South America visas and reciprocity fees

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Updated September 2016

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Avoid delays and denied entries: make sure that you are in-the-know about South American travel requirements prior to departure. Here is a detailed exploration of the visa requirements for travel in South America, with special attention to Latin America for Less’ featured destinations: Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Chile and Ecuador (Galapagos).

Overview

  •  3 South American countries require American citizens to pay a reciprocity fee: Paraguay, Brazil and Bolivia
  • Most South American countries require that your passport is valid at least 6 months from time of travel
  • Make sure that your passport has free pages available for stamps
  • Many countries require that you pay a departure tax – make sure to budget this!
  • Always carry printed proof of onward/return travel
  • Always carry a copy of your passport, throughout your travels
  •  Make sure you budget the cost of visas and reciprocity fees!

Visa Requirements for U.S. citizens

American travelers are required to pay the reciprocity fee based on a similar fee that citizens from these countries have to pay when entering the United States.

South America Visa Requirements for U.S. citizens

2016 UPDATE: Effective August 23rd 2016, U.S. citizens are EXEMPT from paying a reciprocity fee to enter Argentina for tourist or business purposes. The $160 USD reciprocity was initially suspended on 24 March 2106 and is now made permanent by Presidential Decree. Payment of the reciprocity fee still applies for citizens of Canada and Australia.

Peru

Railroad tracks Cusco to Machu PicchuThe railroad tracks from Cusco to Machu Picchu in Peru Photo by Boris G/Flickr

Visa: No
Reciprocity fee: No
Departure-tax: No

If you decide to travel to Peru, you will not be required to apply for a visa ahead of time or pay a reciprocity fee. In order to be granted access to the country, Americans will have to:

  1. Present a valid passport at the immigration control (expiration date no less than 6 months after travel dates)
  2. Present printed proof of onward/return travel (i.e. flight itinerary)
  3. Fill out the TAM card for immigration

Once you enter Peru, you will be required to complete and submit the Tarjeta Andina Migracion (TAM; Andean Migration Card). Your valid passport and the TAM combined entitle visitors to stay in Peru for up to 183 days for touristic purposes.

The TAM form will be torn in half: the immigration officer keeps one side, you keep the other. It is crucial that you keep this slip safe! The TAM and your passport can be presented at hotels to be exempted from the 18% sales tax present in Peru. More importantly, the TAM and your passport will have to be presented when you exit the country.

If you lose or misplace your TAM card: present yourself at the Migrations Office upon departure with your original passport showing dated entry stamp. A replacement TAM will be issued and a small fee assessed. The process can be quick if you are lucky, but at times can be dragged out and bureaucratic.

Brazil

Brasil Rio de JaneiroThe Marvelous City – Rio de Janeiro in Brazil Photo by Boris G/Flickr

Visa: Yes
Reciprocity fee: Yes – $160 USD
Departure-tax: No

While many countries are exempt from visa requirements in Brazil, Americans, Canadians and Australians are required to apply for a tourist visa ahead of their scheduled travel. Once you choose Brazil as your next travel destination, you will have to:

  1. Complete and submit the online visa application
  2. Print your confirmation of submission (the protocol receipt)
  3. Schedule an appointment at the Brazilian consulate nearest you

Don’t forget to bring the following to your appointment at the consulate:

  • Passport (valid at least 6 months from the date of entry to Brazil)
  • Protocol receipt
  • A recent 2″ x 2″ passport photo
  • A copy of your driver’s license (or any proof of residential address)
  • Printed version of your full flight itinerary
  • Processing fee (Australians $35; Canadians $65; United States $160)

Bring the printed protocol receipt from the online application and any supporting documents to the consulate in person, by mail (for tourist visas only) or through a visa agency. As of May 1st, 2014, only tourist visas may be submitted by mail in the US.

The Brazilian consulate suggests for applicants to submit the application ahead of time, as processing can take between 2 days to 2 weeks. Take note of slower processing times as a result of the World Cup and demand during peak season. Your visa will be valid for up to 10 years, allowing you to stay 90 days per visit.

Once you arrive at the airport:

  1. Present a valid passport at the immigration control (expiration date no less than 6 months after travel dates)
  2. Present your visa
  3. Present printed proof of onward/return travel (i.e. flight itinerary)

Now enjoy all this wonderful country has to offer!

Argentina

View from Palacio Barolo Buenos Aires ArgentinaView from Palacio Barolo Buenos Aires Argentina Photo by Boris G/flickr

Visa: No
Reciprocity fee:
– Canadians $75 (single entry) or $100 multiple entry
– Australians $100 (1 year multiple entry)
–Effective August 23rd 2016, U.S. citizens are EXEMPT from paying a reciprocity fee to enter Argentina for tourist or business purposes.
Departure-tax: No

For travel to Argentina, citizens of Canada and Australia need to;

  1. Pay a reciprocity fee of online (before you travel to Argentina)
  2. Instructions: How to pay the reciprocity fee for Argentina

Once you arrive in Argentina:

  1. Present a valid passport at the immigration control (expiration date no less than 6 months after travel dates)
  2. Present your proof of payment of the reciprocity fee
  3. Present printed proof of onward/return travel (i.e. flight itinerary)

Now you can enjoy your travels and plan future trips! The reciprocity fee is valid for 10 years for US citizens! You will be granted access for a total of 90-days at a time.

Chile

Easter Island AhuThe mysterious statues on Easter Island in Chile Photo by Honey Hooper/Wikimedia Commons

Visa: No
Reciprocity fee: No
Departure-tax: Yes (only leaving from Santiago)

Good news: the reciprocity fee  required for US citizens to enter Chile has recently been dropped. As an American traveler you will no longer have to pay the $160 fee. You will not have to apply for a visa ahead of time, and you can stay in Chile for up to 90 days.

Once you arrive in Chile:

  1. Present a valid passport at the immigration control (expiration date no less than 90 days after travel dates)
  2. Present printed proof of onward/return travel (i.e. flight itinerary)
  3. Submit completed tourist card

When entering Chile you will fill out a Tourist Card. Do not lose this card as you will need to return it to customs when leaving the country.

For flights leaving from Santiago, each passenger is required to pay a departure tax that varies between $9 and $30 USD for international flights and between $4 and $9 USD for domestic flights. Please note that other airports in Chile may have different departure tax rates and policies.

Costa Rica

Visa: No (granted upon arrival)
Reciprocity fee: No
Departure-tax: Yes – $26 USD

To visit Costa Rica for the purpose of tourism, Americans will not have to apply for a visa ahead of time, or pay any reciprocity fees. Upon arrival in Costa Rica:

  1. Present a valid passport at the immigration control (expiration date no less than 30 days after travel dates)
  2. Present printed proof of onward/return travel (i.e. flight itinerary)
  3. Submit completed tourist card

You will be granted a stay of up to 90 days in Costa Rica.

Keep in mind that the Airport Embarkation Taxes are not included in your airfare, or the packages you book to Costa Rica. The Costa Rican authorities require that each visitor pay a departure tax when leaving the country. The cost of the departure tax is $26 USD.

Ecuador (Galapagos)

Marine Iguana GalapagosThis Galapagos Marine Iguana is enjoying a nice view Photo by BlinkingIdiot/Flickr

Visa: No
Reciprocity fee: No
Departure-tax: Yes – between $29.78 and $40.80 USD

Many nationalities, including Americans, do not need a visa to be granted access to Ecuador. This includes travel to the Galapagos Islands. American citizens will also not be required to pay a reciprocity fee.

Upon arrival, you must:

  1. Present a valid passport at the immigration control (expiration date no less than 6 months after travel dates)
  2. Present printed proof of onward/return travel (i.e. flight itinerary)

Visitors are issued a tourist visa upon arrival at the airport. The visa allows tourists to stay in Ecuador for a total of 90 days. An additional 90-day extension can be requested.

If you plan to visit the Galapagos Islands, you will have to obtain an INGALA Transit Control Card, that can be purchased at Guayaquil or Quito airport for $10 USD. To enter the Galapagos at Baltra or San Cristobal Airport, a Galapagos National Park fee of $100 USD in cash is charged.

There’s an exit fee for international flights leaving mainland Ecuador. This airport tax ranges between $29.78 and $40.80 USD.

For help planning your upcoming trip, call and talk with an expert travel advisor at Latin America For Less!

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About Author

Hendrika is Belgian but she considers herself a citizen of the world as she has lived in many different countries before moving to Peru. She fell in love with South America after her first visit to the continent in Bolivia, and has since then spent a lot of time traveling in the area. She especially enjoys Peru for its diversity, delicious food, and rich history.

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