such as supplying personal references and criminal records checks.

You may also need to supply several forms of identification that are commonly accepted for official use in Australia.  This might include your passport and proof of where you are living.

If an organisation requires these checks as part of their recruitment processes they should apply to all potential volunteers, it is unlikely to be related to your visa status.

Visa conditions

Disclaimer:  Because of the wide range of visa types and changing conditions, Volunteering Victoria strongly recommends you check with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection if you have any doubts about your right to volunteer.

Students: As a student, you may volunteer if you have Permission to Work from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.  This will have been automatically granted to any student visa holder who applied after April 2008. If a student visa is dated before then, the holder may need to apply separately for Permission to Work.

The restriction of a maximum of 20 hours paid work for students does not include volunteer work.

Tourists: If you are a visitor on a tourist visa, you may volunteer on the condition that this is not the main purpose of your visit to Australia.
Workers: If you have been granted the right to work in Australia, you also have the right to volunteer. If you are a visitor on a working holiday, you cannot volunteer for more than six months with a single organisation.
Refugees & asylum seekers: If you are awaiting a decision on your application for asylum, and you have a bridging visa with permission to work in Australia, you may also volunteer.

Even if you do not have permission to work, you may well be entitled to volunteer. If you do not have permission to work, Volunteering Victoria strongly recommends you check with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to clarify your status.

More information