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New Visa Requirements for Bolivia

Beginning December 1, 2007, U.S. tourists to Bolivia will be required to purchase a visa to enter the country. As with most visa requirements for U.S. citizens, this move is in reciprocity for visa requirements Bolivian citizens are obligated to pay to enter the United States. I really wish the government would quit screwing with my travel plans. Visa payments can get costly when you travel often.

Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca said U.S. citizens would fall under Bolivia’s most highly regulated migratory category. A 30-day tourist visa will cost $134, an amount similar to fees paid by Bolivians applying to enter the United States. That is quite a chunk of change just to get in to the country. It seems to me that the governments who charge these excessive fees don’t really value the tourist dollars like the people do.

Currently, U.S. tourists only have to fill out a small form upon entering Bolivia, which grants them 30 days’ stay with the chance to apply for up to 90 days. Pretty reasonable. The new category requires proof of “economic solvency,” proof of hotel reservations for the entire planned visit or a notarized invitation from a Bolivian citizen as well as a small passport photo taken against a “red background,” though Choquehuanca hinted the process might be simplified. I’ve never heard of a passport picture with a “red background,” but its a good color for me so I’m okay with that part. I’ve actually been to several countries in which funds and hotel reservations are supposedly required for entry, but I’ve never had any trouble.

The good news is that you will be able to get the visa at the border or airport, rather than being required to spend 8 weeks dealing with some embassy in the states.

The Bolivian Tourism Chamber says one in five tourists visiting Bolivia is from the United States, and more than 70,000 Americans visited in 2005, the last year for which figures were available. Americans spend an estimated $40 million a year in South America’s poorest country. I wonder how many of those tourists will opt for another country that won’t require additional fees.

President Evo Morales has called Bolivia’s new policy “a matter of reciprocity.” The U.S. government requires Bolivians to obtain visas to enter the United States, charging $100 for each visa, plus a $14 fee per family to begin the application process. We’re really not nice about that stuff. “That’s expensive for us, but it’s cheap for them,” Choquehuanca said, which is a load of crap.