So, you came to Peru, loved it and stayed. Lost track of time. It happens.
Now, you want to head back home to visit family, or leave the country to explore new lands.
Only one problem: you've overstayed your tourist visa for Peru.
So, now what happens? Will you be barred from the country? Charged a crazy amount of money? Thrown into a Peruvian jail?
Not to fear, you're friend Vance is here to answer all of these questions and more!
***Updated for 2018
First, A bit of info about tourist visas in Peru
Up until recently, tourists were allowed 183 days in Peru per trip. After that time was up, they could just hop the border into a neighbouring country for a few hours, come back and BOOM, new tourist visa.
However, in March of 2017, a new law was passed stating that tourists would receive a maximum of 183 days per calendar year, meaning that once these days were up, said tourist would have to leave the country for 6 months before being allowed back in.
In effect, that means no border hopping.
The good news is that this law isn't being uniformly enforced.
The bad news is that...well, this law isn't being uniformly enforced.
Let me explain.
Although on paper you're technically not allowed to border hop and get a new tourist visa once your old one is up, in practice, many tourists have been able to do so like the good ol' days.
Many others have had a stern talking to about not being able to border hop, and as a consequence, have only received 30 days upon re-entering, as opposed to the typical 90 or 183.
An unlucky few have been straight-up turned away at the border when they attempt to re-enter.
This just makes things confusing.
Since tourists don't know if they'll be let back into the country if they try the border hopping route, many who wish to stay in Peru long term now just opt to overstay and pay a fine when they finally depart.
I'm here to tell you how the Peruvian authorities deal with such people.
What if You've Stayed too Long?
If you've gone over your 183 days in Peru (or however many you were granted/asked for upon arrival), you will be fined about $1.00 USD (some says it's $1, some say it has changed to $1.25...I haven't been able to confirm). So, if you want to stay an extra 6 months, you're looking at at least $180.00 USD. The process for paying this fine is very straightforward. If you're leaving through Lima's airport, the border guard will simply direct you to the booth that is farthest on the left to pay the fine. They don't give change, so make sure you bring some small bills/coins.
Once you've paid the fine, you're free to go! Carry on to the departure gate as you normally would.
Now, if you're crossing a border by land, things might be a bit different.
If you're lucky, they may not even notice you've overstayed (customs authorities on the border aren't as on the ball with this sort of thing).
However, if they do notice, you may be in for more trouble.
For whatever reason, border guards at land crossings are always a bit dodgier. They may try to get more money out of you than $1.00 or $1.25. And you may have to do some tedious negotiating.
But, all and all, the only punishment you'll face when overstaying in Peru in 2018 is a fine. You won't go to jail or be beaten or anything like that.
What About Re-Entering The Country?
You might be wondering what will occur if you violate the terms of your tourist visa, and then try to re-enter the country.
Well, that depends.
If you overstay your visa, pay your fine and try to re-enter Peru a week later, you may run into issues. Either they won't let you back in on the basis that you've already used up your 183 days in the calendar year (unlikely - it's rare that they won't let you back into the country at all), or they will let you back in and only give you thirty days or so to get your ducks in a row and get out of the country. If you get a particularly nice (or ignorant) border guard, they may let you in no problem and give you another 90 or 183 days.
***Keep in mind that, regardless of how many days a border guard issues you when you arrive, you are entitled to 183 inside the country each year. So, say the border guard gives you 90 days (indicated by a "90" written by your passport stamp), and you decide to leave after 88 days to visit family for two months. When you come back, you should still be allowed 95 more days in Peru.
In other words, it isn't clear what happens if you try to enter Peru right away after you've exceeded your 183 days. A lot depends on the border guard. I suspect that they'll let you back into the country, but I doubt they'll grant you another 183 days.
What is the Best Way to Stay in Peru Longterm?
Well, the absolute best way is to get some sort of renewable work or residency visa that allows you to stay in the country.
But, that's easier said than done...and beyond the scope of this article.
The second best way is to follow the law. That is, stay for six months and leave for six months before coming back.
But, I know not all of you naughty rascals will do that.
So, the third best option is simply to overstay. As I mentioned before, 6 months will cost you an extra couple hundred dollars. That's about what it would cost from Lima for a trip out of the country anyway (unless you like long bus rides). My advice is to just suck up the cost of the fine when you're sure you're ready to leave Peru.
If you choose to come back 6 months later, you'll have a clean slate of another 183 days. They won't hold your previous violation against you (unless they noticed that you've done it numerous times...then they might throw you some grief).
And if you try to come back immediately after you've overstayed, please let me and the other readers know about your experience!
I hope this has helped clarify things. Bottom line is that it seems Peru is cracking down more each day on tourists that exceed their 183 day limit.
Annoying for folks like us, but entirely within its right to do so as a country.
Until next time,