Monday, March 22, 2010

Argentine Reciprocity Fee, $131 I'll never see again

So you would think that when you see a sign that says, "Mercosur citizens and residents" at the international airport in Argentina, that if you hold definitive residency in Chile that that would be the line you would stand on. You would also think that the $131 dollars in your pocket might buy you several nights of lodging in a pretty alright hostel in Palermo not far from the green line subte with a questionable kitchen but a nice little rooftop deck that makes it all okay.


But you would be wrong. It turns out that being a United States citizen trumps being a Chilean resident, and that your $131 will not be safely ensconsed in your pocket, nor will it buy you pretty flowy skirts at Sanskrit or nights at a hostel you stayed at or even tons of books at the used book fair in Parque Centennario in Caballitos or a world of subte tickets (they cost about 35 cents). Not even if you say pretty please and explain the situation in darn fluent Spanish to several bemused border officials, who advise you "You should get a Chilean passport," and laugh when you shrug and say, I guess I'll pay, it's not like I'm going to live in the airport.


(incidentally, you would also think that they could use some of the $131 to fix the leak in the airport ceiling, but apparently this money is being channeled to more pressing issues, and yes, I know, "we" charge "them" and what's fair is fair and blablabla, I get it, and have even written about it a few times (see sidebar) or this Matadortrips article. It's still $131, and if that doesn't make you blink then feel free to lend that money to Kiva or send it to the charity of your choice, etc.

In this case, instead your $131 will make its way into Argentina's coffers, and in exchange you will be given a fairly uninspired sticker which takes up an entire page of your passport, as seen below:


And yes, I put those swirlies in myself. I don't want to run afoul of Argentina, now that I've paid my $131 to get in (only charged at the airports at this time), I'd like to be able to come and go with impunity. And no, my middle name is not Barbar, but it's not a bad name, kind of rough around the edges, like a dog that's learning to read English, and sounding out the sound we use for bark.

But the good news is, unlike Chile's reciprocity fee (also $131, also charged at the airport), this one lasts for 10 years, not the life of your passport. The other good news is that Argentina is on the same continent as Chile, despite recent shaking, and I not only missed the big event, but also missed some impressive aftershocks on previously mentioned rooftop deck. And that was certainly worth the money.

Edited to say on June 9th, 2010 that the reciprocity fee has been hiked to $140. That's another $9 worth of beef you won't be eating once you get into the country, I suppose!


hal said...

Yeah, that smarts.

Which Palermo hostel did you stay at? Sounds like you're describing the one that was three doors down from our apartment.

Bystander said...

There is a possibility that LAN will be able to fly into Aeroparque soon where. so far, they do not charge the fee. No good to you for the next ten years though. Chile is an associate member of Mercosur isn't it? Surely a small discount was called for?
If you think of it as an earthquake/aftershock avoidance fee, does it make it pinch less? :)

Renée said...

Sucks about the reciprocity fee. I too, considered all the great stuff I would not be able to afford after paying it when I re-entered Argentina in February.

But I love the used book fair in Parque Centenario!!! Everyone raves about the parks in Palermo but Centenario is my personal fav on a Sunday afternoon. (I may be biased though since I live in Caballito.)

Real Chile said...

Yeah, as far as the reciprocity argument goes, I think do not think that the US should charge 131 to go there but if you are getting a work visa to the US that usually comes with a significant pay raise if you are from Argentina or Chile. Plus US customs actually uses that 131$ to see if you might be a threat. I would argue that we should just let Argentinians and Chileans in but at least the US has a semi-legitimate reason to charge that money and to my knowledge does not have leaks in their airports.

Also annoying that You need your cedula to leave Chile but get no benefit after from it after leaving Chile.

Eileen said...

Hal, it was Vanilla House. It was totally fine, exactly what I needed as a reintro to Latin America and a place to wait out the aftershocks for the most part. I was very relaxed there, and the location was pretty great, and it was small. Never more than 15 or so people there, and free internet! The owners, Guido and someone else were pretty cool as well. Is that the one you're thinking of?

Bystander, I wondered about that into Aeroparque thing, but now that I've paid, I can't say I'm that fussed. And yes, I'd have paid that and more to avoid having been in the earthquake!

Renée, when I was walking around Caballito (which I just hopped over to from my hostel), I started to think I'd live there if I lived in BsAs. Do you like living there? BTW, I still bought a few books and a couple of skirts, but I might have gone a little more nuts had I not had to pay.

Real Chile, just so you know, I did one time get a benefit to having a carnet when I was not in Chile. The big museum in Ushuaia, Argentina that's in a former jail has a special rate for people from "países limítrofes" and I qualified! It's hard not to see the reciprocity as anything but tit for tat, since even if the administrative costs were $131 in the US, certainly they would be less in Argentina or Chile where the cost of labor is much less.

At any rate, lookat me, another big sticker in my passport. Good thing I got those extra pages sewn in!

Thanks for the comments all!

hal said...

No, yours looks much better. :)

Katie said...

Sadly, I think it's safe to say that the $131 reciprocity fee will not be used to improve the airport. In fact, if the money goes anywhere besides the pockets of bureaucrats and politicians, I'll be amazed. Ezeiza has some real problems, including the fact that the head of Customs was arrested the other week for allegedly leading a smuggling ring.

On a lighter note, when I first glanced at the sticker in your passport, I thought your middle name was Babar, as in the French elephant.

Kristin said...

Crap. I had read about this but forgot. Not that it's a ton of $ but airfare is looking pretty expensive. I've heard everything else is pretty reasonably priced though (fingers crossed).

Eileen said...

Kristin, I don't know what your plans are, or if you'd be flying into BsAs repeatedly, but a scenic workaround would be to fly into Montevideo, which is often cheaper to do anyway, and then take the Buquebus across Rio de la Plata. Montevideo's sweet, Colonia's amazing, and it will save you some cash.

Also, as bystander points out, coming into Aeroparque (Jorge Newberry, not Ezezia), you do not currently pay the fee. I think Pluna (through Montevideo) flies into Aeroparque, but I'm not sure who else does.

Sara said...

An entire page!?!? Are you serious. This sucks considering that my visa expires soon and I will have to leave and come back to be legal again. Why or why Argentina did you have to jump on the reciprocity band-wagon??

Gina said...

Well consider yourselves lucky that as Americans, it's good for 10 years. The reciprocity fee for Canadians is now $70 US and ONLY good for one entry. Needless to say, Argentina is persona non grata with me right now. I'm lucky enough to have dual citizenship and use my Chilean Passport when heading that way, but my boyfriend is Canadian. Thankfully, currently we usually do our border crossings via land to Mendoza. No reciprocity fee has been instituted for land crossings as of yet.

I understand the concept of the reciprocity fee, we get as good as we give and all... I'm just curious as to why Americans get a 10 year option. If my understanding is correct, it costs an Argentinian $131 US just to apply for a tourist visa. That doesn't even guarantee acceptance. Canada gives the option of applying for a 1 time entry visa OR a multiple entry. From what I can see, Argentina has not returned the favour :(