Brazil is one of those magical countries that every traveler falls in love with. From the gorgeous beaches to the vibrant cities, the delicious food and friendly people, there’s so much to love. It’s one of those countries that once your trip is over, you’re probably already looking for ways to book your next plane ticket back.
If you’ve considered returning to Brazil, or are planning your first trip and already know you’ll fall in love, you should consider volunteering. Whether you’re interested in volunteering with rescued wildlife, youth or for the environment, Brazil is an excellent choice for volunteering abroad. And while the Brazil visa might not be as difficult to obtain as a Chinese visa or Russian visa, getting the right visa is crucial if you plan on getting involved with volunteer work while visiting.
Limitations of Tourist Visa
Strictly speaking, a tourist visa is exactly that, it’s a visa just for tourism. A typical Brazil tourist visa lasts 90 days and is only valid for entry if you plan on visiting friends or relatives, are traveling for tourism activities or to participate in athletic competitions where there is no financial compensation.
Volunteer work is not covered by any of the activities involved in a tourist visa, so it’s important not to get caught out thinking you can volunteer or spend a long time in Brazil if you just arrive on a tourist visa. The following section lists all the requirements and paperwork you need in order to obtain a volunteer visa for Brazil.
How to Apply for a Brazil Volunteer Visa
Different to a work visa, where you are authorized to conduct business or work for someone for financial gain, a volunteer visa allows a traveler to stay in Brazil for up to a year to be involved in volunteer activities. Obtaining a visa is relatively easy and can be started online via the Brazil Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The following is a simplified summary of the Brazil visa application process for volunteering:
- Read and understand the visa and its requirement at the Embassy’s website (Note: Brazil might have a visa waiver deal with your country; check at the Embassy of your country).
- Have all the essential visa documents listed in the section below.
- Complete the online application form.
- Upload all the essential and required documents, photos and signatures in the online application.
- Print out the “Visa Form Delivery Receipt”, attach the passport photos and sign.
- Create copies of all the documents you uploaded, as well as anything else related to your volunteering role.
- Services such as Visaexpress.com can assist you at this point in filing the application. To do so, contact Visaexpress.com with your name and your application number. You will also receive specific instructions on how to pay your visa fee.
- At this stage you’ll receive instructions on how to make payment for the visa application fee. Pay that and record the receipt number as proof.
- Send all your documents by mail (listed below), including:
- A letter with your contact details – email, telephone address and phone number
- Full detail receipt of payments which contains information like beneficiary’s account number, payment date, application number, etc.
When sending your volunteer visa application in you’ll also need to include an envelope that is self-addressed of size A4 in order to receive your passport back. Use mail services with tracking numbers so you are able to monitor the return of your document.
Applicants need to submit their visa application to the closest Brazilian embassy, where the average processing period required is about 10 business days, however it depends on the country. All visa processes must be submitted through post, as visa application and processing in person is not possible.
Required Brazil Volunteer Visa Documentation
In order to complete the application you’ll need a few documents, such as:
- A valid passport with at least 6 months before expiry and two blank passport pages (please note the last three pages of the passport are not counted).
- The completed online form, with your assigned application number and a signed receipt.
- Two 2″ x 2″ passport photos.
- A notarized copy of your government issued ID, such as a drivers license. In many cases it’s also useful to have a notarized copy of your birth certificate, which also includes the full names of your parents listed.
- A criminal record check from your local police department if you are over the age of 18 and plan on spending longer than 9o days in Brazil.
- Information from the organization that you plan on volunteering with in order to prove your purpose for applying for a volunteer visa in Brazil. This includes your role, the role of the organization, information on the legality of the organization and various other requirements. Depending on where you are volunteering it’s best to check with your organization on what you’ll specifically need to provide.
Top Brazil Volunteer Opportunities
Once you’ve organized your volunteer visa it’s time to start finding a volunteer placement that best suits your skillset. This is the fun part! Find below a couple of awesome examples of different volunteer organizations. There are also a number of helpful website resources that list volunteering opportunities:
Volunteer South America – The OG of low cost and free volunteering opportunities. Don’t let the name fool you, this has listing throughout all of Latin America. From Mexico all the way down to the tip of Argentina and Brazil. This is where both of us found our volunteering opportunities in South America, which eventually led us to each other in the middle of Peru back in 2012!
Omprakash – Another fantastic resource for finding organizations to intern or volunteer at. It also includes ways to network with other volunteers, donate to organizations and learn about what it takes to volunteer abroad.
Located 100miles NE of Rio de Janiero (~3 hours drive) is the self-sustainable farm Eco Caminhos. Founded in 2014, Eco Caminhos was started with the goal of creating local solutions to the overwhelming issues of climate and habitat change. This communal living farm utilizes renewable energy, composting waste, growing their own food and is built to be entirely self sustaining.
Along with being an amazing wealth of knowledge for learning about sustainability, Eco Caminhos also offers a range of different volunteer opportunities for anyone looking to learn, grow and better themselves. There are both short term (4-12 weeks) and long term (1yr+) program opportunities, as well as even shorter crash course style programs that last between 1-4 weeks. Check out their website to learn more.
The goal at Mais Caminhos is to empower the next generation of underprivileged children and teenagers to build themselves a better future. Ran by the same team behind Eco Caminhos, at Mais Caminhos there are a number of different length volunteer programs to suit your availability.
If you want to be involved in the classroom or with any of the teaching positions you’ll need to commit to at least three to four months. This helps ensure some stability and consistency with the students and their learning. For those that have less time there are still plenty of administrative opportunities that are crucial to the success of the organizations mission and vision.