Short Answer: Yes.
Now for the long answer. But first – let me address something that was floating around Dragon*Con while I was there. Many people had heard that if you volunteer to help out with London 2012 – you’ll automatically get a visa and they’ll also provide somewhere to stay.
This is NOT true.
You have to qualify for the visa on your own and you must provide your own lodging.
According to the very helpful page: Are You Eligible, there are several basic qualifications everyone must meet.
- be willing to volunteer for a minimum of 10 days at either the Olympic Games or the Paralympic Games; or for a minimum of 20 days if you want to volunteer at both;
- be able to attend a 30-minute face-to-face interview at a selection event;
- be able to attend a minimum of three training sessions before the Games (a minimum of 15 hours spread over three days); and be willing to accept the role and venue you are offered.
All seems pretty straightforward. However, then there are requirements you must meet to get a Visa into the UK to volunteer.
- be eligible to volunteer in the UK in accordance with immigration rules. In other words:
- have the right to live and work permanently in the UK; or
- hold a valid passport or identity card from any country in the European Economic Area; or
- be in the UK or coming to the UK to work in accordance with the UK Points Based System; or
- be in the UK for another reason with a permission to remain in the UK that allows you to volunteer; or
- be able to provide specialist sports-specific skills at the Games or have extensive previous Games experience and be able to meet the requirements for a sports visitor visa.
You can’t come to the UK on a regular tourist visa and work for London 2012. You have to apply for a Tier 5 Charity worker visa.
This visa allows you to come to the UK for up to 12 months to live and work (for free). You are not allowed to be paid. This visa requires sponsorship from London 2012. You also have to have £800 (approx. $1300) in a bank account for 3 months before you apply as well as pay a £138 application fee (approx. $220). The purpose of this visa is proving that you can support yourself while you’re in the UK volunteering and won’t need to work for money, because you won’t be allowed to.
More details on the Visa here at the UK Border Agency.
Taking all that into consideration, you’ll also be subjected to a background check and screened when applying to volunteer to the games. It’s practically like getting a job, except without pay.
Honestly, I find this whole process ridiculous. They really are making it quite hard to just volunteer your time for something as amazing as London 2012. The byzantine process will certainly turn a lot of people off of the idea – so that may mean that it will be a lot easier to actually get the visa and volunteer.
Then again there is something really romantic in the notion of flying over for a few weeks to live in London like a local, be a part of something amazing like the Olympics and experience Britain as if you truly lived there. Be a great way to figure out if you wanted to move to Britain permanently.
If you’re interested in volunteering, applications opened two days ago – go to London 2012 GamesMakers to express your interest and apply.
Click here for details on the Visa you’ll need if your accepted into the program.