We finally arrived in Lima this week, where we will be for much of the month of August. One of the reasons we’re staying here for awhile (and we do indeed have many) is that we needed to spend some time in a capital city in order to get our visas for Bolivia and Brazil. Each of these countries puts citizens of the US applying for a visa through a similar process that we put their citizens though…let the fun begin.
We decided to start with Bolivia first. This is because we will be entering Bolivia before Brazil and that their process is possible to finish within a day. Arriving at the Embassy first thing in the morning with our passports we began to fill out our paperwork and went to pay the fee. This was not enough, we needed to “create” a complete travel itinerary (which isn’t so easy since we’re backpackers) and make a reservation with at least one hotel. We also needed to prove financial solvency (photocopy of a credit card) and immunization against yellow fever.
Overall this wasn’t too terribly much to ask of us and the process from beginning to end lasted about 2 hours. Brazil will be similar but will need some more specific information such as proof of onward travel. The thing that is really irksome to us is the price, $135 each just to enter the country for 90 days; pretty steep when you consider that with the exception of these two countries we expect to pay a total of zero dollars to the nations of South America.
Is this fair? As much as I hate to say so, I think it probably is more than fair. For a member of one of these nations to enter the USA, they must also prove financial solvency (in far more detail than a photocopy of a credit card), submit themselves to a series of interviews, and of course a background check by none other than the NSA. Often just getting to and from the interviews, since they are conducted at our Embassies or Consulates can be a financial hardship, but then there is the $135 fee on top of that…which could be a month’s wages.
Obviously many readers will recognize why it is so difficult to enter the USA. We have many people who try to come illegally and for illegitimate reasons…problems that many other nations simply don’t have. But at what cost does this security come; by keeping would-be tourists away do we breed more anti-Americanism? Until our system is fixed its only fair that we take a spoonful of our own medicine.