Chile Ends $160 Reciprocity Fee For US Citizens

One major frustration for many US citizens visiting South America are the visa reciprocity fees charged by many countries. The idea is that the US charges citizens of those countries a similar fee for visas, so they’ll do the same to US citizens. I mean, I get their reasoning and it frustrates me that the US seems to be so anti-tourism in many ways, so really it’s just a tit for tat policy.

In fairness, the visa reciprocity fees are usually valid for multiple entries over many years, so for the frequent traveler they’re not a huge expense. In the case of Chile, the visa reciprocity fee is valid for the life of the passport, and you can stay in Chile for up to 90 days per visit.

But if you’re a family traveling to South America as a one time thing, it sure is damn expensive. Check out this article for full details on the South American countries that charge US citizens visa reciprocity fees or actually require visas for entries.

I’ve always been fortunate to be exempt from these, given that I have a German passport I’ve used for entering South America. Between visits to Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, it sure has saved me a lot of money and hassle (especially since Brazil actually requires visas in advance, which I was able to completely bypass).

Well, finally there’s some good news for US citizens on the visa reciprocity front. Chile has recently been added as a country eligible for the US Visa Waiver Program, so as a result Chile is no longer charging US citizens the visa reciprocity fee.

Now you can go to Chile without having to queue on arrival to pay your reciprocity fee, and more importantly, can spend that $160 on seafood and empanadas.

Gorgeous Santiago from the Grand Hyatt

Filed Under: Travel
  1. Travelers overstaying their visas is why we require visa applications for most countries. It has nothing to do with being anti-tourism. I have no problem with it whatsoever, nor do i have a problem with nations that reciprocate. They can do as they wish.

  2. @ Carl — To be clear, I don’t disagree with the need for visas, but the cost of $160 is prohibitively expensive for many and surely doesn’t reflect the cost of issuing a visa (admittedly it probably goes towards covering overall costs of customs & immigration, though it means those visiting from countries requiring visas are subsidizing those from countries with a visa waiver program).

  3. Yes Carl, but the effect is anti-tourism. Whether or not you have a problem paying $160 fees or more is your own issue.

  4. The $160 fee for a 3-day visit itself was nothing compared to the hassle of booking a slot ahead of time to visit the local Brazil embassy, filling out their forms and providing non-standard (for USA, anyway) sized photos, and then having to come back at another pre-appointed time to pick up the visa. Slots were available only weeks in advance, even though, upon arrival at the embassy/consulate/whatever it is, there was no one there and walk ins that aren’t allowed clearly could have been accommodated.

    I don’t know what folks are doing for South American cruises that dock in various countries with reciprocity fee/visa requirements for only a day or two. I understand these cruise passengers to no longer be exempt from these requirements, as they once were.

  5. I agree that visa requirements are anti-tourist. How do I know this because I’m a tourist much of the time and I avoid countries with high visa (or pain in the butt visa processes).
    I’m not sure what South American cruises do either however I do know that in some countries like Russia that cruise passengers aren’t required to get visas if they stay with guided tours but if they just want to go it alone in port they have to get the visa.

  6. @ [email protected] — I love The Flight Deal and have tipped the hat to them many times, but in this case they’re not where I saw this. I’ve been following the new legislation for a week now.

  7. Lucky – the cost of visa issuance is actually quite expensive and $160 is about right. Australia charges $260 for our equivalent and that is cost recovery only. By the time you pay for Embassy space and services, overseas salaries, residential accommodation, diplomatic security, local staff support, computing , post issuance compliance costs, etc it becomes an expensive process.

    Sure it is a deterrent to tourism but overstayers and illegal workers cause even bigger problems.

  8. If you are going to Argentina, keep in mind that only the big airport (EZE) charges the fee.

    A few years back I visited Argentina for a few weeks by flying into Montevideo and taking the ferry to Buenos Aires…easy few hours by boat. Traveled around, went back the same way, with no fee.

  9. @Lucky, as David points out, consular services are extremely expensive. I work for an agency that gets billed by State for services they provide our agency’s workforce overseas, so i see the costs. By law, State has to recoup the costs of providing visas. If you go to Google, you can easily find the GAO report on the most recent fee increase.

    My wife is an immigrant, so i have done both the tourist and immigrant visa applications AND paid the fees on her behalf. For $140 at the time, she got a 10 year multiple entry visa. When we applied to the UK for a tourist visa after she got her residency here, it was a single entry and took 2 applications and was much more difficult.

    I wish the process was easier and less burdensome for foreign travelers, I really do. But this is what it costs.

  10. David-

    Could you please explain what you mean in saying “Australia charges $260 for our equivalent”?

    I believe Australia charges $20 AUS for an Electronic Travel Authority allowing US citizens to visit Australia as tourists for up to 90 days.

    As for the high cost of Embassy space, etc., little of that is or has to be incurred to issue and oversee passports and visas. In our electronic age, I am amazed to still find people paid to sit at airports and stamp small booklets of paper that are rarely read (or even readable) with rubber ink stamps the same way they did 100 years ago.

  11. I think the real issue is that visa fees in South America are probably a real deterrent to those with US passports visiting and cause their countries more harm than good when it comes to tourism. Why pay $160+ when I can go to Australia, Indonesia, and others for much cheaper or Europe and Hong Kong for free? For South Americans coming up to the US, I would bet money that the US fee has a much smaller effect on deterring tourism.

  12. They didn’t really end it. They match whatever we do. We are not charging their citizens so the are not matching us. It’s a small point, but a point none the less.

  13. the US is extremely anti tourist. Ask any foreigner how unpleasant CBP was…

    Anyway, I believe the $140 fee covers costs. That point is moot. The actual issue here is the extreme fluff that the $140 fee covers. Americans couldnt do something on a real budget if their life depended on it. Much less if foreigners are paying!

  14. That article that is linked to the story does not contain accurate, current information. Do further research if visiting any of the countries listed.

  15. You’re all forgetting the US Visa comes with an open carry permit for sidearms and alcohol. Well, depending on the state. Open bar in Nevada is included

  16. Just a small point…it isn’t 90 days per year you can visit Chile, it’s 90 days per visit. Just fly 30 minutes to Mendoza on your 89th day, come back after a weekend, and you have another 90 days in Chile. These “visa runs” are tried-and-true for the illegal English teacher population here.

  17. @Laura: Unfortunately that is no longer the case. As of mid-2013 all Argentine border crossings – land, sea, and air – require the fee, and it now has to be paid IN ADVANCE of arrival (by a simple online form).

  18. NIck you are really stupid for say that, i can see you dont how much charge all american embassy in the world and i all work and time they made to people just for try to get a tourist, artist, sport, green card or work visa no resident, is a complete big business what they do, and you say charge $160 for came to Chile is to much, i m sorry but your answer make very hungry.

    Many people have work visa no resident and have to pay full taxes, care, social security a other staff and They will never be able to use it, that’s unfair.

  19. Mauricio
    My Dear!
    Foreigners in the US working with the visas, residents or not are as you say must paying taxes and social security because they are using our systems in our homeland. They need and must if they want insurance and want a job, otherwise, they would be here illegally. Am I right?
    Same thing would be true if I work in your country’s embassy.

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