As it is with most, if not all, countries, you are entitled to a 90 day tourist visa on entry. In all the countries that we have visited in South America (Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile), this has been the case. For European Union citizens, we do not have to pay for the initial three months in South American countries – we simply hand over our passports and we receive a 90 day stamp. However, other countries and nationalities have different agreements and so you must check the individual country’s rules. For example, if you are from the US, you will have to pay unfortunately.
If you know you are staying in a country for longer than 3 months, it might be worth applying for a 6 month tourist visa in advance. This is what we did before arriving in Ecuador. In some countries, it might be possible to visit the immigration office and pay for an additional three months, as we did in Salta, Argentina.
If your stay will be longer than a year or two, you may consider applying for a work or volunteer visa. This can work out super complicated, as we found out when we went to Argentina.
The easiest and most popular way to stay in a country longer than 3 months is to border hop, which is what we ended up doing in Argentina.
If you are planning on teaching English in South America, your school will most likely give you some advice and guidance on the best way to extend your stay. If they don’t, it’s probably not worth accepting the job. The reality is that most schools cannot afford to sponsor you for an official work visa, and so will most likely require you to cross the border and re-enter the country. Some schools may even have their own ‘contacts’ and unofficial ways to extending you visa. Of course, you must make sure that you and your passport are in safe hands when agreeing to do this. Most of the time, it’s likely to be fine and it will have become a standard procedure for the school. You will soon learn that it’s pretty common here to sort out things in this way- through who you know and with a little bit of money to speed things up.
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