For those of you that assumably found this post via google, welcome. My name is Nicole Thompson and I am studying at la Universidad Nacional de Salta in Salta (NW Argentina). I have a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship and am working on a Maestría en Ciencias del Lenguaje degree here. When I was researching how to get a student visa to Argentina, I found a lot of really bad information. The official document from Argentinian Migraciones is downloadable here. But it’s kind of unclear, so I’m now trying to make the process perhaps a little easier for you. I am American, so the process might be a little bit different if you’re coming from a different country. I don’t know. I can only talk about my experience. Additionally, I went through the Migraciones office in Salta, NOT in Buenos Aires or anywhere else, so again, I can only talk about my experience. Nevertheless, here’s the timeline: 3.5-4 months before departure:
- Head to your local police station in your hometown or wherever you’re living and get your fingerprints taken. It is extremely important that you get digital fingerprints done. I say this because a good friend of mine had ink fingerprints taken and those were rejected twice by the FBI. If you need to drive far to do this, do it.
- Ask for two copies of the fingerprint card, just in case.
3-3.5 months before departure:
- Submit documentation to the FBI to get a federal background check. It costs $18 and is only payable by credit card (there’s a form on the website). This takes an average of 6 weeks, so make sure you do this far enough in advance. They give you information over the phone after 5 weeks, but not before that.
As soon as your background check comes back:
- Obtain an apostille from the U.S. Department of State. Basically, this is a fancy piece of paper that gets attached to your FBI background check to say that it is indeed official. Send them your FBI background check and a pre-paid return envelope – I sent it through UPS. The apostille costs $8 and is only payable by personal check or money order (NOT by credit card). This takes at least 10 business days. A friend of mine said it took her 2 months to get her form back. I got mine back in about 10 business days, though. ** If you are in a huge hurry, you can walk in and have it done in one business day. Look for more information on the website.
At some point before you leave:
- This is my personal suggestion, but before I left I went to Walgreens and had passport photos taken. I made a bunch of copies on photo paper at home, cut them out, and brought them with me. I cannot tell you how many times you will need to have random photos of yourself, but bring them! It’s easier than having to get passport photos done once in-country!
The rest of the process needs to be done in the country. No, you CANNOT get an Argentinian student visa from your local Argentinian Consulate in the USA.
Upon Arrival, Within 90 Days of Entering Argentina:
- Get a Certificado de Antecedentes Penales. This is a document saying you haven’t committed any crimes in Argentina, and ironically can be done the day you land in the country, if you choose to do so (that’s what I did). You reserve your “turno” online here ahead of time if you get this done in Buenos Aires. Otherwise you just need to show up. Your options for processing time are: 6 hours: $150 pesos (Solo en Sedes Central, La Plata, Lomas de Zamora, San Martín, Morón, San Isidro y Migraciones); 24 hours: $100 pesos; 5 days: $40 pesos.
- Find a place to live. Once you have an apartment/house/room/host family, you either need to be able to produce a water, gas, electricity, or landline phone bill IN YOUR NAME, or you need to find the closest police department to your home/apartment. Since I am renting from a friend and don’t have anything in my name, I went to the main police department in Salta and asked an officer where the closest Comisaría to my address would be, I found that to be easiest. Once you locate the police department, you need to go between the hours of (again, this is IN SALTA) 8 AM and 12 PM, or 4 PM and 8 PM. You need to bring 2 “testigos,” or witnesses, with you, and they both need to have DNIs (AKA no bringing your study abroad friends with, the people need to be Argentinian). The testigos need to go with you at the same time, and bring their DNIs with them. The police officer will fill out a form with your information and their information on it, and that is what’s considered your Certificado de Residencia or Certificado de Domicilio. In Buenos Aires, this process might be different. This is free.
- Formally enroll in your university. You need to have proof of “Inscripción electrónica.” I had a letter from my Postgrad program stating that I was enrolled, and that didn’t work. You will probably have to find the international student office at your school (even tiny UNSa had one, so ask around). They were able to enroll me “online” at UNSa and print out a form stating that I was an official post-grad student. Besides paying for enrollment/tuition, this should be free!
- Find a professional translator. Here’s info for Buenos Aires. They need to be professionally certified by the Colegio de Traductores Públicos!!!! I can’t stress how important that is. Anyway, take your FBI background check (and apostille attached) to them and have them translate it into Spanish. This will probably cost you around 200-300 pesos.
- Once ALL of this is done, find a place to make “Copias autenticadas.” I just walked around Salta to find this — or ask any copy place and they will usually know. You NEED to make a copia autenticada (notarized copy) of EVERYTHING. Well you don’t need to, but it’s probably a good idea because you give your originals to Migraciones.
- Get a copy of every single page of your US passport, including the cover. Have this notarized (autenticada) as well. In Salta, it’s 6 pesos a page for a copia autenticada. ** Your passport DOES NOT need to be translated into Spanish and if Migraciones tells you it does, tell them they are wrong. Seriously.
- Find those passport photos you brought with you.
Now you’re ready. Let’s double check:
- Notarized copy of every page of your passport
- Antecedentes Penales from Argentina
- Apostilled FBI background check
- Translation of apostilled FBI background check, done by professional translator in Argentina
- Electronic enrollment form from your university
- Certificado de Residencia from the police department or a gas/electric/water/phone bill
- Passport photos (I brought two with me to Migraciones).
- 600 pesos for your visa + 40 pesos for your DNI = 640 pesos. Yes, you get a DNI by doing this!!!
Set your alarm for very early one morning and make it to migraciones right when they open. In Buenos Aires I think you can reserve your turno online, but in Salta that’s not the case. So I would suggest showing up at 7 AM (here it opens at 7:30). Tell them that you have everything in order for the student visa and the DNI and that you’re ready to begin the trámite.
** The following could be just a Salta thing, I don’t know! If you are fortunate and everything is in order, you will get two pieces of paper. One piece of paper has 4 sections, and is to take to the Banco de la Nación Argentina and pay $600 pesos. I talked to the guard when I walked in and he helped me skip the line. Lucky day! The person working will stamp all of the parts and keep one, and give you the other three back. Next you have to go to Banco Masventas and pay $40 pesos for your DNI. This is just a single piece of paper and they will staple a receipt to it. The next day, take these receipts back to Migraciones.
I was told that my DNI will be at my apartment within 20 days. Who knows if that will happen, but I have a little faith. And that’s how you get a student visa, and a DNI, in Argentina. If you have questions please leave them in the comments and I will respond as best I can. For information about enrolling in an Argentinian university, please leave questions in the comments as well.