The US is pretty lucky when it comes to travel visa requirements for travel, according to Henley & Partners, the US is tied for fourth with 166 countries we can enter without a visa. Even though there are so many countries that do not require a visa, it doesn’t mean you can just hop on a plane anywhere in the world without any forethought and planning. You may find your self on a return flight home, at your expense, without even leaving the airport. That is if the airline even allows you to board the plane in the first place.
A good tool to utilize is ProjectVisa, to get you started on finding out when, where and how to get your visa (on arrival or before entry).
When we hit the 100 day countdown for our South American adventure an important reminder popped up on my calendar – “Submit Visa for Brazil and Paraguay“. Thus the process has begun, but an easy one it is not.
Visa for Brazil
First and foremost, where you are getting your visa matters, and it matters a lot. It seems that depending on which embassy you are applying to your visa requirements may be different. It is also important to note that it is based on which state you are a resident of, not necessarily where you are living.
The Brazilian Embassy has a list of which states each embassy has jurisdiction over. You would think that because I live in Ohio, that the Chicago embassy would be the logical choice – Nope! We must report to the Washington DC embassy.
Brazil has a reciprocity policy, which means since the US charges $140 – the Brazilian embassy charges Americans $140. This doesn’t include the $20 processing fee required if you mail in or have someone else complete your visa.
To complete your visa you must first complete the form online, it is no longer available in paper form. Make sure you have all your contact information and your contact in Brazil, if you are not visiting anyone then you will need the name and contact information of your hotel or hostel. Make sure that you have a printer connected to whichever computer you complete the application because you will need to print off two copies and mail them in with your other requirements.
The visa form - you will need to print off the two copies as well as have two printed passport photos, they even provide an example of the quality they require. Also, make sure you sign within the box. Let me say this again, in the box – not outside or on the box. This is serious business that cost me a few hours when I was student teaching and had to apply for a visa extension and accidentally curled my C a little too much . They take this very seriously.
The requirements - This seems to vary depending on which embassy you are applying to but the general requirements are*:
- Itinerary – if you have a round-trip flight in and out of the country – simply and easy. If you are leaving the country overland you will have to type out an itinerary, possibly show proof of exiting the country such as a hotel reservation outside the country and verify you have the monetary funds to sustain your travel in the country.
- Your passport – make sure that you have at least 6 months and one blank page for your visa stamp
- US Postal Money order for the cost of your visa
- Return certified mail envelope with postage paid
I’ve also heard copy of driver’s license and birth certificates depending on embassy and residency. Please be sure to double check what they state on line. I have contacted the Washington embassy but there is only an automated response. When I emailed them my 10 questions I got a short answer simply stating, “It is correct you have to follow it. www.consbrasdc.org” and that was all.
Paraguay seems to be a little bit easier to enter into the country, based on the embassy’s website. You must download the visa application form from the embassy website. The application does ask when you plan on entering and leaving the country as well as any address you will be using while in the country. However, overall it seems less complicated than the Brazilian application. The cost is $100 cash or US Money Order – it is my recommendation to never send cash – ever.
The requirements - When you mail in your application you must include*:
- The application.
- Passport with 1 open visa page and be valid for at least 6 months.
- 1 passport photo
- US postal money order
While Suriname is not on my list of countries that I will be visiting while in South America it is the only other country that requires American citizens to purchase a visa for entry. However, unlike the previous two this one does not require as much planning.
The requirements - Based on Travel.State.gov you are able to purchase a “Tourist Card” for $25.00, which can be purchased at the port of entry in Suriname. A return flight must ticket must be shown for the visa, I have not been able to find information regarding overland travel out of Suriname but I would assume it is similar to others with a bank statement or booked reservation outside of the country.
I somehow missed the fact that Bolivia also requires a visa, as of December 2007. This is why it is always important to check, double check, and then check again if the information you are looking up is the most current.However, I believe the reason I missed it is because you can apply for the Visa on arrival.
The cost is $135. This is for a 90 days visa, good for five years and will allow 3 entries. If you are traveling overland to Bolivia, the biggest tip I’ve seen repeated is to have clean, crisp dollar bills. It seems that many government offices around South America will only take new bills.
You can complete the visa form online, by visiting the Bolivian Consulate General website. There is also mis-information about the requirements of Yellow Fever vaccination being required, but on the Consulate website, it is not listed as a requirement. Based on my readings, the vaccination is no longer required. If you want to play it safe you can get the vaccination, which is costly in the US. Which is why we may get ours while in Peru as a ‘just in case’ measure.
* These are based on a tourist visa.