By Ricardo GUEVARA BRINGAS
Lawyer in Peru Specialized in Foreign Investment and Immigration Law. Profesor at the Faculty of Law, ESAN University. Managing Partner at RGB AVOCATS SAC.
As we know, most citizens from Western countries who come to Peru for tourist and recreational purposes do not need a “tourist visa” per se to enter Peru, instead they receive a stamp in their passport know as an “Autorización de Permanencia”. Conversely, citizens from countries such China, India and Cuba who come to Peru for the same purposes are requested to apply for a Tourist Visa at the Peruvian Consulate of their own country.
The Tourist Visa allows one to enter Peru and to stay in this country for a period of 183 days within a period of 12 months. This period begins when the visa is issued and stops 12 months after such event. This means that the holder of this visa cannot stay more than 183 days within this period of time, and during this period the tourist visa cannot be renewed.
Conversely, those foreign visitors who enter Peru with an “Autorización de Permanencia” they receive at the Peruvian frontier are subject to a different set of rules. This is because the Autorización de Permanencia is not a tourist visa, rather it is an authorization period for the foreigner to stay in Peru as a “tourist”. This is a subtle but important difference.
As most expats in Peru are aware, immigration officers at MIGRACIONES do not provide an Autorización de Permanencia for more than 183 days, so it is very common that when the authorization is about to expire, foreigners leave Peru and then return - sometimes almost immediately - in order to get a new authorization to stay in the country.
However, these long-term visitors should take note: the new Peruvian immigration law, Ley de Migraciones - D.L. N° 1236, which is expected to enter into force at the end of 2016, will soon erase the discrepancy between a foreign citizen who entered Peru with a Tourist Visa, and the foreigner who entered with an Autorización de Permanencia. Indeed, the law generalizes and states that all tourists will be able to stay up to 183 days in total within a 365 day period.
It is not yet clear what the sanction will be for tourists who overstay: it may be a fine, or it may be a compulsory exit and a prohibition to return within the next 5 years. Time will tell, but in any case, foreigners who entered Peru with an Autorización de Permanencia and who currently “border hop” in order to extend their stay here should think seriously about regularizing their migratory status before this new regulation comes into force.