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EACEA National Policies Platform


2. Voluntary Activities

2.5 Cross-border mobility programmes

Last update: 11 January 2021
On this page
  1. EU programmes
  2. Other Programmes
  3. Legal framework applying to foreign volunteers


Increasing and diversifying young people’s European and international mobility is a reccurent youth policy stake. Mobility policies aim to enable all young people to gain experience abroad, whether for training, study or engaging in solidarity projects, especially as the French mobility offer is one of the broadest in the world but still lacks visibility for young people.

varied range of programmes exists, including International Solidarity Volunteering, bilateral programmes, individual grants from local authorities and European schemes.

The ministry in charge  of outh has introduced several instruments in order to achieve this objective: 

  • at national level, a Comité Permanent de la Mobilité Européenne et internationale des jeunes (Permanent European and international Mobility Committee – October 2013), which brings together all stakeholders involved in mobility: the State and its operators, local authorities, youth and non-formal education organisations, youth organisations and mobility programme beneficiaries.
  • at regional level, Comités Régionaux de la Mobilité Européenne et Internationale (COREMOBs - Regional Committees for European and International Mobility), which are strategic and policy-making bodies involving all local stakeholders in youth mobility: decentralised State services, local authorities, non-profit organisations and young people. These regional committees are overseen and chaired jointly by representatives of the State within local authorities (Prefects and Chief Education Officers) and Presidents of Regional Councils. They base their decisions on prior territorial diagnoses.
  • regional platforms for European and international mobility which are strategic tools at the service of the Regional Mobility Committees (COREMOBs), which coordinate all local mobility stakeholders. Specifically, these platforms are based on territorial analysis developed by COREMOBs and implement awareness-raising, information and training schemes for young people and youth workers.
  • the Internet portal "Découvrir le Monde" (Discover the World), which targets young people and aims to "provide ideas, guide choices and help finalise projects to live abroad, including through volunteering".


EU programmes


European Solidarity Corps

The European Solidarity Corps (ESC) is a European Union initiative that aims to give young people aged 18 to 30 years old the option to volunteer or work on projects organised in their country or in an EU country or partner states.

The Agency for Civic Service is responsible for implementing the programme. The agency is responsible for providing pedagogical support to Erasmus+ projects. It is built on the decentralised services of the Ministry of National Education and Youth and on the Information Jeunesse network – Eurodesk.

The topics underpinning ESC projects stem from general interest: including, welcoming and integrating refugees and migrants, citizenship and democratic participation, the environment and protecting nature, health and well-being, education and training, employment and entrepreneurship, creativity and culture, sport.

  • Volunteering projects last for 2 to 12 months for individuals and 2 weeks to 2 months for groups.
  • Extracurricular internships last from 3 to 12 months full time.
  • Jobs run from 3 to 6 months full time.

In 2019, 287 ESC projects were funded, involving 2,051 young people, of whom 50.3% were young people with fewer opportunities, in a range of intervention areas, such as including, welcoming and integrating refugees, citizenship, the environment and climate issues, health, employment and entrepreneurship, culture and sport.

The five main countries that partnered with French organisations were Spain, Germany, Italy, Greece and Morocco.

In France, the Agency for Civic Service is responsible for implementing ESC projects and thus their follow-up. In addition, the National institute for youth and popular education (INJEP) carries out studies on the mobility of young people, especially in Europe.


Other Programmes


Volunteering as part of non-formal education

Other volunteer programmes are offered to young people:

Programmes resulting from bilateral agreements

Programmes resulting from bilateral agreements such as those provided by the OFAJ– Franco-German Youth Office, which was set up by the Elysée Treaty in 1963. The OFAJ is an international organisation with headquarters in Paris and aims to support and develop all types of exchanges between young people from France and Germany, and to consolidate Franco-German relations through a range of mobility and language exchange programmes for children and young people, including jobseekers.

In 2018, the OFAJ supported the mobility of 7900 young people have participated to an exchange program. These were essentially collective exchanges managed by youth and non-formal education and sports organisations, etc.

 Regarding young people with fewer opportunities, the OFAJ adopted a "diversity and participation" strategy in December 2015, which aims to increase social diversity of among OFAJ-scheme beneficiaries. The OFAJ has set a target of 20% of young people with fewer opportunities between now and 2020. In 2018, 18.32% participants were young people with fewer opportunities.


VSI – International Solidarity Volunteering

Volontariat de solidarité internationale (VSI – International Solidarity Volunteering) is a scheme governed by the Law of 23 February 2005. 29 organisations have received French government approval to deliver VSI.

It aims to carry out full-time public interest missions overseas in the fields of cooperation, development and humanitarian action. The contract constitutes a civic service performed abroad (Law of 10 March 2010 on Civic Service). VSI is a contractual commitment mutually binding to sending organisation and volunteer alike. Any adult with no professional activity can sign up for VSI. Missions must be organised with international organisations approved by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, which helps coordinates this scheme.

Volunteers receive a monthly allowance, the minimum amount of which cannot be lower than €100, excluding paying for transport, accommodation and meals. The maximum amount for the allowance depends on the country where the project is taking place (living costs, type of project carried out, security conditions, distance, etc.). For example, it is €1,353.34 in Benin and €2,567.40 in Lebanon. This allowance is not the same as a salary or remuneration.

The host countries of volunteers are mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, with 45% of volunteers, followed by Asia, which hosts 30% of volunteers. International solidarity volunteers are characterized by being at a high qualification level (66% higher than BAC + 5). During their mission, they occupy 51% of the administrative and management functions, 12% of teaching and 11% of education missions.

In addition, solidarity programs are specifically dedicated to groups of young people :

Jeunesse Solidarité Internationale (International Youth Solidarity) is a international solidarity programme supporting short collective projects (maximum 3 weeks) for young people aged 16 to 25 and Ville Vie Vacances Solidarités Internationale   is a program for young people  who are residents in disadvantaged urban territories. These programs depend on the Ministry in charge of international affairs. 



Vocationally oriented volunteering

International Administrative Volunteering (IAV) and International Business Volunteering (IBV) are other forms of international volunteering; they have a professional vocation rather than a citizenship or solidarity aspect. They fall within the scope of international volunteering (IV) as defined by Articles L122-1 to L122-9 of the National Service Code, which cover "international volunteers involved in the action of France worldwide in culture and environment, technical, scientific and economic and humanitarian action". Every year, the operators and ministries that implement this voluntary work compile data on the number, profile and destinations of volunteers.

International Administrative Volunteering (IAV)

 International Administrative Volunteering enables young people aged 18 to 28 to work abroad for French government departments. It can be performed in embassies, Alliances Françaises, research institutes, etc. Young people signing up for IAV receive allowances equivalent to compensation between €1,200 and €2,800 per month, depending on the country of assignment. Missions last between 6 and 24 months. On 31 December 2018, 1,165 VIAs were in post compared to 1,196 on 31 December 2017.

International Business Volunteering (IBA) 

International Business Volunteering enables young people aged 18 to 28 to carry out professional missions abroad for periods of 6 to 24 months. Volunteers are paid between €1,200 and €3000 net per month, depending on the country. All professional sectors are concerned, including finance, marketing, IT, construction, agronomy, tourism, law and human resources.

 The "quality"  and more precisely the good functionning of  these schemes are assessed by several mechanisms inclunding the consolidation of statistical data on volunteers produced by the Ministry in charge of International Affairs.                       On 31 December 2018, 10,524 international business volunteering were in post in 129 countries around the world.


Legal framework applying to foreign volunteers


Foreign volunteers who want to carry out a volunteering project in France through a foundation or a recognised public interest association can request a temporary residence permit (APS) at the prefecture or sub-prefecture where they reside. The project has to meet certain criteria (social or humanitarian goal, general interest, etc.). The APS is issued for the same duration as the project.


Volunteer work in civic service

The civic service framework (Article L.120-4 of the National Service Code (code du service national)) has set parameters for hosting overseas volunteers.

A residence permit is not required for young people from within the European Economic Area (28 EU Member States, Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and Switzerland.

To be eligible, foreign candidates (excluding the EEA and Switzerland) must stay in France for more than one year under a residence permit which can be, for example (indicative list):

  • A temporary residence permit that gives allows the holder to work (Article L. 313-10 of the Code on Foreign Entry and Stay and Rights to Asylum (code de l’entrée et du séjour des étrangers et du droit d’asile))
  • A temporary residence permit that refers to “private and family life” (para 1 to 9 of Article L.313-11 of the aforementioned code)
  • A multi-year residence permit that refers to “passeport talent” (Article L.313-20 of the aforementioned code)
  • A multi-year residence permit that refers to “having stateless status” or refers to “family member of a person having stateless status” (article L.313-26 of the aforementioned code)


The Agency for Civic Service has also published a document for associations that outlines how youth volunteer exchange hosting should work: