The following is edited from an article
appearing in the Bandaras News (Puerto
Vallarta) 5 March 2009.
The Mexican Immigration
(INM) is concerned that American and Canadian visitors and tourists
are taking jobs from Mexican workers by pretending to "volunteer" at
local charities, businesses or events.
If you are a short-term visitor with an FMT tourist visa and do a
small amount of charitable work here during your vacation, you are
fine and there is no problem. You need do nothing extra.
If you do regularly voluntary non-lucrative work for one or more
charities (say once a week or more) it would be advisable for you to
get a notation in your FM2 or FM3 to let immigration know of your
If the purpose of the volunteer effort is to raise money for any
purpose whatsoever, a visa endorsement is mandatory.
To obtain this visa endorsement, a passport and FM2 or FM3 must be
presented to your local INM office with a letter request (in
Spanish,) together with a conformation letter of need (in Spanish)
from the non-profit organization.
Each request is judged on its merits and the proper endorsement will
be issued when approved by the INM office. If the volunteer work
would/could displace a Mexican worker from employment the
Immigration officer will decide if the requested endorsement for
volunteer work is appropriate.
Volunteering for income producing activities (such as acting in a
theater company) without authorization may result in a significant
monetary fine and possibly jeopardize one’s tourist privileges in
Mexico. If volunteering, you should keep a copy of your endorsed FM2
or FM3 with you at all times while performing that service.
This recent "crackdown" on volunteerism began because there are "too
many tourists, visitors, non-working residents, etc" working
illegally in bars, restaurants, real estate, theaters, etc. and
Immigration wants to control these illegal activities. These
violators are its main focus. At the same time, however, many
volunteers, donating their time for good causes, can be caught in
the crossfire. Remuneration of any type (food, discounts, event
admissions) are counted in the same manner as cash payment.
People that volunteer their time as members of the boards of
Condominium Associations (or any type of "board"), should also get a
letter from the administrator of the condominium stating their roles
and the fact that there is no remuneration. They should take this
letter, along with their own letter to the Immigration Office.
These are not new regulations according to the officials. They have
been on the books for a long time. Immigration is being more
aggressive about enforcement because of perceived and real abuses.
Here are only a few of the many
opportunities to do volunteer work in Mexico.