I Like That

I Like That
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Monday, June 13, 2011

Baffled in Bolivia

I LIKE THAT I have enough experience with international travel that I could help this explorer. He asked:
Would someone please explain to me why the Bolivian Government HOLDS your passport during the entire Residency Application process? Doing such a thing while remaining in a foreign country is disconcerting as it is hardwired into me to NEVER relinquish my passport for obvious personal security reasons. Is this standard worldwide when applying for residency?

The Bolivian government holds your passport during the entire Residency application process and beyond because it is a corrupt system. It is not common practice anywhere else in the world where my husband and I have travelled and worked to hold your passport beyond two weeks. We have travelled to China, India, Nepal, and Bolivia. So far, only Bolivia acts this way.
You should be disconcerted and approach the organization that contracted you to work in Bolivia immediately to have them pay the officials to stamp your passport with a Temporary Resident Visa. It is illegal for you to work in Bolivia without a Resident Visa. You are not at fault. The organization that contracted you should be looking after this matter for you within a proper time frame.
Your passport is not your private property. It belongs to the government of  your country. You are simply the keeper of that document and are responsible for its whereabouts at all times. Indeed, it is troubling, restrictive and dangerous for you not to have your passport in your possession.
If you are not getting a quick response from the organization you are contracted with, we recommend that you contact your country’s embassy or consulate. This is what we had to do in order for our passports to be returned to us in Bolivia. Dutifully, we handed over our passports to the director of Cambrian College Bolivia along with six hundred bolivianos each so that she could hire a handler to have our passports stamped with a Resident Visa. Without our being aware, the director arranged for our passports to be driven over the border by her handler into Argentina! The director’s plan was to have the handler give up our passports to the official at the Bolivian entrance booth and have the officer stamp it with another Visitor Visa. However, the Bolivian government official refused to stamp our passport again. When we first arrived in Bolivia we were issued a three-month visitor visa stamp on our passport. The school director’s first attempt to get us a Resident Visa failed so she resorted to corrupt behaviour.
Her ridiculous and illegal ploy was meant to extend our stay in Bolivia as visitors. A visitor status on your passport does not authorize you to work legally.
Two months and twenty-seven days later, three days before we would have been considered illegal in Bolivia, we had to resort to threatening to bring the Canadian consulate representative with us to get our passports back from Cambridge College Bolivia. Surprisingly, when my husband and I arrived at her office the passports were on her desk, but without Residency authorization or even a second Visitor Visa. The director’s next desperate attempt was to have us take our passports on a thirteen-hour bus trip from Santa Cruz de la Sierra to an Argentinean border town, cross into Argentina and then back again into Bolivia so that we could have our passports stamped with another Visitor Visa. We refused this outrageous idea and escaped her corruption with our passports in hand.
Do not wait until you are desperate. Get this passport matter settled immediately or you will be in Bolivia illegally and subject to arrest.

Bolivia! Bolivia!

Susan and Frank in Bolivia

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