EVS vs ESC: what is the difference?


Have you ever applied for an international volunteer project? Yes? Perfectly! No? Even better! In this article, we will introduce you to the two great European programs — EVS and ESC; we will tell you what they are, what the difference between them is, what the selection criteria are, where you can go and what activities they cover.

European Voluntary Service (EVS) is a service from the European Commission, through which young people participate in projects abroad and can volunteer in foreign non-profit organizations.

European Solidarity Corps (ESC) is a new initiative of the European Union that creates opportunities for young people to volunteer or work on projects at home and abroad.

By participating in this program, you must sign a document that agrees with the values ​​and principles of the Solidarity Corps:

– solidarity;

– respect for the dignity and human rights;

– belief in the promotion of a just and equal society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, and equality prevail.

Why do people confuse EVS and ESC?

The European Voluntary Service was created by the European Commission, thus implementing the motto “Unity in Diversity”. In this way, the program helped to establish cooperation and improve free movement between countries. Its purpose is to encourage young people to travel and share cultural values.

Thanks to EVS, the European Union realized its ideas and allowed young people to go to organizations abroad almost free of charge. EVS projects quickly became popular and attracted more and more potential participants, but later, the program had to be updated.

The European Solidarity Corps was created in 2016 so that young people could not only volunteer, but also work and go on internships with financial compensation. Eventually, in 2018, ESC officially replaced EVS with an improved application process and a more comprehensive range of opportunities. Now, if you want to take part in the project, you need to register on the ESC website so that the host organization could choose you.

You can still find ads for EVS projects on some web pages, as even some organizations still confuse the two programs. Projects called European volunteering can often use the EVS headline to attract applicants who are unfamiliar with ESC. Also, the official EVS website is still operational. It publishes opportunities for young people, but all the information contained on the websites passes through the Solidarity Corps database and receives funding as ESC projects. 

For your better understanding of the way the EVS has changed, we prepared a comparative table:

Type of the projectVolunteering without a financial compensationVolunteering, work, internship with a financial compensation
Duration2–12 months2–12 months
LocationOther country, different from place of residenceOther country or participant’s country
PartnersVolunteer + Sending organization > Hosting organizationVolunteer > ESC > Hosting organization
ActivityWork involved in environment, art and culture, heritage, sport and leisure; work with children, youth and elderly people.Assistance in overcoming the consequences of natural disasters, providing assistance to centers for asylum seekers, solving social problems in communities.
Participating countriesEU countries, European Free Trade Association: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, EU candidate countries, Eastern Partnership countries.EU countries, Azerbaijan, Albania, Algeria, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Armenia, Georgia, Egypt, Israel, Iceland, Jordan, Kosovo, Lebanon, Libya, Liechtenstein, Morocco, Moldova, Norway, Palestine, Northern Macedonia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, Montenegro.

Type of projects. At the EVS projects there is only one option — volunteering, which is not reimbursed. ESC, on the contrary, gives more opportunities such as internships and job offers which provide financial compensation. They are usually advertised as Paid Internship and Job Opportunity.

If you apply as a volunteer, you will not get a salary, but all the expenses (accommodation, food, return tickets, medical insurance, and a little pocket money) are covered by the program.

When applying for a job or an internship, you will receive an employment contract. This means that you will be subject to the labour laws of the country you are traveling to. You will receive a salary for the work performed in accordance with national laws.

Age restriction for the participants — young people aged from 18 to 30.  Teenagers of the age 16-17 can also apply for EVS on terms that they are accompanied by a confidant who is to be present throughout the project. ESC doesn’t recognize this exception. Although you can register on the official website of the Solidarity Corps from the age of 17, you must be 18+ at the beginning of the project.

The duration of the projects is the same for both programs — from 2 to 12 months. One can participate several times, but the maximum duration of all the projects mustn’t exceed 365 days.

Location. According to the EVS rules the participant is obliged to choose a partner-country that is different from his/her place of residence. Volunteering in the country of residence is not allowed. This kind of approach gives the youth an opportunity to use their skills and gain experience in new areas, learn the foreign language and culture during their stay abroad.

Meanwhile, ESC has its own principles and cornerstones which are based on improving local communities in the whole Europe. It doesn’t restrict young activists from choosing a country. You can apply for the position even in your homeland and intern there.

Partners. EVS projects consist of three partners: a volunteer, a sending organization and a host organization.

Before applying, you should find the organization in your country, which will contact the host organization and send you on its behalf.

You don’t have to search for an intermediary organization for ESC projects because the Solidarity Corps has its database of both participants and organizers and provides communication between both sides.

Activity.  EVS and ESC offer similar activities. In general, volunteers work in the areas of environment, culture, sport, and education / in the environmental, cultural, sport, and educational areas. They also help in solving social problems. Moreover, you can find various projects on the program websites (for example, EVS, SALTO).

Which countries can participate?

EVS projects are available for citizens (or residents) of all EU countries, European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, EU candidate countries, and countries of Eastern Partnership.

ESC is for the youth of the EU countries, Azerbaijan, Albania, Algeria, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Armenia, Georgia, Egypt, Israel, Iceland, Jordan, Kosovo, Lebanon, Libya, Liechtenstein, Morocco, Moldova, Norway, Palestine, Northern Macedonia, Russia, Serbia, Syria, Tunis, Turkey, Ukraine and Montenegro.

So, if these programs sound interesting, you can start searching for projects and applying for ESC so that after the quarantine you embark on a journey in search of unforgettable impressions and valuable experience!

Prepared by Tetiana Matskailo