It is ridiculously easy to get into Argentina. North American, Latin American, European Union, and Australian citizens qualify for an automatic tourist “visa” just by arriving at Ezeiza International airport. All that you are required to do, dear traveler, is to be shepherded towards Migraciones, stand in line, pay the US$140 (this is a reciprocity fee for US citizens- it is the same amount of money an Argentine citizen has to pay to acquire a US visa), stand in another line, and get your passport stamped. You now have a ten-year tourist admittance sticker with unlimited entries (caution: this it not a true visa!). The catch, however, is that you are legally allowed to stay in the country for 90 days at a time.
Tomorrow marks my 90th day in this beautiful country. Though it is difficult for me to believe that I have been in Argentina for three months, I have to face reality and make some decisions. As I am planning on staying here indefinitely, I will eventually, and hopefully soon, be getting temporary residency via school or work. Since this is a lengthy and convoluted process, these are my options until then:
- Border hop to Colonia, Uruguay (or anywhere outside of Argentina) every 90 days. This is an insanely popular option for perma-tourists, as this gives you the valuable exit stamp in your passport. Quickly stated, Argentina does not clarify that one may only be in the country for X days a year as a tourist. Brazil, por ejemplo, states that a tourist may not exceed 180 consecutive days. Thus, extranjeros often successfully take advantage of this “loophole” for years. There are plenty of debates about the interpretation and intention of the Argentine law, but I will save that for another time.
- Overstay my limit and pay the fine on my next trip out of the country. The price is ARS$300 (about US$75) and is the same whether your overstay four days or four years. This works well for a lot of people.
- Head to Dirección Nacional de Migraciones to extend my limit by another 90 days for ARS$300. This can only be done once, thus giving me a consecutive 180 days in the country.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each of the options. The first choice, leaving the country, costs a decent amount of money. At the cheapest, you have to figure your Buquebus (ferry) fare, which starts around $290 pesos, plus any extra you might wish to spend while in Uruguay. Don’t forget lodging if you want to stay overnight. You will also be charged the overstay fine before leaving Argentina, if applicable. Be aware that some people have experienced issues with the their re-entry stamp. One blogger sailed on a ship that didn’t exist, according to the government. Others have had their passports stamped with a less-than-the-expected 90 day allowance, ranging from three to thirty days. Of course, a visit to any country, not just Uruguay, qualifies for this trip; this may be a great time to visit Chile, Paraguay, or any of the other Latin American countries.
The second option is pretty straightforward. It is fairly easy and works particularly well for travelers that are staying just a short time over the limit or do not plan to leave the country for a few extra months. There are folks who have stayed in the country for years on this method. It would be advisable to have a back-up plan in case you are caught and are not planning on leaving. Argentina is not known for deporting people, but the government can give an order and ban you from re-entry for up to five years. I imagine this is not fun if you were hoping to gain residency.
The third option gets a lot of grief from the expat and perma-tourist community as it is time-consuming and headache-inducing. The general consensus is to (cue doomsday voice) avoid government offices at all costs! Argentina is not an efficient bureaucracy, if there ever was one. The process can be doubly difficult if you have minimal spanish. Migraciones also gives you the highest risk of receiving an última prórroga, which is a final warning to regularize your status or get out. The abyss of Migraciones can take three hours if you are lucky, but it is also the only clearly legal way to extend your stay in Argentina.
Which did I choose?