You might have see it on my Facebook page last week, but I was jumping for joy about some new developments with the visa process for Americans traveling to Argentina.
I had the Argentina Embassy in the US website open on my computer for a few days because I was trying to find out information about paying the $160 reciprocity fee online before crossing over to Argentina overland from Chile. Although this is my second time in Argentina, I couldn’t find any proof of payment five years ago. To my surprise, when I refreshed the website I’d left on my web browser, I saw that as of last week, the rules had changed. The American Argentina reciprocity fee has been suspended. Americans no longer have to pay $160 prior to entry to Argentina. Say whaaat?! I was so excited and relieved.
I had a feeling that although it was true on the Internet doesn’t mean that it would be a painless process in reality when crossing the border from Chile to Argentina. I just stumbled across this information; the transport companies and border officials might not be aware yet. I’d already had problems crossing the border from Peru to Bolivia because I wasn’t prepared; I didn’t want this to happen again.
As soon as I read about the change, I emailed the Argentina Embassy in the US to confirm the change and make sure it was effective immediately. I was pleasantly surprised that within an hour I received a response that yes, the change was effective immediately.
Steph from Quarter Life Epiphany and I were in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, and went to buy our bus tickets with Geminis, a Chilean bus company. The clerk told us that we had to provide proof of payment of the reciprocity fee because we are Americans. I explained to her that the rules had changed just two days prior and that now Americans didn’t have to pay. She called her manager in Calama, Chile, who told her that they weren’t aware of this change yet. Geminis refused to sell us bus tickets. I told the clerk that if I was wrong, the bus could just leave us at the border (because I was 100% sure that this change was true and that we wouldn’t be denied entry without paying). That was a no-go. I informed her that the changes were listed officially online, and that she could look at the new regulation right now. She declined. I can’t describe how frustrating it was to plead with a person who refused to listen to me and made me feel like I was a liar.
We returned to our hotel and decided to put on the full-court press. We emailed the Argentina Embassy explaining the situation and then tweeted at Travel.State.Gov. I couldn’t help but laugh at the response I received; they didn’t even know about the change yet!
The website has since been updated after I sent them the link.
We were lucky that the consulate official for the Argentina Embassy responded to our emails so quickly, even on Easter. She sent us a copy of Disposition No. 589:2016 dictated by Argentina’s National Direction of Migrations stating that:
As from March 24 2016 the applicability of the collection of the fee established by Decree N° 1654/2008 and applied by the Disposition DNM [National Direction of Migrations] N° 2761/2009, is suspended for the period of NINETY (90) days, or until the Executive Power dictates the draft decree promoted by this National Direction [of Migrations] that declares its derogation with respect to the native citizens of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA who enter the Argentine Territory, regardless of their purpose.
The consulate official went above and beyond for us. She contacted the office in Buenos Aires and asked them to inform Migrations about our situation and requested the Chilean authorities to inform their officials and private transport and tour operators of the reciprocity fee suspension.
The following day, we printed out this information and brought it back to Geminis, determined to get to Argentina for free. This time, a different clerk sold us the tickets without really asking any questions, believing me when I told him about the change in the rules. To be fair, he didn’t seem to really care much about his job so I think we got lucky because when we went to actually board the bus the next day, the same clerk who denied us the bus tickets told me once again that I had to pay the fee. She then told her supervisor that the questionable clerk from the day before sold us our tickets and that we didn’t pay the reciprocity fee. She wasn’t going to let us on the bus. Thankfully, her supervisor told her that they just received information from the Argentina Embassy the day before that we didn’t have to pay the fee. If we had never contacted the Argentina Embassy, the bus company probably wouldn’t have found out for a long time. I shudder to think of how many Americans paid the reciprocity fee online this weekend without knowing.
When it came to actually crossing the border, we got our entrance stamps with no problem whatsoever.
For Americans visiting Argentina soon, here’s what you need to know about changes to the $160 reciprocity fee rules:
- As of right now, the payment of the reciprocity fee has been suspended for 90 days for American tourists and you can remain in Argentina for a period of 90 days. After President Obama’s recent visit to Argentina, new efforts have been made to strengthen ties between the US and Argentina. In efforts to facilitate US travel to Argentina, the $160 reciprocity fee Americans have to pay online before entering Argentina has been terminated. You can read more about the developments made after President Obama’s visit on this White House fact sheet. (If you want to skip to the part about the reciprocity fee, just search for it).
- If you’re planning on crossing overland to Argentina, you may not have problems at the border because border officials have been informed of this change, but local bus companies like the one we took might not have a clue. My recommendation would be to print out the disposition and the web page on the Argentina Embassy site and bring it just in case.
- Canadians and Australians still have to pay the $160 reciprocity fee. Sorry guys! Huge bummer, I know, but it looks like this new change only applies to Americans.
If you have any problems with buying bus tickets or crossing the border, don’t hesitate to contact the Argentina Embassy in the US. I couldn’t believe how quickly and efficiently we received responses and our situation was handled.
I couldn’t be happier to be in Argentina for a second time! So who’s coming to meet me now that it’s even cheaper for Americans to get here?!