This is a more in depth look into the changes in visa requirements so if you are just coming for the pictures and updates, you may want to skip the intrigue that led to my investigation provoked by what happened to us at the border.
When coming from Peru to Bolivia, we crossed the border just outside Copacabana. One car let us off where they stop cars. We went through immigration on the Peru side of the border and walked the 150 yards through the border gate and then headed to the Bolivian immigration office for our entry stamp. Since my last visit to Bolivia many years ago, Bolivia now requires a visa for US citizens. I had presumed my prior knowledge would be good enough but learned that there were new requirements. Not to worry, they told us, we could satisfy all of them right there at the border. While making the needed photocopies and printing out email travel verification receipts, I got curious about the tourist visa rules for Bolivia.
There are three categories for tourists to enter the country. Take a look where the US falls.
Category 1 includes all countries that don’t need a visa like all South American countries, Canada, Europe, Mexico, Australia, Russia, some parts of the former Soviet Union and a couple of others, like Turkey. The US used to be here.
Category 2 includes those that must apply for a visa before arriving and may also secure a visa at the border. This includes a lot of African, Asian and some of the countries that were formerly a part of the Soviet Union.
A little background: The US moved from Category 1 to Category 2 when Evo Morales was elected Bolivia’s president and he advocated a more independent Bolivia. The US stepped up its attacks against Morales, cutting off trade benefits that left textile and other industries lacking a significant economic partner. Ambassadors from both countries were deported and diplomatic relationships were strained. The number of Bolivians allowed to vacation in the US dropped dramatically. The US increased visa charges for Bolivians to $160, so the Bolivia instituted what they called a “reciprocity fee” and now charges US Citizens the same $160 to secure a ten year visa. But the US is no longer in Category 2. Look whose company we joined.
Category 3 includes the countries above. Now who is the new kid on the block added a year and a half ago? The United States! What merited this demotion?
Ironically, even though both Morales and Trump are big Russia-supporters, Trumps’ attacks against indigenous people and his disdain for Mexicans, Haitians and Muslims, led the Bolivian government to move the US down a notch.
Category 3 countries’ citizens must go to a Bolivian consulate to apply for a visa and must wait 3 to 5 weeks (and at times months) to get individually approved or denied for a visa. There is an asterisk next to the US (though not seen in the screenshot above) highlighting a caveat: US citizens who do not have to visit a consulate and may apply at whatever port of entry. In essence this caveat negates the requirements of Category 3 but achieves its symbolic disgrace nevertheless.