Governmental Federal Voluntary Service
The Governmental Federal Voluntary Service (in German: Bundesfreiwilligendienst - BFD is a special voluntary program initiated by the German government in July 2011. For a time period of 6-12 months, volunteers get to work within a non-profit project or organisation. The BFD is open to people of any age, as long as they have fulfilled their compulsory school attendance. Nevertheless, you should be at least 18 years of age if you want to participate in the programme as a foreigner. If you're still a minor, your hosting organisation would have to accept the position as your supervisor - and most organisations would prefer to avoid the extra responsibilities. The programme supports activities ranging from social, cultural, environmental and recreational issues. Volunteers will participate in pedagogical seminars and they will be assigned a personal mentor. All information can be found under www.bundesfreiwilligendienst.de.
The BFD is also open to foreigners. If you would like to take part in the BFD, you will need a residence title for specific purposes. Generally, BFD volunteers will be granted a special residence permit according to §18 of the Residence Act (www.gesetze-im-internet.de/aufenthg_2004/__18.html).
You can search for accredited BFD-projects in a nationwide database (www.bundesfreiwilligendienst.de/no_cache/der-bundesfreiwilligendienst/einsatzstellensuche.html).
If you have found an interesting organisation, you should send your application directly to the organisation. Since there are no specific application deadlines, we recommend to prepare a voluntary service as early as possible. During their service, volunteers do not earn money, but they will receive an allowance of max. 330€. The exact amount of the allowance as well as board and lodging depends on the organisation. Insurances are covered in full by the host organisation.
“Incomers” – foreign volunteers – are offered the possibility to apply for the so-called “besondere Förderung” (special support). This grants them an extra allowance of 100€ per month that they do not have to pay back. Eligible for the special support are “Incomers” whose native language is not German and who did not spent more than six consecutive months in Germany within the last five years. If you meet these requirements, your organisation can submit an application for the "besondere Förderung" for you. You’ll find further information about this topic in a PDF document (PDF, 700 KB) provided by the Federal Office of Family Affairs and Civil Society Functions.
After completing your BFD in Germany, you will be entitled to a certificate which serves as a documentation of your volunteer activities.
Further information about the Governmental Federal Voluntary Service can be found under www.bundesfreiwilligendienst.de/der-bundesfreiwilligendienst/ueber-den-bfd (information only in German) and on the website of the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth.
The Federal Office of Family Affairs and Civil Society Functions offers a brochure with specific information for foreigners that are interested in the BFD. The brochure is available in German, English, French and Spanish. You can download it under the following link: www.bundesfreiwilligendienst.de/service/downloads.
How do volunteers from abroad experience everyday life in Germany and what surprising experiences do they have? What do the receiving organisations learn from the volunteers? Find out about it in this video from the project "FSJ INGLOS" (mostly in German).