Advice on Bolivian Visa Requirements for US Citizens

Last year, when Evo decided to restructure the visa requirements for US citizens, all of the news was focused on the new requirements for a tourist visa (Including a hilarious April Fools Joke by Jim Schultz!) While most of us frequent visitors moaned about having to shovel out $100, we were glad it was good for five years. (The price has now been raised to $135 if you obtain it at the border or airport). Although it seemed to be a more expensive version of the same-old tourist visa, 90 days upon entry, many aspects have indeed changed.

Gone are the days when you could take a quick trip to Puno or Desaguadero to re-enter Bolivia and get another 90 days. They are now VERY strict about only permitting 90 day PER YEAR. This was the rule before but it was not enforced, it is now. I had a short trip (two weeks) to Bolivia in February 2008. During that trip, I paid for my tourist visa and got 90 days written on my visa. When I returned in May 2008, intending to stay three months, the officer would only give me 60 days since I had already entered Bolivia once in the year. I tried to sweet-talk to 90 days, but he refused. As before, if your trip is longer than the time allotted on the visa you can pay a fine when you leave the country. (It used to be 10Bs a day, it has now been raised to 14Bs a day. They don’t give you a hard time for staying over, they just want the money.)

At the time, I didn’t mind the 60 days because I had intended to apply for a year-long visa, particularly the Visa de Cortesia, which most researchers are instructed to get. (A quick note to previous Gringo Tamboites who shared the pain of this tramite… the US Embassy now gets the visa for the Fulbrighters! Can you believe it?! No Sargent Mamani Mamani for the new generation! Now that’s injustice!)

In the past, one could enter Bolivia with a tourist visa and once in the country proceed with the long-term visa tramite. Unfortunately, I learned too late that I COULD NOT proceed with the tramite for a Visa de Cortesia, or any type of visa, having entered on a tourist visa: another major difference is that you CANNOT change migratory status while in Bolivia if you entered with a tourist visa. In order to obtain any other type of visa, you must now enter with a Visa de Objeto Determinado. This gives you 30 days to begin your permanent visa tramite. (You can find all of the requisites for both types of visas on Bolivian Embassy in the US webpage go to Servicios Consulares).

Thus, my only option was to leave the country, obtain the Visa de Objeto Determinado, and re-enter. I decided to go the Bolivian Consulate in Puno and luckily they were very nice and efficient. I had my Visa de Objeto Determinado in about 2 hours.

This is my sad story, but I have also heard of people with the opposite problem. Colleagues who actually called the Bolivian embassy to ask about the visa changes were told about the Visa de Objeto Determinado. This worked well for people who planned to stay more than three months, but for colleagues who only intended to stay for 2 to 3 months found themselves with a 30 day visa and no intention of applying for a year-long visa. They either had to pay the fine for staying over 30 days or had to go to Puno and re-enter as a tourist.

Apart from the annoyance of having to take extra trips to Puno, this back and forth adds up. Not only did I end up paying $100 for the original tourist visa, I had to pay a multa for staying a few days over, and then had to pay $85 for the Visa de Objeto Determinado. Had I know from the start, I would have only paid $85.

So now that I have shared my sad story here is some advice for future visitors.

If you plan to be in the country less than 30 days, never return in the next 5 years, and have a contact that can write you a letter for the Visa de Objeto Determinado, get this visa and save between $15-$45.

If you plan to be in the country for about 90 days and return in the future, get the Visa de Turista. If you are staying just a month or so over, you can pay the fines and save the major headaches of applying for a long-term visa.

If you plan to be in the country for 5 months to a year or longer, get the Visa de Objeto Determinado and proceed with your tramite in the migrations office. Good luck and may the force be with you.


11 Responses

  1. Maria, thanks so much for this information — it will be very helpful to U.S. citizens planning on traveling to Bolivia soon! I hope that your application for the year-long visa goes smoothly. All of us remember how difficult it was even before the new restrictions.

    And while I hope you don’t have the opportunity, chances are you will — say hi to the good Sargent for us. šŸ™‚

  2. Hi I actually have a question about the passport aspect. Im planning a trip to bolivia at least by the end of this year to visit people I know. And well this the first time I’. applying for a visa and I was reading the requirements for the visa. And when it came to this requirement

    2. Current American passport. (Please note that it must be valid for at least 6 more months as per the Instructive 02/2007 of the Ministry.)

    I didn’t understand if that meant that my passport at least has to be 6 months old to travel or if that meant that when I’m traveling my passport must be valid at least 6 months on the last day I’m planing to leave.

  3. Hi Lizymoi, welcome to the GT!

    My understanding is that your passport needs to be valid for six months after your date of entry into Bolivia. So if you arrive there in December, your passport should be valid until the following June or so. It’s a fairly common requirement for travel visas.

    Hope this helps!

  4. Hi,
    I’ve been reading your visa saga with interest because my wife just got a Fulbright-Hays grant for a year in Bolivia, mostly in La Paz, starting around September ’09. Did you (Maria) ever get the Visa de Cortesia? How does this visa work? Does it allow multiple entries, too, or does it just let you stay there longer than the three months per year?
    Having lived in La Paz all of 2003, we’re familiar with Bolivia’s crazy bureacratic obstacle course! Anyway, I hope you’ve resolved your problem, and if you or any of your colleagues have any more advice, I’d love to hear it.

  5. Hmmm…my comment got eaten!

    Welcome KB and congrats to your wife! If you can use the U.S. Embassy to help facilitate the V d C, by all means do so! Those of us who got it in 2003-5 got in mainly through stubbornness, it was quite a difficult process. It used to be that the V d C allowed multiple entries for a year but you were charged departure/travel taxes at a higher Bolivia resident rate. I am not sure of current requirements.

    Maria – do you know what the current visa situation is? We’re trying to figure out if I’ll need a visa. Some info we have says no, Bolivians resident in the exterior *and* their families, traveling to Bolivia to visit family members, do NOT need to pay the fee. Other information says Bolivian citizens only. I am sure it depends on who we get at the airport, but just wondering if you have any insight. We’ll be bringing original birth/marriage/etc certificates, letters and copies of carnets, etc along with us…

    Hope you are well!

  6. Hello visa commentators,

    I apologize for not responding before, you caught me at a very busy time, I was traveling and not with regular internet access. KB your questions may be answered by now, but yes, I did get the Visa de Cortesia, which requires a long tramite. You can leave and re-enter, but beware that they charge you as a resident, which in addition to the airport tax is another 25$. So go to the airport with at least 50$ or about 400 BS.

    I will also add that it seems like the Embassy-Migration relationship has taken a turn for the worse. Not only is the Embassy no longer getting visas for students, but they are even telling them they may not get more than a tourist visa. I’ll be visiting Migrations soon, as I will be staying beyond my previous one-year visa, and hopefully will have an update on the situation.

    Why don’t we have an Ambassador yet? I feel like Bolivia-US relations are slipping through the cracks. I know Obama and Clinton have a lot on their plates, but I hope they don’t completely disregard the situation here. This is probably deserving of a post…..

  7. […] Advice on Bolivian Visa Requirements for US Citizens « Gringo Tambo(You can find all of the requisites for both types of visas on Bolivian Embassy in the US webpage go to Servicios Consulares). … Some info we have says no, Bolivians resident in the exterior *and* their families, traveling to Bolivia to visit family members, do NOT need to pay the fee. Other information says Bolivian… […]

  8. What papers did you need when you applied for your Objecto Determinado in Puno? Is it true that you need what it lists on the Consulate website? I am a religious volunteer already working in Bolivia and I will have to leave the country to apply for my Objecto Determinado as well. I am most concerned about the 2 legalized letters that I need (since I am a religious volunteer), and i’m hoping that you’re going to tell me that I don’t need all the requirements that the Consulate website lists…?

  9. Hello! I just checked the website myself and since the time I was running around with these tasks, they have improved it a great deal! None of that information was up there before, I had to get it all from the Migration office.
    I was doing academic research so I had to have a letter from the Ministry of Culture, so I would say that, yes, you probably do need those two documents they request. I’m sure you can get an official letter from the church you are working with. I’m not sure about the “Legalized Membership”? Are there any other volunteers you could ask about this? I notice they also ask for this for student visas and wonder if a Legalized copy of a student id works? Churches usually don’t hand out membership cards!
    I would definitely try and find someone who has done this recently, or go with someone from the organization you are working with to the Migration office and ask someone there what are acceptable forms of these documents. You certainly don’t want to make the trip to Puno and not have the proper paperwork.
    Sorry I can’t be of more assistance! Good luck!

  10. Hello! I am leaving for Bolivia in January 2013 with an Ambassadorial Scholarship from Rotary International to study in Cochabamba at the Universidad Mayor de San Simon. I am wondering if anyone can give advice about obtaining a student visa from the get-go and not having to mess around with re-applying for a longer visa once in-country.

  11. Hi Nicki! Visa situations have changed a great deal in the past few years, so I suspect the best thing would be to contact the Bolivian embassy and ask about current requirements and procedures. We’d love to hear your experience here at the GT!

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