– by Rick Hepting and 2 anonymous reporters
On March 5, 2009, at the International Friendship Club (IFC) there was a presentation by the Puerto Vallarta local Immigration Delegate, Lic. Alejandro Sandoval Hernandez and his assistants, with explanations by Kelly Trainor, the US Consular Agent, regarding enforcement of regulations concerning expat participation in volunteer work in Puerto Vallarta and in Mexico, generally.
The Mexican Immigration Department 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 activities.
- 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 the Immigration Office with a letter request (in Spanish), together with a conformation letter of need (in Spanish) from the non-profit organization (Samples of these letters are available at the IFC).
Each request is judged on its merits and the proper endorsement will be issued by Immigration within 10 days after being submitted to the Immigration 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, a person should keep a copy of his endorsed FM2 or FM3 with him/her 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 (as explained previously) to the Immigration Office.
If a request is made for a visa amendment for volunteer work in the next four or five weeks (during March, 2009), Lic.(licenciado) Alejandro Sandoval has stated that it should not be necessary to stand in line with everybody else at Immigration.
There WILL be a form letter available so only your name and the charity’s name and your activity will need to be inserted (From now on, all charities should be registered with Immigration, which will facilitate this process).
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.
This article is a compilation of the reporting of two members of the VallaraScene Forum who attended this meeting at the IFC on March 5, 2009.