Can Americans Volunteer for the London 2012 Games?

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.


You must:

  • 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.

You must:

  • 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 to Apply to Volunteer for London 2012.

Click here for details on the Visa you’ll need if your accepted into the program.

Read More at Anglotopia


  1. avatar says

    I’ll start by saying I’m an American living and working (and married) in the UK…and I understand why it has to be so difficult. This is hosted by Great Britian – so of course it’s going to be geared toward the people who live here to work at the games. When it was in other countries, I’m sure it was just the same, if not harder to volunteer. I hope to be one of those American in GB volunteering…but I totally understand if born and bred Brits win out over me, cause it’s THEIR games. They worked hard to get it here and quite honestly, those of us in London are currently paying extra for it to be here (taxes, etc).

    But I do understand wanting to come and be part of this…it’s nice to have it so close to the US and in an English speaking country!

  2. avatar says

    It’s been a dream of mine to volunteer at an Olympics ever since I first learned about Olympic volunteers. And the opportunity to be in London and work at the Olympics is unbelievable. I understand Liane’s position that it’s the UK is hosting and they did work unbelievably hard to get the Games (I love following the Olympic bid process), but at the same time, the Games belong to the world, so I am grateful that the door is open.

    Thank you for sharing all of the ins and outs of getting the visas, Jonathan. Now that I know exactly what’s involved, I can figure out if I can pull this off.

    However, may I add one small addition (thanks to being in contact with London 2012 about this very issue)? When you fill out the application, you need to provide your passport number at that time. According to my contact, you also need to provide your right to volunteer in the UK at that time (the visa, or perhaps simply your qualification for it). However, I’m hoping to get confirmation from him soon on that point, as I’m not entirely sure I understood him. I just wanted to make your readers aware that not having the visa yet might be an issue.