How to WWOOF not quite forever?
March 25, 2012 7:37 PM   Subscribe

Six months in the UK sandwiched between continental European travel for an American WWOOFer who'd rather not get visas if she can possibly avoid it. Your tips?

I am a 30-year-old US citizen. Next year, after quitting my jobs, I'm taking off for an extended period of travel, starting in France for less-than-3 months, and then entering the UK via boat or train. I would like to stay in the UK and WWOOF (or HelpX) for nearly the full six months an American can stay without getting a visa. Before the end of the six months, I will travel either back to France or to Italy for another less-than-90 day period. From there, possibly Turkey or the Ukraine or elsewhere before, ideally, heading back to the UK for another less-than-6 months. Repeat, until I get sick of it.

I'm opening an account now to save money for the trip, but can't find a definitive answer as to what a good amount would be to earmark exclusively for showing that I am capable of supporting myself... even though in reality I am hoping not to have to touch it, by WWOOFing. I am calculating other expenses separately, and am making plenty of provision for getting around, day trips, journeys between destinations, and funds for if/when a WWOOFing arrangement falls through. I will not be able to show proof of continuing or future employment. I will have travel insurance for the duration and will be using my parents' address in the US as my residential address. I will not be overstaying the mandated number of days, anywhere, and will have a departure travel ticket when I arrive.

I would like to know:
- Given that having a ticket dated six months later may make the UK border entrance guys look at me a bit more carefully, how much money should I be able to show that I have available in order to reassure them that I can support myself for six months? Youth Mobility Scheme (for which I do not qualify) folks have to show that they have £1600, and students have to show much more, but I can't find a good guideline for plain visa-less tourists or visitors.
- For reassurance purposes, should I book stays in hostels in order to support an itinerary I won't be following?
- WWOOFers in particular, how would it be best for me to present myself when entering the UK? "Don't mention WWOOFing" seems to be the standard advice, but what else?

Really I just want to learn to grow all the things and make ALL THE CHEESE. Help it not be so confusing?
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Why not get a Tier 5 (Temporary worker/charity) visa to enter the UK? Why risk a big stamp in your passport that prohibits you from entering for a long, long time? Anything else is immigration fraud and this really isn't a great place to look for advice on how to commit it.
posted by halogen at 8:05 PM on March 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

The Visas and Immigration page at says that you probably can't legally enter the UK in order to participate in WWOOF as a non-EU citizen.

The farms are not charities, so you can't use a Tier 5 charity worker visa & you're coming to work (even if only being paid in kind). Unless you can find a place that is a charity to sponsor you?
posted by pharm at 3:25 AM on March 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Having spent considerable time in the last 8 months working with Irish Immigration authorities and daily reading newspapers from the UK--do not attempt to work your way around immigration rules and requirements. The possibility of not being detected is far out weighed by the potential downsides. Remember--immigration deals with deceptive practices everyday--you are a rank amateur. Whatever you do, get appropriate visas.
posted by rmhsinc at 5:38 AM on March 26, 2012

If I were to try the same thing in the US, how successful do you think I would be? Immigration laws in the UK are just as complex and punitive - Don't take them lightly.

The UKBA and Home Office aren't stupid. Illegal employment is rampant on UK farms and as such they are regularly visited by immigration officers. If you are caught, you will be deported and face an exclusion period. It doesn't matter if you are paid or not, if you are receiving board and/or food you are technically still being illegally employed unless you have a valid visa.

I am sorry, but as a non-EU citizen myself who is legally resident and working in the UK (and had to pay a small fortune and delve through mountains of paperwork to do so), please go through the proper channels.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 7:00 AM on March 26, 2012

Why not get a Tier 5 (Temporary worker/charity) visa to enter the UK?

This is only available to workers who are sponsored by registered charities. There are some farms listed on the register of sponsors (warning, giant PDF), so you could try them. [Ah, on re-reading, I see pharm covered that point]

I suspect that turning up every few months at immigration for another six month stay might not look too good to the UK authorities and they might suspect that you're gaming the system [and on preview, TheOtherGuy hit that point as well]. UK Yankee is often cited as a good resource for this sort of question, you could try over there.
posted by Infinite Jest at 7:02 AM on March 26, 2012

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