I wrote earlier this week about my desire to visit Venezuela and my failure to check entry requirements. Once I realized my mistake, I planned to quickly rectify it by following the instructions, finding a nearby consulate or the Embassy in Washington DC and expediting the process. I looked into how I would begin and here is your complete guide to filing for a tourist visa to Venezuela as an American passport holder.
As clearly listed on their website, the following requirements exist for a tourist visa for American passport holders:
- A completed visa request form.
- Original passport with a minimum of six (6) months of validity remaining as of the expected travel date and at least two blank pages.
- Copies of the passport pages that show personal information, the expiration date and the photograph.
- Two (2) recent front-facing photographs with a white background, size 2×2 inches (without glasses or hats).
- Proof of employment issued by the applicant’s place of work, on official letterhead and indicating a contact person and address for verification. If the applicant is a student , he/she must submit a letter signed and sealed by the respective academic institution. If the applicant is a retiree ,he/she must submit a document to certify it .
- If the applicant is not a U.S. citizen, a copy of the green card or document that establishes residency in the country.
- Leasing contract for a residence or document demonstrating house ownership in the name of the applicant, or a document demonstrating ownership of a different type of property, including high value personal property (e.g. a vehicle or fine art), or commercial, business or industrial properties.
- Original latest bank statement or a letter issued by the bank which shows the current balance or a notarized letter of invitation of the person or institution in the U.S. or Venezuela who will cover the costs of the applicant’s stay.
- One (1) copy of the flight itinerary (which indicates the date of entry to and exit from Venezuela, the name of the airline and the flight number).
- A money order for $30 in the name of the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
- The applicant must present the aforementioned documents in person at the Consular Section or Consulate.
- A pre-paid United States Postal Service Priority Mail envelope with a unique tracking number for the applicant’s documents to be returned.
- Any other document the Consular Section deems pertinent.
The Consular Section or Consulate may require an interview with the applicant.
The Consular Section or Consulate may request the applicant’s criminal record.
The tourist visa will be valid for one (1) years, including multiple entries. The duration of a visit will be limited to a maximum of ninety (90) days.
Many of their requirements are standard. The photos for the visa itself, a standard form, six months of validity left on your passport – this is part and parcel with traveling internationally. I would also state that providing a document on company letterhead and proof of residence or funds are not altogether out of the ordinary in some places (China, Russia, etc.) – even the UK and Canada may ask to see that you have sufficient funds to finance your trip.
The difficult part comes from the in-person interview. Venezuela holds consulates in eight US cities and one embassy:
- New Orleans
- New York
- San Francisco
- San Juan, Puerto Rico
- Washington DC (Embassy)
Like most countries that hold multiple consulates and an embassy, groups of states will send their passports for visa processing to one of their locations, regardless of how close or far that is from you personally. For example, Pennsylvanians like myself, need to work with the New York City Consulate-General, even though the Washington DC embassy is closer to me in Pittsburgh.
I reached out to the embassy regarding my preference for using the DC location due to proximity (I also have some work in the area) as New York is far more difficult for a number of reasons, more expensive to reach and takes longer.
Luckily, they replied back with welcome news that I could apply from any Venezuelan consulate or embassy:
“You can apply for a a visa in the Venezuelan Consulate of your preference”
Turn Around Time and Expediting
While that is some good news, the next part was disappointing and caused me to cancel a planned trip (it was my fault, I didn’t leave enough time):
“[I]f you need to apply for a tourist visa you need to apply in person, the evaluation time for visas take up to 4 weeks prior the travel date, no expedite service available and no same day services”
That would be a problem for me trying to complete the visa process with less than two weeks prior to travel. I contacted a few passport service agencies to try and find a work around but I was unsuccessful. It’s worth noting that one in particular, ItsEasy Passport and Visa Services shows on their website that they are unable to obtain the visa but doesn’t say why and the page looks broken.
I called in and received incorrect information with the agent stating that they don’t offer services for tourist visas to Venezuela because it is an “ETA” country, referring to an Electronic Travel Authorization or a visa you can get online and do yourself. This is not the case and while everyone makes mistakes (I obviously did), I was surprised that a visa and passport agency did when the answer they provided couldn’t be further from the process.
The application itself seems fairly straight forward, as does the process of obtaining a visa. There are two requirements that I find difficult, especially as someone who lives a considerable distance from their closest Venezuelan consulate/embassy.
The first is “any other document the Consular section deems pertinent” and “the consulate may request the applicants criminal record”. As you must apply in person, I am not really sure how one would know what to bring just in case the Consulate deems something important. Maybe this is a tax statement, company ownership if part of a corporation, high school yearbook – who knows? I’m just not sure how one should be prepared for a document they don’t outline. This likely means that certain candidates may need to re-appear with additional criteria.
The second is in regards to bringing your criminal record. Other countries do ask for this from time to time; Canada in particular often rejects travelers from the US with DUIs as the crime is much more severe in Canada. For most travelers, it would be difficult to obtain a criminal record if they don’t have any convictions, and if they do, how severe do they need to be to warrant bringing the document with you to the interview?
One positive aspect of the process is that in-person interviews are part of the process with daily open hours of 9AM-12:45PM. While it would be far easier to mail in an application, if you must do an in-person interview at least one can reasonably appear at a time convenient for them. Some consulates issue appointments for in-person interview but they can take months to secure a spot, I prefer the open approach – no appointment needed, but also no guarantees given.
The tourist visa is just $30 and if they would have allowed me to expedite the process for even as much as double the cost, I would have done it in a heartbeat. But they don’t, so how long should you expect to wait for your visa? According to the Embassy in Washington DC, visas are issued in about four weeks. For a nervous person like myself who never wants to be without his passport, that’s an eternity. However, if you have a second passport or no immediate plans, the fours weeks will probably fly by.
Can you do it prospectively?
The embassy specifically communicated with me that I should not book travel first and then come see them, however, listed in their requirements they indicate that they want to see travel documents to support your visa. So how do you both have the supporting document and not commit to travel? Here is what the embassy told me:
“We recommend do not purchase the airfare, but you need to present a [tentative] reservation with tentative travel dates.”
The simplest way to do this would be to secure a refundable hotel reservation. If you have the miles and can find the space, secure an award and refund or move your dates if they don’t fit your schedule once you receive your visa.
The Venezuelan tourist visa for US Passport holders is authorized for one year with 90-day limitations per visit. In theory you could enter and exit every 90 days with a one day period in between but in most countries this is frowned upon – if you intend to stay for an extended period of time you should consider another visa type. There is no listed limitation on entries outside of the 90-day period and one year term of the visa.
Am I going to apply?
Absolutely. I still have a high desire to visit Venezuela and despite the in-person visit requirement and the long hold of my passport, I will aim to complete it in the next few weeks. The only question is whether I get a second passport first so that my wings are not clipped until it is returned to me.