Frequently Asked Questions – Organisation
You wish to recruit a volunteer for an international exchange and solidarity project. You have a number of questions: what are the different forms of volunteering? How do you select and prepare volunteers? How do you support them to ensure the success of the mission and make sure they enjoy a quality experience?
Here are some of the answers.
The international exchange and solidarity volunteering scheme is a form of undertaking that brings together different methods of volunteering. It enables citizens to carry out development and solidarity missions worldwide, for periods ranging from a few weeks to several years. It is co-constructed and implemented with partner associations, foundations or local authorities.
It covers a wide range of experiences that enable anyone to volunteer according to their background.
- Initiation and exchange volunteering concerns young people and those who are getting involved for the first time in international solidarity for a short period of time, in particular via international solidarity work camps or civic service.
- Exchange and skills volunteering involves people in employment or retirement who volunteer for expert missions for relatively short periods, such as solidarity leave and senior volunteering.
- Cooperation and development support volunteering, and in particular international solidarity volunteering (VSI – volontariat de solidarité internationale), enables people to commit over a long period to a mission in the field of development cooperation and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
International exchange and solidarity volunteering is open to people of French nationality, of a European Union and European Economic Area nationality, but also, for the most part and under certain conditions, to people of other nationalities.
- International work camps: open to all nationalities
- International civic service: a foreign national can carry out international civic service provided that he or she is resident in France. If a foreign national wishing to volunteer has a residence permit and is resident in France, care must be taken to renew the permit if he or she is no longer on French territory when it expires. For the administrative arrangements, applicants should be directed to the relevant authorities: https://administration-etrangers-en-france.interieur.gouv.fr/particuliers/#/
Since 2010, international volunteers have also been welcomed in France for solidarity missions through the civic service, based on the principle of reciprocity.
- International solidarity volunteering: this is open to all nationalities, the only limit being that you must not be doing a VSI in your country of nationality or residence.
Since the law of 4 August 2021, VSI can also be carried out in France by a foreign national, on the basis of reciprocity.
Finally, France Volontaires promotes “South-South” volunteering, which enables a non-French national to engage in VSI in a third country that is not France either.
- Solidarity leave and senior volunteering: these are open to all nationalities.
The duration of the missions varies according to the type of status
- Solidarity work camps: less than one month (usually one to two weeks).
- Civic service: maximum one year and it is not possible to carry out more than one civic service mission in your lifetime.
- International solidarity volunteering: an individual cannot be under a VSI contract for more than 6 years in total. This limit exists because we wish to offer a volunteering opportunity to as many people as possible.
- Solidarity leave: as a rule, this is between one and two weeks.
- Senior volunteering: this usually lasts for several years, with mission periods with the partner lasting a few weeks.
Volunteering is open throughout one’s lifetime, with specific conditions depending on the scheme.
- Solidarity work camps: some from 16 years old, most from 18 years old, with no upper age limit
- JSI-VVVSI: maximum 25 years
- Civic service: from 18 to 25 years, or even 30 years for people with disabilities.
- European solidarity corps: maximum of 30 years
- VSI, solidarity leave and senior volunteering: no age limit.
Experience and qualifications
International exchange and solidarity volunteering is sufficiently diverse to offer different possibilities to people who want to get involved. There is a form of volunteering for every profile depending on age, availability and motivation.
- Solidarity work camps and civic service: no prior skills required, only the motivation to engage in a mission of public interest is taken into account
- International solidarity volunteering, solidarity leave and senior volunteering: skills and mission objectives must match.
France Volontaires recommends that the cost to volunteers be as low as possible. One must be very careful when dealing with certain organisations that demand volunteers finance the entire mission, sometimes at a high cost.
However, depending on the scheme and the structure, the costs to volunteers may vary. In the case of short missions, return air tickets must be paid for and sometimes a contribution to accommodation costs must be paid by the organisation.
In the case of longer assignments (VSI, international civic service), volunteers will receive a monthly subsistence allowance and social and health protection.
Founded in December 2016, the association PREVIES aims to promote international volunteering by representing volunteers and expatriates to obtain all the services necessary for the accomplishment of their mission from third parties including all insurance contracts. Each member is attached to the insurance contracts by amendments.
PREVIES offers comprehensive PACK coverage in addition to the Caisse des Français de l’étranger (Fund for French Citizens Abroad) for international volunteers in addition to social security for reciprocity volunteers.
- Medical expenses (mutual insurance)
- Repatriation assistance
- Personal liability
All contracts are managed by VERSPIEREN BENEFITS, an insurance broker and medical expense manager appointed by PREVIES. It supports you in the process of joining PREVIES, signing up volunteers and completing the administrative procedures.
France Volontaires coordinates PREVIES and aims to promote and develop the different forms of volunteering for International Exchange and Solidarity Volunteers (VIES) and to contribute to their implementation. It promotes PREVIES and assists the volunteering stakeholders to ensure the quality and security of volunteering experiences in France and abroad.
For short missions (work camps or VEC – volontariat d’échange et de compétence/exchange and skills volunteering), it is strongly recommended that volunteers have repatriation/health and liability insurance. We recommend that you take out dedicated insurance or check with your volunteers to see what individual insurance they have to cover these risks.
The vacancies published are generally for missions starting within the next 3 months. It takes about 6 months from the beginning of the process to the beginning of the field mission.
Some organisations have a selection process that does not necessarily involve the publication of vacancies or mission offers. They include candidates for voluntary service in a talent pool not linked to a mission vacancy but to a volunteer recruitment process. Once selected, they are offered a mission. The time scales may be different in this case.
Going abroad requires good preparation. Pre-departure procedures are required (visa, compulsory vaccinations, pre-departure training etc.). For long term or introductory missions (first experience of expatriation for young people), care must be taken to allow the time necessary for volunteers to get organised and depart with peace of mind.
Please note that the administrative procedures for hosting a foreigner in France are different from those for a volunteer already present in France. Within the framework of civic service, it is important for organisations to read the reciprocity instruction sheet.
Supporting the implementation of the mission
For longer assignments of more than six months, volunteers receive several days of preparation before departure, the form and content of which vary according to the dispatching organisation.
It deals with concrete issues such as cultural issues, security and links with sustainable development, to enable future volunteers to better plan and prepare for their departure.
The pre-departure preparation period also enables future volunteers to identify the people responsible for monitoring and supporting them during the mission. This close relationship will then guarantee quality support throughout the mission, enabling the establishment of trust in the event of future difficulties.
For the recruiting organisation, it is a step that secures and confirms the commitment of future volunteers. It helps to identify expectations and fears and to check whether the volunteers have the right motivation and attitude.
For shorter-term projects, a period of information/preparation on cultural issues and security is also recommended to enable better integration on the mission.
Volunteer support differs from one organisation to another, and according to the type and duration of the volunteering.
Organisations should maintain regular contact with their volunteers during the mission, in case of problems or to follow up on their mission. The France Volontaires Volunteering Centres (Espaces Volontariats) are also available to listen to volunteers. They organise training, workshops, cultural events and meetings to which all volunteers are invited (List of France Volontaires’s Volunteering Centres).
Volunteers are encouraged to write an end-of-mission report in order to prepare for the post-volunteer period and to help improve the organisations’ practices.
In the event of a health or security emergency, a specific procedure must be put in place with the dispatching organisation. In countries where France Volontaires has a Volunteering Centre, the safety instructions are sent to volunteers whose contact details they have.
In the event of psychological difficulties, the dispatching organisation should be able to offer dedicated support.
Depending on the scheme concerned, specific support may be offered to carry out a professional and personal assessment of the experience and to help volunteers with their future plans, professional reintegration or the pursuit of their commitment to solidarity and active citizenship (e.g. volunteering or a new volunteering experience). France Volontaires, its members and partners have developed practices adapted to the duration of the missions to accompany you in this important stage. There are also tools for enhancing the skills acquired.
Evaluating the successes and difficulties of the mission and the impact of the volunteers’ missions with stakeholders helps develop the quality of volunteering.
- “Ambassadors for International Civic Engagement” project Toolkit
- Capitalisation study
These resources highlight the good practices and lessons learned from a pilot project conducted between 2016 and 2018 by France Volontaires and the Union Nationale des Missions Locales (UNML) on engagement and social and professional integration.
France Volontaires can assist organisations wishing to initiate a project involving volunteers for the first time.
To do this, you can :
- If you are a foreign organisation, please contact the Volunteering Centre of the country where you work (List of France Volontaires’ Volunteering Centres)
- If you are a French organisation, or if there is no Volunteering Centre in the country where you are going to work, please contact France Volontaires to present your project. France Volontaires can either direct you to a member of the platform who is approved and competent for the type of project you are considering or support you directly with your project.