We applied for Bolivian visas in Lima, Peru in September, 2018. We are US citizens and had a very difficult time locating any accurate or relevant information on how to apply outside of our home country. This is the complete account of our application process and requirements to obtain visas for Bolivia.
US citizens are subject to a special visa category for Bolivia. Depending on which website you read, the list of application requirements varies greatly. There are several ways to apply, including through the mail or at a consulate in you home country, at a consulate in many foreign countries, or in person at the border and on arrival in La Paz airport. We have heard that the in person process on arrival to Bolivia can be difficult, especially for citizens of the United States. We are long term travelers, so did not have the option to apply in our home country. We decided that obtaining a visa prior to arrival at a consulate in Peru was our safest option.
For the US, the special visa category offered is valid for 10 years from approval. While the price is the highest for US out of any country, the long approval term helps average down that cost. This visa allows multiple entries, with up to 90 days in country per year. Each visit is limited to 30 days, although that time can be extended by requesting in person at the immigration office in any major city in Bolivia during the final three days of the visa validity period.
We visited the Bolivian Embassy / Consulate (Embajada de Bolivia) in Lima and applied for our visas in person. The office is located at Calle Los Castaños 235, San Isidro, Lima just a few blocks southeast of the Real Plaza Salaverry Mall. The consulate visa office hours are more limited than the embassy hours, and only open 8:30am to 12:00pm on weekdays. On arrival, there is a window where you must first show your passport to get let into the building. The officer on duty will require that any backpack or bag be left there before you can enter the visa area.
We brought with us printed copies of all of the required information stated on the Boliviala website with one exception, the required Sworn Statement. This online submission form gave us a TON of trouble! The form is similar to any online visa application you have ever filled out except that it requires every other application requirement to be finished and attached electronically to the statement for submission. While this wouldn’t typically be burdensome, there are very strict limits for acceptable file sizes. This becomes tricky if you aren’t traveling with a computer or don’t have the proper software for shrinking a file size.
For instance, the stated file size max limit for the passport photo upload is 150kb. Despite uploading 90kb files, the system repeatedly rejected them as too large. We eventually had to give up and decided to go in person to the consulate in hopes that they would provide a paper copy which we could submit instead. We met a couple of other travelers who were also unable to use the online form.
We arrived at the consulate and requested paper copies of this application, explaining the issues we were having with the online form. We were rejected but learned that the max picture file size is in fact 65kb despite the stated 150kb limit. We also had our forms reviewed to ensure that we had everything else in order.
The following is the list of requirements which we confirmed is necessary to apply for a Bolivian visa in Lima, Peru:
- Printed and signed Sworn Statement form. This form requires that an electronic file of your passport photo be uploaded, along with an electronic copy of your hotel reservation, travel itinerary, color passport copy, and proof of financial means. There are varying size limits for the required attachments, all stated on the form. To our knowledge, the picture is the only one which is stated incorrectly. Of note, this form is located on a unsecured website.
- One color copy of the picture/demographic page of your passport. The passport must have at least six months remaining validity. You will also need to leave your physical passport with the consulate while awaiting the visa.
- Confirmed hotel reservation for the first place of stay in Bolivia, matching the date on your proposed itinerary. We found a cancelable reservation.
- Planned itinerary in Bolivia. We typed a Word document with a simple list of planned cities and corresponding dates. We also included the name of a hotel in that town where we intended on staying, but did not book nights at any hotels past those in the initial town. While not required, we submitted ours in Spanish.
- Copy of ticket into the country matching the dates on the itinerary and hotel reservation. We were arriving from Peru overland so didn’t have a flight to submit. We used Redbus.com to book a changeable / cancelable bus ticket. The website would not accept any of our credit or debit cards, but fortunately our Airbnb host was happy to use his and let us pay him with cash. There is also a Paypal option which we did not try.
- Bank account statement or credit card statement showing sufficient financial means for travel in Bolivia. There was no guidelines for this one so we chose an account which we felt showed ample flexibility. Since the visa is for 10 years, we didn’t feel like a few hundred dollar balance would suffice. The website indicates that the account number can be crossed out, but we were told otherwise at the office. We ended up having to print a new copy without blackouts on the numbers, although we did cleanly erase the numbers prior to printing the new copies.
- Copy of yellow fever vaccination card
- Visa fee. The cost for US citizens is $160 and must be paid in US Dollars. The website states that extremely crisp bills are required, although they barely even looked at what we used. In Lima, you pay the fee at an international bank up the street, so the condition is likely less important although they probably wouldn’t take excessively dirty or ripped money.
What wasn’t required contrary to what we had heard:
- Passport photo. We offered our photos in paper form but were told that the electronic attachment on our Sworn Statement form was all that was needed.
- A photocopy of our credit card, front and back. The officer at the visa office originally told us that this was a requirement, although we showed our bank statement and explained that we were paying our visa fee with cash and she decided that the credit card copy was not required. We don’t exactly know when this would or wouldn’t be an issue.
- Second copy of our passport and Sworn Statement. We kept duplicates in case we needed them at the border crossing, but they were not necessary for application.
We went back and were able to get the online form submitted using 40kb photos (with help from PhotoShop). We then printed these along with all other missing info, signed the forms and brought them back the next day. Once we satisfactorily submitted our applications on the second try, we were given a paper with payment instructions which needed to be brought to the bank. The consulate uses the BBVA Continental bank branch located at Calle Los Laureles 214, just four blocks east of the embassy. In the branch, we had to take a number from the electronic machine on the left to the entrance and wait our turn to talk with the teller. Simply hand them the paper from the consulate along with your cash and they will make the deposit and give you receipts of payment. Bring the receipts back to the consulate and hand them to the officer on duty. We were instructed to return 24 hours later to pick up our passports.
We returned the following day and found our passports waiting with approved 10 year multi-entry Bolivian visas! The visa is from the date of approval and does not match the date of proposed entry. Other than the very finicky online application, we found the process to be relatively easy and everyone working at the office in Lima extremely friendly and helpful. We never had to wait more than two or three minutes at a time as there were essentially no lines and only a few other visitors.
Of note, we took exactly six trips to and from Miraflores and the consulate office. We downloaded the Moovit public transport app, which allowed us to easily figure out the bus schedule in Lima instead of having to rely on taxis. The one way trip on public bus from Miraflores costs just S/1.2, or $0.36 USD.
We hope that you found this detailed guide on how to apply for a Bolivian Visa in Lima, Peru helpful. Since you’re planning a trip in South America, you’ll love these amazing itineraries: