If you wish to stay in Sucre beyond the 90 days per year granted to tourists, one option is to apply for a student visa. The study requirements are not too stringent, so you can get the visa, for instance, by studying Spanish part-time at one Sucre’s many Spanish schools.
There are several classes of student visa. The first visa your need to apply for is the 60 day student visa. If you wish to stay longer, your can then apply for a 1 or 2 year student visa.
Applying for the 60-day visa is a relatively straightforward process. There are a few application requirements, all of which must be met, but all being well the application can be lodged within a day at a total cost of around 250Bs. The visa should be ready in about a week.
Here’s our guide on applying for the 60-day student visa.
Bolivian 60-day Student Visa Required Documentation
To start with you need to gather the following:
- The original copy of a letter of invitation from you chosen place of study – It is not just universities and colleges which can issue these – smaller institutions such as Sucre’s many Spanish Schools can too. The letter should be printed on the organisation’s letter head and you must have the original copy – print-outs of emailed letters are not accepted. You also need to have one letter per application, so if you are here as a couple you need to get one letter each. Shared letters aren’t accepted. Note that there does not appear to be any requirement to commit to study full-time. You can choose to study as few or as many hours per week as you like. It is worth getting on to this as soon as possible as it may take some time to get the school to produce the letter.
- A recent bank-statement or print-out of your online banking account balance – This is intended to show that you have sufficient funds to support yourself during your time in Bolivia. You need to show a balance of at least $3000. I’ve heard that a photocopy of your credit card may be accepted in place of a bank statement, even though it doesn’t really show how much money you have at your disposal, but I haven’t been able to confirm if this is still possible.
- Two sets of photocopies of your passport – Specifically, you need copies of the following: 1) your passport photo page, 2) the passport page showing your most recent Bolivian entry stamp, and 3) a photocopy of your tourist card (the piece of paper which you should have been given on entry to Bolivia). I’d actually advise making an additional copy of your passport photo page as the notary (see below) may want to keep a copy on record too.
- Two recent passport photos meeting Bolivian requirements. Bolivian passport photos must have a red background, you must have a neutral expression (no smiling), and your face must not be obscured (e.g. by glasses). See our post on getting passport photos taken in Sucre for more details. These will cost about 15Bs.
- 150Bs in cash – This is the current (2014) fee for your application.
Next, take your documentation to a notary office, to get:
- A sworn declaration from a notary (formulario de declaracion jurada) – You can get this from any of Sucre’s many notary offices (look for buildings with a sign saying “notaria”). This is a letter which states that you wish to apply for a student visa, the name and address of the school you will be studying at, and that you have sufficient funds for your stay. It is a formal, legal letter which has a front cover, etc. The notary should know what has to go into the letter, and in our experience it will take a couple of hours for the notary to produce the letter. The notary letter will cost around 60Bs.
Lodging your Bolivian 60-day Visa Application
Now take everything to the Immigration office. The office is located 2 1/2 blocks from Plaza 25 de Mayo on Bustillos (map). At the office go to the desk immediately on the left and tell them you wish to apply for a student visa. They will issue a ticket with a number. Once this number is shown on the screen, go to the stated desk. Here they will go through your documentation and make sure everything in order. Once this is done you’ll be sent to another desk. Here you will be issued with an invoice for the 150Bs application fee.
You must then take the invoice to the Banco Union at #74 Calle Audiencia (1/2 block from Plaza 25 de Mayo). Be prepared for a 1/2 hour wait or so as the Banco Union can get pretty busy. When called up to the desk you must present the invoice, the payment and your passport, at which point you’ll be given a receipt for your payment.
Bring the receipt back to the Immigration Office and again get a ticket. You’ll then be asked to fill out a form (with basic details such as passport details, contact details and entry details, all of which you should know or have to hand in your documentation). This, along with the other documentation you provided is compiled into a folder. You will then be asked to take this to another desk where visa stickers will be placed into your passport and you will be given a receipt for your application. Make sure you get this receipt as you need it to collect your passport.
You’ll be given a day to return and collect your passport. Take your receipt back to Immigration on or after this day and all being well you’ll be given your passport with your 60 day student visa.
Make two photocopies of the new visa. The final step in the process once you’ve been handed your student visa is that you’ll be asked to make photocopies of the visa and bring them back to Immigration to be added to the rest of your documentation.
Bolivian 60-day Student Visa Application Process Time and Costs
The whole process took us quite a while as we didn’t know the process in advance and ended up making quite a few trips to Immigration only to be sent away to get another piece of documentation. But with the information in this post you should be able to do the bulk of the application process within a day (the main exception being getting the letter from your school).
All being well you should be able to gather all your documentation before lunch-time. The Immigration office closes between 12.30pm and 2.30pm. While you might be able to get into Immigration before 12.30pm, the whole process there can take several hours so you might find it more convenient just to go in after lunch and get it done in one go.
When we applied it took 1 week from successfully lodging our application to being able to collect our visas, and this seemed to be pretty standard. But make sure you lodge your application with as much time left on your tourist visa as possible – ideally 2+ weeks.
The total cost for the application process comes to about 250Bs.