We’ve already observed as Good Gringo Charles and Bad Gringo Larry, have worked their ways through Buenos Aires’ legendary asados, ferias, and boliches. Now that they’ve been here for a few months, it’s time for both of them to renew their tourist visas. They both forgot to plan ahead and hitch a ride to Uruguay or Chile (a rare misstep by Charles, but no surprise for the ever-irresponsible Larry). Now, our gringos must go down to the Dirección Nacional de Migraciones (National Immigration Office) to do it the hard way. Let’s see how it goes.
Charles wakes up early, at 7am, knowing that the office opens up at 7:30. He doesn’t want to wait in long lines, and knows that the earlier he gets there, the earlier he will be done and get on with his day.
Larry wakes up later, at 10am. He didn’t bother to check what time the office opens, but figured that it must open late like everything else in Buenos Aires. He also figures that he will be one of the only people renewing their visa, so lines shouldn’t really be a problem.
Charles takes the subte down to the Retiro station. He looked up the address the night before (Av. Antartida Argentina 1355) and knows where he has to walk. He does take one wrong turn, however, but asks someone how to get to “migraciones” and is pointed in the right direction.
Larry finally arrives at Retiro but has no idea where he needs to go. He pulls out his Guía-T and studies it, despite the fact that there were many people around him willing to help. He spends 45 minutes walking around before finding the building, only after tripping on a rail and nearly getting hit by two cars because his nose was glued to his map.
Charles enters the yellow building and asks the people at the information desk where he should go. They tell him to take a number and wait in the other room. He doesn’t understand at first, but asks for them to clarify. He eventually understands and successfully gets his number.
When Larry arrives, there is a long line at the information desk. He decides that he doesn’t need any help, and goes to the room where he sees everyone sitting and waiting. He sits down by himself and twiddles his thumbs, waiting for someone to call his name. He finally realizes, after a half hour, that everyone else has numbers in their hands, and returns to the other room to retrieve his. He asks for a lower number because he had been there 30 minutes ago, but the man doesn’t understand (and wouldn’t have said yes even if he did.)
While Charles waits, a woman comes up to him and offers her services as a lawyer. Though this surprises him, he has heard from others that renewing a tourist visa is a very straightforward process and that he shouldn’t really need any help. He politely declines her services, but takes her business card just in case.
While Larry waits, a woman comes up to him and offers her services as a lawyer. Larry loves the show Law & Order, and believes in the innate good of lawyers, so he decides to trust this woman and enlist her services. He doesn’t mind that she charges by the hour because the process should be pretty quick. He doesn’t realize that the waiting time is included.
Charles is happy to be finally called on. He hands the man behind the desk his passport and photocopies of the page with his picture and the page with his last visa. The man takes the information and begins the renewal process.
Larry, after waiting much longer than Charles, is annoyed when he is finally called on. He hands the man his passport, but is puzzled when he is asked for the photocopies. When told what he needed to bring, Larry gets angry and pounds his fist on the desk. The guard comes over to tell him to calm down. Afraid of imprisonment in Argentina, Larry relaxes and asks to use the photocopier directly behind the desk. The man points at the sign that says that the machine is not for public use. Larry is forced to leave and find a place to make copies. He curses the lawyer for not telling him about this, and she responds by reminding him that he is still on the clock.
Charles has no problems with the process. Everything goes smoothly. He pays the 300 pesos at the cashier then sits to wait for them to call his name.
Larry finally returns and finishes the process without problems. The lawyer stands behind him and doesn’t talk the entire time. When it comes time for Larry to pay, he is shocked to hear the price. He complains that he had thought it was a lot less. The cashier tells him that the fee changed a few months ago. Larry begins to scream, and the guard warns him a second time. Larry didn’t bring 300 pesos with him, so he is forced to go and find an ATM. The lawyer reminds him to take out a little bit extra, because she is still on the clock.
Charles, who killed time reading a book and writing up lesson plans for his English class later that day, jumps when he hears his name called. He retrieves his passport and is sure to check that all the information is correct. He sees that the date is right, so he thanks the officer and leaves happily with another three months of Argentina legitimacy.
Larry, on the way back from the ATM, gets hungry and stops to get something to eat. He finally returns to the Immigrations office around 4 pm. They tell him that all tramites conclude at 2pm, and that he will need to come back the next day to get his passport. The lawyer however, is happily waiting to collect her money. Larry pays her, then curses her mother.
Charles, despite his renewal experience going well, learns from his mistake and plans a trip to Colonia the next time his three months are up. He knows that if he is going to spend 300 pesos, he might as well get to see Uruguay.
Larry forgets again, and pays another 300 pesos to sit in the immigrations office. Despite all of his prior mistakes, he learns from very few of them.
Thanks for reading Good Gringo/Bad Gringo. Hopefully these tips help you make the most out of your time in BA and avoid common pitfalls.