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- The Student Visa Path to Latin America
Not too long ago, I was talking with a dude who lives in Brazil with residency.
We were talking about travel restrictions that have been put up around the world and possible ways to get around them.
During the conversation, the topic of “student visas” came up.
Not necessarily as a way to get around Covid restrictions but just to get access to a country in general for a longer period of time than what a student visa allows.
He supposedly knows a dude who recently did that a few odd months ago by getting the approval to study at some place in Brazil and allowing him to be in the country even though he just went through a tourist visa.
Consequently, he shouldn’t be allowed back into Brazil on another tourist visa from my limited understanding until some time has passed as I wrote about here.
But now is able to be in the country on a student visa?
While I’m not knowledgeable about the specific details that it took to pull it off, it doesn’t sound unlikely to me.
I had a similar experience years ago in Colombia.
“Colombia: Only Good for 6 Months”
When I first entered Colombia, it was on a student visa to study at the Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla.
I arrived around January some years ago and finished my classes around May?
That’s a rough timeline because I don’t remember the exact day I finished classes. It could’ve been June but I’m pretty confident that it was in May.
At any rate, I wasn’t very familiar with visa regulations to be fair at the time.
I simply paid no attention as to how many days the migration officials at the airport in Barranquilla gave me.
When I was less experienced with traveling back then, I’ll admit that I treated it very casually.
As a side story, I remember getting the money approved to go to Germany and only looked into if Germany had visa restrictions or not the night before the flight.
Thankfully, the EU and Germany specifically were cool with Americans and there was no need to apply for a visa ahead of time.
Going back to Colombia, I actually didn’t know that they only allowed people to be in country for 6 months per year nor did I think that I would have to leave the country the day that I finished my classes.
In hindsight, you would think I would’ve had to leave given the student visa was for studying and the classes are over.
Looking back at it, I have no idea how I was able to legally be in the country for easily a month and more after my classes finished.
I remember not going back until sometime in late June or July.
Either way, I clearly stayed either a full 6 months or maybe a tiny bit more before I left the country on the student visa.
Then I left Colombia for like 2 weeks.
After 2 weeks was up, I missed Colombia and wanted to go back before going to college.
Mostly just to enjoy the country some more and spend more time with a girlfriend at the time.
When I came back into the country for Round 2 of Colombia, I stayed for probably around 2 weeks at least if not a tiny bit more.
This was after having already spent easily 6 months (if not more) in the country.
And, despite that history, they let me back into the country with no scrutiny whatsoever.
Got my tourist visa like no issue and that was it.
So, while Colombia is known for only letting foreigners be in the country for 6 months per calendar year, I could’ve technically stayed in the country for an entire year on the calendar year.
Had I entered the country on a tourist visa the first time around, I have my doubts that they would’ve let me pull that off.
And so it’s a question – can you exploit student visas to stay in a country longer but basically be a tourist?
At the university I went at, they weren’t even strict about my attendance or anything.
I could’ve, in theory, skipped all my classes and literally nobody would have gave a shit.
I highly doubt it would have impacted my visa status especially as, given what I wrote here, one of my professors for an independent study didn’t even meet me to begin working until months into the semester.
And given this is Colombia and not Norway, I absolutely could’ve just used the student visa to be in the country, not attend classes and then explore the country as basically a tourist with no consequences.
Then, as I saw, come back for Round 2 on a tourist visa and get that full year on the calendar year.
Of course, for those who like Colombia, I’ve only HEARD that one could also do a full year in Colombia by doing the first six months from July to December and then come back once the new year starts in January for Round 2 of 6 months.
I met a few folks who did that supposedly when I was in Colombia years ago but I have no idea if that’s still practical in 2022.
If you had to do that, I imagine an airport with less strict migration agents would be one at Barranquilla versus Bogota perhaps.
Going back to the original topic anyhow, I can only say that, in my own experience years ago in Colombia specifically, I was able to use the student visa option as a way to legally extend my way in a country beyond what a typical tourist can do.
And, as you can see here, other folks have contemplated doing something similar for other Latin countries like Mexico.
Is it a legit way to extend your stay in a specific country?
First, had I not had that experience in Colombia, this idea probably would have never crossed my mind ever again.
Second, in the future, I have thought of this as a potential way to work in my favor for long term living in Latin America.
The worry on my end being that I could find myself spending too much time traveling around without establishing residency anywhere and finding myself in a world where other countries follow what Mexico is doing and crackdown on visa runs.
In that case, alternative solutions would be needed beyond visa runs.
Either find an official way to get residency in countries like Panama or Paraguay where it is considerably easier than other Latin countries or find a way to be in a certain Latin country for enough time for me to find someone to marry and/or get pregnant.
Then I could just hop onto the legal path to staying by marriage or anchor baby path basically.
Ideally, it’d be with someone I love but I wouldn’t mind getting some chick from the barrio pregnant on a hookup either.
So, in the case where legal paths for long term stay are running short in 5 years in the countries that I like the most, then MAYBE this student visa path is an option.
The idea would be to just sign up for some student program that helps me with the student visa and then, with the time allocated, find someone for the purpose above (marriage and/or getting her pregnant).
But that goes to the next point.
Third, what educational path would be the best?
This obviously matters a lot.
I do have my doubts that I could just pick some no name “Spanish school” that you can find on the internet in Guatemala that charges like 300 a month or something.
One of those more informal schools that you can find in Guatemala or elsewhere probably wouldn’t help as much in getting a student visa if I had to guess.
Though I could be wrong – given how informal life can be in Latin America, maybe it could somehow work?
Regardless, I have my doubts.
From what I’ve read for countries like Mexico, a lot of schools won’t even help you get the student visa and will just expect you to run on a tourist visa if the school happens to be "more informal" and your time of study is less than 6 months.
When I studied Spanish in Guatemala years ago, I know that was the case there.
So that’s not helpful!
My best guess is that, while MAYBE you could SOMEHOW pull it off with a informal “Spanish school” in some Latin country (probably a lesser developed one like El Salvador or something), you’d probably have to aim for an actual university.
Given I already have a Bahcelors degree, this isn’t the worst thing in the world.
I could qualify for a graduate degree program MAYBE. I did graduate with a very high GPA and could get very good academic references. And, on top of that, some schools like UBA in Buenos Aires are basically free compared to educational costs in the US.
So it’s always an option.
Go for that Masters or PhD or whatever degree really in Buenos Aires or any city, be approved to be in the country for years, spend that time finding someone to marry and/or have kids with and then use that as a legal way to stay forever.
Could work, right?
I could see myself in love with a nice Argentine gal.
Someone who will say “no llores por mi” after giving birth to my first son (out of 10).
In which we spend a happy life married in the beautiful countryside of Corrientes.
Sounds awesome, bro.
Fourth, it seems surprisingly not THAT difficult to get a student visa in some countries.
Granted, I’m not an expert on it all outside of having done it once but let’s look at the financial requirements here for Mexico.
Bank statements or investments from the last three months
Proof of sufficient financial means to cover your stay, such as:
Proof you have a steady income of at least US$400 per month
Proof you have savings or investments
Proof you have received a scholarship"
Really – only 400 bucks a month?
Granted, it’s probably higher and, when I went to Colombia, I didn’t have to prove any financial solvency per month so maybe other Latin countries are less strict in practice.
Still, 400 a month isn’t strict at all and is surprising given that they require a few thousand or more per month for actual residents.
Finally, is this all a long term plan to life in Latin America?
Actually, it’s even less of a long term plan than those who managed to do visa runs for decades.
At what point do you think you might run into issues repeating the student visa for decades?
After the 5th year?
Probably depends on the country.
Perhaps the one with most foreign expats is stricter than one like Bolivia.
Obviously, it depends on their restrictions on how many student visas they can give you consecutively.
As you can read here, these are apparently the details for having a longer student visa in Mexico:
"The validity of a temporary resident student visa is one year. It could get renewed for a maximum of three years after the first year."
Though, for those going into educational programs that last years in Mexico or any Latin country, I do wonder if they have stricter financial requirements than those going for a short period like 6 months. From what I've read, it seems to suggest that maybe not but I'm not a legal expert on the student visa process for every Latin country.
On top of that, I’d be asking if you can skip classes and if the university wouldn’t report you for skipping them?
They might deny your entrance again though in the following semester but, being honest, I have doubts with that even.
Given how informal my experience was at Universidad del Norte, I’m not leaving any possibility off the table.
Regardless, it’s obviously not a long term strategy for the next 50 years for the gringo who wishes to establish roots down here.
I truly see it as, based on my experience with Colombia and the few stories I’ve heard from other gringos, a way to legally extend your time in any specific country.
And, with that time, try to find a better long term way to hop onto for staying legally long term.
That legal way perhaps being expand your income to better fit financial requirements, marrying and/or knocking up a local chick, buying property or whatever it might be.
But, above all, I just want to reiterate that I’m not a legal expert on how the student visa works in every single Latin country.
I’m only reiterating my experience with it one time and the minimal experience I’ve heard from a few other gringos.
This article was written anyway in 2022 and no guarantee that this method could work in any Latin country in the next 10 years even.
Only to shed light theorizing about a POTENTIAL avenue you could take to lengthen your time down here before finding a better legal option long term.
Nothing more than that.
Either way, that’s all I got to say.
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Thanks for reading.