Avoiding the reciprocity fee in Argentina


For a few years now the United States government has been gouging potential visitors with high fees to apply for visas to visit. No guarantee that you’ll be admitted but you pay anyways. A number of countries responded in kind, either requiring a visa with a comparable fee or, in some cases, just charging the fee. Argentina is one of these countries, charging a "reciprocity fee" for visitors.

The fee is comparable to what is charged to Argentinians visiting the United States, $140. Rather than applying in advance for a visa, however, one simply pays the fee in a separate line at the airport before heading through the immigration line. But it turns out there’s a way to avoid this fee, if you happen to be a bit crazy like me.

IMG01897-20110801-1329

The fee only applies for folks staying in Argentina. If you’re just connecting then you don’t pay the fee. And, much like the airlines, the definition of a connection is pretty liberal: 23 hours 59 minutes. If you over-stay you get hit with the fee on departure and it can be a bit of a mess, but so long as you have proof of onward travel departing in <24 hours you’re good to go. Rather than getting a stamp in your passport you get a stamp on the immigration form. And if you lose that you get hit with the fee. But so long as you can hold on to that piece of paper for 24 hours the transit is free of reciprocity fees.

I strongly recommend having a paper print-out of your itinerary showing the onward flight out of the country. I managed to get by with showing the immigration officer the itinerary on my phone but I got the impression he wasn’t too impressed but that performance. Show them the itinerary and explain that you are in transit and you should be good to go. I would imagine that this is an easier conversation if you speak Spanish but I managed to get by in English so it is definitely possible. It is possible that this only works for passengers in transit between countries, not folks returning to the same country from which they arrived (similar to China’s policy on transit) but it definitely worked at least twice I can vouch for.

Once you’re past the immigration folks for your day trip to Argentina head into town and spend some of that $140 saved on supporting their economy. And expanding your waistline:

IMG01896-20110731-2152

That was a great steak. And I was much happier spending the money there than on the reciprocity fee.

And a special thanks to Grahm for tipping me off to this benefit in the first place.

Read more of my adventures from this trip here.

Never miss another post: Sign up for email alerts and get only the content you want direct to your inbox.


Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

19 Comments

  1. Awesome! Igot hit 2x for me and wife with that fee. Didn’t feel good 🙂

    I bet this was on the Transcon MR deal routing through EZE…

  2. I managed to avoid this fee by arriving into AEP (from Montevideo, Uruguay), and departing from EZE. They don’t charge this fee at AEP since it’s 99% domestic. (The Pluna flight from Uruguay is the only international flight into AEP)

  3. Yikes, I totally forgot about this! Going there in late August with family and staying 4 days on a BA award with LAN. That would be four persons times $140 each for $560 total, ouch!!! This hurts, that’s a whole lot of steaks we won’t have! I am assuming we can use a credit card for these fees? (such as Sapphire Visa for the double points?).

    1. Yes, you can pay with a CC. There is a separate line as you arrive into the immigration hall towards the left (at least in the terminal SAA arrived in) where you pay before heading into the proper immigration line.

      And this wasn’t the transcon deal for me; I did that via Sao Paulo. This was a 23:30 connection between SAA’s JNB-EZE flight and AC’s EZE-SCL-YYZ flight on my way home from my RTW adventure this past July.

      As for avoiding it at AEP or via the ferry from Uruguay I’ve mostly heard good reports on that, but I’ve also heard that they’re getting more strict at departure if you don’t have the proper stamp to indicate you’ve paid. I suppose that is less of an issue if you depart in a similar manner.

  4. This is one of the situations where having both a UK and US passport comes in handy 🙂

  5. Hi,
    My name is Mike and I discovered your blog about a year ago when you were blogging about the AYCJ pass. I’ve been reading ever since. Recently I started blogging so I was wondering if you could check my blog out and give me a few pointers based on that. The address is http://www.appstorechronicle.net.ms. Thanks
    Mike

  6. Hey Seth,

    So just to clarify, were you legitimately transiting through Argentina and were going to be leaving within 23:59 or did you stay beyond 24h?

    I got to thinking after reading this post that perhaps you could just book a fully refundable fare, print that itinerary and use it to clear customs and then cancel the flight – this way you can stay as long as you like. Would immigration catch you upon departure and hit you with the $140 on your way out of the country if you employed this strategy?

  7. HoKo,

    I was just thinking the same thing and came back to Seth’s post here to inquire about that too.

    Anyone out there know how this scenario would play out with cancelling a full-refundable ticket to avoid the $140pp?

    1. You can see in the photo that they mark the flight they expect you will leave on when they stamp your form. If you overstay that time you’re likely considered to be in trouble. As I was clearing the outbound immigration the guy definitely studied the form and the specifics noted in great detail so I would be careful risking that. I have no idea how it would work at a land or ferry crossing.

  8. This is one of those times I’m glad I’m a dual citizen. My country doesn’t pay to get into Argentina.

    1. Most countries don’t, Cristian. It is just those who hit up the Argentinians with a similar fee who pay the price. Sadly, the USA is one of them.

  9. SO here is my thoughts… What about buying a bus ticket out of the country? Even if they hit you with the fee on the way out, nothing too expensive lost. Most people don’t pay that much attention. Will it maybe work???

    1. If you mean to stay longer, Trevor, that will probably work. But you would still need to have the 3d country destination transit ticket in hand before arriving into Argentina to show so as to get the proper stamp. Plus it is more or less defrauding the Argentinian government, which probably isn’t a good idea if you like traveling freely in general.

  10. Thanks so much, none of the websites ever mentioned the <24hrs rule which fits my situation exactly in June 2012.

    But once you get off the plane you mentioned, "however, one simply pays the fee in a separate line at the airport before heading through the immigration line.'

    So do you just skip the payment line and just head straight for immigration?

Comments are closed.

BoardingArea