Studying abroad in Argentina – What does the foreigner need to know?
The most important thing to state about studying abroad is that the smallprint of any application process is always liable to change and Argentina is no exception to the rule. Facts related to the application process today may not be relevant forever. All interested parties must fully appreciate that this article covers the overall approach to study abroad programs/options in Argentina, but it cannot account for the fine details of each and every application in turn.
Having said that, the advice presented in this article is unlikely to change dramatically in the near future, unless there’s a complete overhaul of foreign-study policies and/or immigration processes related to student visas in Argentina.
It’s also important to note that the processes for foreigners wishing to study in Argentina differ slightly depending on nationality. For example, the processes/documents which apply to students from countries which form part of The MercoSur (Venezuela, Uruguay and Brazil, as examples) are not the same as those which apply to students arriving to Argentina from other parts of the world.
For the purposes of this article, entry requirements, processes and documents specifically relate to US, European (including the UK) and Australian applications.
If you choose to study in Argentina with the help of an independent, third party company, it might be possible to arrange your visa and finish signing all necessary forms before even leaving your home country. However, most foreign students in Argentina bring all necessary documentation with them and complete everything during the first few months upon arrival to the country.
In Argentina, there’s a 30 day tourist visa which you’re given when you enter the country (people from Australia, Canada and the US have to pay a fee for this tourist visa, but UK citizens can visit Argentina without paying any visa fees). This tourist visa provides you with the time and stamps necessary in your passport to complete the student visa process once on Argentine soil.
You enter the country as a tourist, just like any other visitor to the country, and then once you are fully signed-up to your place of study you can set about finishing the entire application process for a student visa by following the rest of the advice laid out below and visiting the immigration department in person.
All immigration processes must be completed in Buenos Aires. Argentina is incredibly centralized. Any kind of official document or process normally has to pass through organisations which are physically based in Buenos Aires.
If you plan to stay and study in another Argentine city, you will either need to travel back and forth between your chosen location and Buenos Aires within the first 90 days to complete the entire process, or you should aim to complete everything in the capital upon arrival before heading off to your final destination with all your papers in hand.
In order to complete the student visa process you will need the following documents:
- A valid passport which includes a valid tourist visa stamp of 90 days from passport control in Argentina (this will be stamped in your passport as you pass through passport control at the airport).
- A valid birth certificate which must be stamped with an apostille in your country of origin.
- A valid police check from your country of origin, stating whether or not you have any police convictions to declare. This police check must also be stamped with an apostille in your country of origin.
- A valid police check from the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights in Buenos Aires. This is a simple process which only takes about a week at best, but which can be done within 24 hours if you pay a little extra. You’ll need to prove your address in Argentina, which can be done by visiting the local police station beforehand and asking for a “certificado de domicilio” (a certificate of residence).
- A certificate from the Argentine university, called “constancia de inscripción,” which proves you are about to embark on a study program which will last for at least a year.
- Both the police check from your country of origin and your birth certificate will also need to be translated into Spanish by a translator who’s registered with the Colegio de Traductores de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires. It’s not possible to get “any” translator to translate your document, because Argentina’s immigration department only accepts translations from this school of translators. Both certificates must also be legalised for use in Argentina. Most translators who feature in the list from the Colegio de Traductores de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires also offer the necessary legalisation service, Therefore, it’s a good idea to get everything done in the same place.
- 4 passport-sized, colour photographs for official use.
- At present, you will need 650 Argentine pesos to complete the process. This fee is bound to increase over time.
Once you have all the above documents, you will need to reserve an appointment online with the immigration department. If everything goes well, your student visa will be arranged for you on that same day and then you will just need to wait for it to arrive.
When you have your visa, you will be able to start the application process for your DNI (personal identity card) which Argentines use for everything: opening bank accounts, using credit cards, reserving places on courses, buying travel tickets… everything. The process for getting your DNI can be put into motion on the same day that you visit immigration to apply for your student visa.
Problems that you might face, but can avoid
Things that might slow the whole process down, cause you grief, or generally create annoying delays are as follows…
- Trying to get your student visa before the start date of the course as laid out by the “constancia de inscripción” from the university. No visas will be issued before the start of your course, so don’t bother trying to get things done ahead of time. The early bird does NOT catch the worm in Argentina
- Signing up to a course with a university or polytechnic (referred to as a “terciara”) which might not be authorised (habilitada) by Argentina’s immigration department to receive international students. Staff at these universities might claim that they have permission to receive you, but you should investigate this well yourself or choose to study at one of the well-known private universities, like The University of Palermo.
- Turning up to immigration with a “constancia de inscripción” which is NOT the official format/layout required. Again, The University of Palermo knows what documentation is required. Lesser-informed educational institutions in Argentina might get these formats wrong and send you to immigration with a form that cannot be used for official purposes.
Advice which goes beyond visa formalities
- Solid knowledge of Spanish is essential if you want to study at degree level in Argentina, unless you are coming specifically to study Spanish.
- Be patient and don’t worry too much if you have to repeat processes and/or if your documents get lost for any reason. The worst thing you can do is panic and/or give up.
- Be relentless. If there’s a document you need and someone is taking their time giving it to you, don’t give up. Call every day. Head out to see that person face to face on a daily basis. In general, make a nuisance of yourself until you get want you want and what you are entitled to receive. Most people give up too early in Argentina, so if you stick to your guns, you can generally help to push the processes along a little quicker.