Tres meses mas! Feliz feliz…

Picture of 'Big Ben' Buenos Aires My visa ran out on Friday 8th June. I have been here exactly three months. It seems incredible now that when I left England I had it in mind to stay here for such a short time. Now I don’t want to leave. But of course in order to remain, a valid visa is essential. Apparently it is possible to simply pay a fine if you overstay. But because I hope to apply for a longer term visa in due course, I do not want any black marks on my record. Some people told me that I would have to leave the country to get a new visa. My guidebook said it would be possible to renew the visa at the centre for ‘Migraciones’ at Avenida Antartida 1355 in Retiro, for $100 pesos. It is easy to leave the country and return in a day: Uruguay is 45 minutes away by speed boat. But I decided that I wanted the correct information about visa renewal for the future. Entonces, I headed for ‘Migraciones’. Of course I knew that one way of the other I would get a renewal, but nonetheless my heart was thumping because staying here means everything to me.

Now I know the full story. Basically, when a UK citizen enters Argentina they automatically get a 3 month visa, free of charge. This visa can be renewed for a second three months at ‘Migraciones’ for $100 pesos. In total it is possible to stay 6 months in Argentina. Then it is necessary to leave the country before the visa expires. On re-entry a new visa for three months is granted and this can then be renewed in the same way, at ‘Migraciones’ for a further 3 months. Easy huh? The only thing I don’t know yet is whether there is a limit on the number of times this process can take place, in other words – when will I need to get a longer term visa, and what will be the criteria?

The process for visa renewal is straight forward but includes one of the little things that is prevalent in Buenos Aires; the ‘take a ticket with a number on it’ machine that we are used to using at the supermarket delicatessen in the UK! The Argentines love these machines. They are in post offices, bakeries, pharmacies… and as I have now experienced, in ‘Migraciones’. My visa renewal included three visits to this machine, plus one visit to the photocopier queue, one visit to the cashier queue, and one final wait for my name to be called. The whole process took one hour and a half. Entonces, a few hints and tips to facilitate matters:

  1. The office is very close to the main Retiro station which is an amazing building worth seeing. Many buses stop at the station and the subway line C goes there too. You can walk from there. It will take 5 to 10 minutes. You will cross Plaza San Martin and pass ‘Big Ben’, see the photo above.
  2. Arrive early as the office is only open in the morning until 1pm.
  3. I entered the country on 8th March and renewed on 8th June. I was concerned the 7th may have been the last valid day, but no, the 8th was fine.
  4. Take photocopies with you of the identity page of your passport and also the page that has the visa stamp obtained on entry to Argentina. This will prevent you having to queue for the photocopier, and will reduce the number of visits to the ‘ticket machine’ and hence the number of waits.
  5. On arrival head past the queues for information and turn left for ‘Prorrogas de permanencia’. Once you are through the door continue to the far wall and to the left to find this section. Take your first ticket which displays the instruction ‘Retire su numero’. On the wall is displayed a list of available services entitled ‘Admision de ingresantes’ and the one you require is, ‘a) Renovacion de la validez del permiso de ingreso $100’.
  6. When your number comes up present your passport containing your valid visa and your photocopies. You will be sent to the cashier to pay your $100. Before you go, take another ticket. This way by the time you return your number may have come up and your second wait will be reduced.
  7. Finally you will be asked to wait until your name is called. Your passport will be stamped with the new visa and you can celebrate the prospect of a second three months in this amazing country. Sorted!

Afterwards return to Retiro station and enjoy a delicious lunch in one of the beautiful cafes or confiterias. The architecture is stunning and to my surprise the food was fantastic – I am used to UK station food! When I went upstairs to the bathroom the attendants invited me to take mate with them, which I did, and we chatted about the building and I told them how excited I was to have my visa! They were delighted that I loved their mate and we celebrated together. It is so easy to make friends here…

Now my visa expires in September and I will have to leave the country. I plan a few days in Uruguay. Perfect.

See pictures of my visit to Retiro on visa renewal day

UPDATE December 2007:

I have today been back to ‘Migraciones’ to get the latest visa extension.  This is a three month extension to the three month tourist visa I was given when I entered Argentina from Uruguay in September.

A big sign outside ‘Migraciones’ says that since July 2007 the office is open from 7.30am to 1.30pm. The process was slightly different this time round in that the desks for ‘Prorrogas de permanencia’ had moved. On arrival head past the queues for information and turn left for ‘Prorrogas de permanencia’. Once you are through the door turn immediately left and the desks are to your left about half way down. This time I didn’t need a number. A woman seated at one of the desks simply called out for anyone waiting for ‘Prorrogas de permanencia’ and I went forward. There was no wait. I had my photocopies of my passport ready, but this time they only needed one. I was sent to pay my $100 pesos. On my return I handed over my receipt immediately and was asked to wait (again no number required), which I did for about 20 minutes. I was then called by name and handed my passport stamped with the new three month visa. All very efficient and very friendly. I left smiling, yet again!


3 Responses

  1. Glad you are good to stay for a while longer but do come back sometime … we miss you!

  2. Don´t worry about over staying your tourist visa. My ex-novio worked for immigrations he said it doesn´t matter if you over stay 24 hours or 5 years, the fine is only 50 pesos.

    I overstayed 2 months, paid the 50 pesos and did not have any hassle upon re-entry.

  3. Oh, I only know soo well when it took me 2 hours just to get postcards mailed to the U.S. from the Argentine correo.

    You should try some tango in Uruguay. I hear the city is much more peaceful and relaxing in Montevideo as opposed to the hustle and bustle of BsAs. 🙂

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