Visas & Cooking

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I arrived in Bolivia on May 31st, began the process of requesting temporary residency on June 1st, and (finally) completed the process on October 20th. That means it took nearly five months (!) to obtain a visa for only one year! That said, in hindsight I could have completed the entire process in a fraction of the time had I been provided clear instructions.

So I’ve decided to create my own set of instructions... perhaps I’ll be able to share them with someone in the future and make their life so much easier, otherwise it will just serve as a simple way to describe what I’ve been doing for the past five months!

1. Go the immigration office (if you’re like me, and don’t realize that it’s located a mere five-minute bus ride from your home, you’ll spend way too much money taking a taxi) and ask for the page of requirements for the residency “trĂ¡mite.”

2. Re-write the entire page of requirements in layman’s terms (the lengthy list is written like a legal document and even the native Bolivians had to dissect it word-by-word to understand it!).

3. Make photocopies of passport and all other documents. For the remainder of the time, make photocopies of everything as you go.

4. Request a legal work contract from your employer (and stay on their case! This took MY boss no less than three months to complete, due to sheer laziness. I had to pay $200 to immigration in time extensions because of how long he took).

5. Go to the INTERPOL office (similar to the immigration office, this is about a two-minute bus ride from my work place, but I had no clue and took a taxi!) to request a certificate stating that you’re not wanted for international crimes. They’ll take a few photos, fingerprints, and lots of information. It takes about 20 days for them to process the request and produce the certificate. Pay no attention to their posted hours, they open and close as they feel like it. Cost: $7

6. Go to the Bolivian police (PTJ) office (I finally got the hang of things and took the BUS to this location) to request two certificates: one that states that you live at the direction you say you do and one that states you aren’t wanted for any crimes in Bolivia. This one’s pretty easy, they provide the certificates right then and there, but it’s more expensive. Cost: $17

7. Go to Cenetrop (a health clinic) to request two more certificates: one stating that you don’t have any infectious diseases and another stating that you don’t have AIDS. They’ll examine you and draw blood that very day and the results will be ready the following day. (Go out for empanadas afterwards to reward yourself for having blood drawn without passing out!) Cost: $29

8. Go to a lawyer to request a letter that officially requests temporary residency and to get a photo taken. Cost: $6

9. If you have any OTHER visas (tourist, etc.) ask the immigration office to void them before submitting everything else.

10. After making return trips to pick up the various certificates bring everything to immigration and turn it in along with $189.

Total cost: $248 (but it will end up being more than that – maybe double!)

And that’s it! The immigration office will process the request for a few weeks and then you can pick up the passport with the new visa. Unfortunately, it wasn’t always so simple for me. As I said, my boss did not get me the work contract in time, causing major issues and lots of stress! I also wasn’t told that I would need to void my tourist visa until AFTER the fact, so the processing time ending up being longer. Each of these hitches along the way required more and more letters from a lawyer and more and more taxi rides!

The good news is that I now do have the temporary residency visa in my passport and it’s good through next September! The next step is applying for an ID card. Fortunately, the only requirements are my passport and $50.

When I’m not dashing around the city fulfilling requests from immigration, I’ve been trying to cook more! Some of my favorites have been wild rice soup, pancakes, chicken & dumplings, chocolate chip cookies without chocolate chips, quesadillas, and spaghetti. I’m always looking for more recipes, so feel free to send me your favorites!

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