The process of applying for a residency visa changed significantly in November 2014, so a long-overdue update is in order.
Group one countries, which include most of the “first world”, are still able to enter Bolivia visa free and stay for up to 90 days per calendar year. This means, for example, that you can stay for three months from October to December one year, then come back in January and stay for another three months. Tourists are typically only given a 30 day visa on arrival but this can be quickly rectified by visiting the Migraciones office in any of the major cities and asking for an extension, up to a maximum of 90 days in total. The process can even be done after the initial 30 day visa has expired.
There is no longer an option to extend tourist visas beyond 90 days. Nevertheless, tourists can still overstay for a reasonable amount of time and pay just a 20 BOB fine per day upon leaving the country at any airport or land border.
Group two countries — including the USA — can apply for a visa on arrival. Officially, tourists from group two countries should have a passport photo, hotel reservation, itinerary, a letter of invitation, a yellow fever vaccination, proof of sufficient funds (i.e. credit card), return airfare/bus tickets and US$160 in crisp, undamaged US bills. In reality, you only need bring cash as the rest is never requested by border officials. Visa on arrival is available at all international airports and major land borders.
WARNING: Visa on arrival for Americans has been problematic over the years. There have been reports of tourists being turned away at the border even with all the correct documentation. Furthermore, many airlines are said to refuse boarding if the traveler does not have all of the above documentation. Finally, the price and validity of the tourist visa tends to change as often as the winds. To be on the safe side, check with your local embassy AND airline.
Group three countries, which include most of the “third world” and more recently Israel, must apply for a visa in advance from a Bolivian consulate in another country.
The residency process is still fairly long and drawn-out but it’s notably better than it used to be. These days, a foreigner wishing to reside in Bolivia typically chooses from one of five different visa options: Working Visa, Study Visa, Health Visa, Humanitarian Visa and Family Visa.
Those migrating from other South American countries might have different requirements altogether and should check the Migraciones website.
So what’s changed?
The good news is that gringos can now apply for a three year visa straight away, meaning it’s no longer necessary to keep doing endless amounts of visa paperwork every year. Another nice change is that applicants are no longer required to have home inspections which were lengthy, costly and fraught with corruption. Finally, it’s no longer necessary for group one countries to apply for an Objeto Determinado, although I’m unsure about other countries, i.e. the USA. These days new applicants must have a police background check from their home country instead.
WORKING VISA REQUIREMENTS:
I was working for a company which employed me under a contrato civil and was required to present the following documentation:
- A copy of your contract (civil) signed by the owner or legal representative and witnessed (reconocimiento de firmas) by a notary. The notary must witness both you and the owner/legal rep sign the contract. Bring two copies of the contract and two copies of your I.D. In La Paz, there are plenty of Notaries in calle Yanacocha.
- A photocopy of the Registro Commercial of your employer.
- A photocopy of the Acta de Constitucion of your employer.
- A photocopy of the NIT of your employer.
- A photocopy of the legal representatives ID.
- A Certificado de Trabajo (maybe optional).
As I understand, those employed under a contrato laboral have different requirements and should get approval from the Ministry of Trabajo. Those starting a business or working independently also have different requirements.
RESIDENCY VISA GENERAL REQUIREMENTS:
For most visas, i.e. Work, Study, Family etc.
1. A criminal background check from your country of origin.
- This is only required if you are applying for a new residency visa. It is not required for extensions.
- It’s much easier to get this while still in your home country.
- Foreign documents have to be translated into Spanish and legalized which you can easily and cheaply do once inside Bolivia.
2. FELCN Certificado de Antecedentes (narcotics police criminal background check). In La Paz – Near Plaza Adela Zamudio, Sopocachi. Mon to Fri, 0900 – 1800.
Initially you need:
- Two photocopies of your passport
- Memorial (a cover letter) written by a lawyer to the Director for the FELCN asking for a “certificado de antecedentes”. In La Paz you can find many lawyers in Calle Yanacocha, but make sure that everything is spelt correctly. A Memorial shouldn’t cost more than 50BS.
After 72 hours they will ask you to come back with:
- A receipt of a bank deposit to Banco Union of 25BS to the account 14041070.
- One passport photograph sized 4×4 with a red background.
- A copy of the memorial which you initially provided.
- Two photocopies of your passport.
- Your original passport.
If you have everything ready they will do this on the spot for you. It should take less than an hour.
3. Antecedentes de INTERPOL (INTERPOL background check). In La Paz -Av Costanera, Seguencoma. It’s in the big European style house with the pointy roof next to the football field (supposedly a confiscated Narcos house). Mon to Fri, 0900-1700.
This is only necessary if you are applying for a new visa. Those who are extending their residency visa do not need Antecedentes de INTERPOL, assuming they have not left Bolivia for more than three months.
These INTERPOL requirements are from June 2014 and may be out of date. I recommend to check with INTERPOL directly before acquiring documentation.
Bring with you the following:
- Colour photocopy of your passport, including photo page.
- Four passport photos, size 3×4, with a red background. Three must be from the front and one of a half profile from the right (medio perfil derecho).
- A photocopy of your certificado de antecedentes de FELCN.
- Photocopy of your rental or anticretico contract with your name on it.
- Photocopy of the Cedula de Identidad of the owner of the property.
- Documentation that proves he/she is the lawful owner of the house/apartment. This is usually known as a Folio Real.
- Photocopy of the receipt of the latest electricity and gas payment in your name (or it can be in the name of the landlord if included in rent).
- A yellow folder.
- A memorial to the Director Departmental de INTERPOL, specifying your full name, nationality, passport number, marital status, occupation, address in Bolivia, and the motive of your application (ie 1 year temporary working residency). This memorial does not need to be written by a lawyer. You can do it yourself, just copy the style and format of one of your previous memorials.
- Receipt of a payment of 50 BOB to Banco Union to the account of 1404 1070.
You will have to return in 5 working days to collect the certificate.
4. Antecedentes de FELCC (regular police background check). In La Paz – Transito, corner of Mariscal Santa Cruz (Prado) and Cochabamba.
The process only takes 15 minutes but expect to wait in line at least two hours. Bring with you the following.
- A photocopy of your passport, including entry stamps or previous visa.
- Original passport.
- A photocopy of your Certificado de Antecedentes de INTERPOL (if required).
- One passport photo, size 4×4 with a red background.
- A receipt for a payment of 25 BOB to Banco Union to the account number 1404 1070.
5. Health Check. In La Paz – INSO, Calle Claudio Sanjines, Miraflores, opposite Hospital Torax, Mon to Fri, 0800-1000.
This doesn’t need to be done in sequence as there are no prerequisites. You should fast after dinner the night before, so no food or drink. They will do a series of medical checks which take about three hours. Once finished, you will be told to come back in three days or so to collect your results. Bring the following:
- A sample of your morning pee. You can buy containers from almost any pharmacy.
- 197 BS cash.
- A photocopy of your passport.
6. REJAP Certificate of legal system background check (Certificado de Antecedentes Penales). In La Paz – Calle Potosi and Yanacocha. Document Submission 0800 – 1030am. Document collection 0800 – 1700 (closed for lunch).
This doesn’t need to be done in sequence as there are no prerequisites.
This is only required for an extension of a residency visa, not for a first application.
There are two REJAP offices on the same street for some reason. You pay at the higher one and submit at the lower one. You have to submit your documents in the morning but can collect them any time after a 72 hour processing period.
- Photocopy of your ID (carnet or passport).
- 50 BOB cash.
- Valid passport with a previous residency sticker for renewals or an entry stamp for new applications.
- Proof of yellow fever vaccination. This is only required if you are living or working in an area affected by yellow fever.
- A bank statement showing sufficient funds to live in Bolivia. You need a minimum of $300 per month to prove solvency, but more is recommended to live comfortably in Bolivia. I’m not sure if this was necessary in hindsight.
- 2 passport photos; size 4×4 with a red background.
Once your documentation has been accepted you need to pay the processing fee to Banco Union. The amount you pay depends on the length of your visa. I paid 2000 BOB for a two year working visa. Migraciones should have your visa ready for you within one week.
The next step is to apply for your Carnet de Identidad.