As part of my role as the BiblioWorks volunteer coordinator, I now get to help incoming volunteers sort out visas and the like. Good thing I made friends with the man at the migration office!
Last week, I went with an American volunteer who needed to get a 30 day extension on her and her daughter’s tourist visas. When I had inquired for her several weeks ago, I was told that she could get two 30 extensions and that they would each cost Bs 210 (about $30 USD). We went in and I spoke to the man at the door, he said there was no fee but that she needed photocopies of the passport information page as well as the page with the entry stamp and the green piece of paper they give you when you enter Bolivia that you are supposed to hang on to and give back when you exit the country (mine went missing during my residence permit quest so I will have to pay a fine when I exit). We went off to make the photocopies and then came back to wait. (The official at the door asked me for help with his smartphone while we waited. It wouldn’t connect to 3G and the language choices on it were English, Japanese and Chinese so he was keen to have an English speaker take a look. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to sort out the problem.) After a bit we were called up to the edge of a desk where someone else was being helped and there was a flurry of stamping. Back outside we took a look and there were two 30 day stamps in each passport. So not only was there no fee, she wouldn’t have to come back after another 30 days to get another extension (however she will be leaving Bolivia before then anyway).
On the weekend, a family of Canadian volunteers who are planning to spend 6 months in Bolivia arrived. Monday, the mother and I set out to see what we could find out about the residency permit process for a child. The good news was that children don’t need police reports. The bad news was that it is necessary to have their birth certificates translated and stamped by the Bolivian embassy in their home country. We also learned that since she and her partner aren’t married, they didn’t need to provide a marriage certificate. As a family, there was another letter they would have to get written up by a lawyer to the director of migration.
From there we stopped by Interpol to see if it was really necessary to have the rental contract and letter to the director of Interpol signed and stamped by a lawyer (no).
The volunteer was quite discouraged by the news of needing to send the birth certificate to Canada. She decided to call the Bolivian embassy in Canada to find out more about how much it would cost ($50 for the translation, $50 for the authentication) and how long it would take. It took a few hours before she got through but when she did the woman was quite helpful. She said it is possible to extend the special purpose visa for an extra 60 days (giving 90 altogether) and then leave Bolivia and come back as a tourist for another 90 days. This sounded far less painful than the residency permit process (and fit with their plan to stay for 6 months) so I went back to migration to confirm this. My buddy there said the extension is actually for 90 days and confirmed that you can then leave and re-enter Bolivia as a tourist and stay for 90 days. So if that is true, they will have nearly 7 months in Bolivia. He checked the price of the renewal and it is about ½ that of the one year residency permit. It’s good to know there is another option!
While I was there the second time, I also asked some questions for a volunteer from the UK who arrived at the beginning of October but doesn’t have a flight back to the UK until mid-January which ends up being more than 90 days total. My buddy confirmed that she can overstay her visa and pay a Bs 25 (about $3.50 USD) per day fine for every day past 90 when she leaves the country. However she has mentioned she might want to go to the U.S. to visit a friend over Christmas (I think she might change her mind when she sees the price of flights…) so I wanted to check how many days of her 90 she needed to have left to be allowed back in the country. If I understood correctly she needs to have at least 10.
I am starting to think I should set up a side-business offering help with visas and residency permits for foreigners…