Jeeze, where do I start? I guess I’ll begin by saying my 2016 trip to Caracas is one of the trips I’ve been most excited about in a long time, and for all the wrong reasons. Apparently, Venezuela is pretty dangerous. How dangerous, you ask? Well, let me put it to you this way:
Often many countries get a bad rap right? For instance, people will go around telling others how “dangerous” countries like Brazil and Colombia are. However, when you actually meet a real person from said country, they are quick to tell you it’s never “as bad as it sounds,” and come to the defense of their beloved country, encouraging you to visit and adamantly denying the “rumors,” as blown out of proportion. “It’s not that bad,” they insist, and “Just don’t walk around with flashy jewelry,” are the common answers.
Venezuela, however, is different.
Every time I’ve told a Venezuelan that I am visiting their country, they give me a confused look and ask “why?” Then they warn me about going and ask me “why” again. This is just a little concerning. Kind of exciting at the same time though, to me at least.
Another reality-check for me was reading fellow travel blogger Johnny Blair’s articles on his experiences in Venezuela. Holy crap, this place is no joke.
But I’ve got to do it. My first travel goal was to see all of the Americas by the time I turn 40, and it’s a race against the clock. I’m 39 and have yet to set foot in: Ecuador, Colombia, Jamaica, Bahamas, St. Vincent…and the big V! Venezuela! I have no other options. It’s time to go.
<<<RELATED ARTICLE: THE DANGERS OF EXCHANGING YOUR U.S. CURRENCY IN VENEZUELA>>>
Getting into Venezuela, as an American, is tougher than even Brasil: who requires you get a visa in advance, in person, from the Brasilian Consulate. Nope, to get a Venezuelan visa you must not only show up at your local Venezuelan Consulate with your passport, application and a $30 money order; but you must also provide: a passport photo, proof of employment (letter from employer), bank records (statement or letter from the bank), copies of booked airline itineraries and a prepaid shipping envelope so they can send everything back to you after they process your visa. Yes, they keep your passport while they process your visa, it’s not done in person, “while you wait!”
To make it worse, there are only nine Venezuelan consulates in the U.S., and you have to physically come to the consulate in person; and unlike the application Brasil process, you cannot send anyone else to apply on your behalf. (There are companies that specialize in getting these visas for customers, but can’t be used in this case). I live in San Diego, which means I had to make the trek all the way up to San Francisco. Most people would say, “F that!, too much trouble,” but I’m different. I live for challenges like these. Happy to make the trip up to the Bay.
I flew in to Sacramento on a Sunday morning because I needed to drive up to Redding (2 hours north of Sacramento) for a business lunch. By 8PM I was chillin’ in my hotel room in downtown San Francisco, giving my papers one final look-over to make sure everything was good to go. From my experience, they don’t mess around at consulates–you better make sure you’re on top of your stuff. One thing missing and you’re shown the door, forced to get whatever is missing and make a trip back. I only had a two-hour window in the morning, before I had to catch my plane and get back to work. I could spare no errors.
Ironically, in the morning I awoke to the sound of protestors. They were marching below my 11th floor hotel room with signs and a very obnoxious bull horn. I couldn’t place the shouter’s accent, but it was assertive and kinda scary, straight out of a weird dream. They were picketing the hotel I was staying in; the signs complained of lack of contracts. The protesters chanted, “It’s check out time!” For whatever reason they were marching, I felt it ironic because protesting (both peaceful and violent) are reported to be a common occurrence in the very country I am here in San Francisco to ask permission to visit. This just made me more excited. What a weirdo, I know.
I pulled up to the consulate at 8:13AM and found primo metered parking directly across the street. There seemed to be ample street parking at this hour, on both sides of the street, and a public parking garage if all else failed. I could see there were already four or five people inside the glass lobby of 1161 Mission Street, that looked like they were waiting to do business when the office opened at 9. I grabbed a quick breakfast at The Honey Bistro, just a few doors down at Mission and 7th, before arriving back at the consulate by 8:40AM.
I stood silently in the lobby, with seven others waiting outside the doors of the office. Silently, until they found out I was a traveling to Venezuela for tourism! Funny how that all of a sudden opened up the conversation! Here comes a steady onslaught of questions leading with the ever-popular “Why?” and then “For what?!” and “Have you researched Venezuela???” “Do you know what you’re getting into???” All attention was on me as they poked and prodded this Gringo as to why in the world he was venturing to Venezuela.
They were actually very nice people–all Venezuelans–and we all had a fun conversation as we waited for the doors to open. One group of young ladies who lived in Bakersfield were there to renew their Venezuelan passports. Another lady was there from Denver. We chatted and their friendly interrogation continued–they asked what I did for a living and what I wanted to see in Venezuela. Funny thing was, I was just as curious as they were, and prodded back with inquiries about their lives, their country, how long they have lived in the US, etc. We touched on Venezuelan politics just for a moment, before we all agreed that discussing such topics at a Venezuelan government office may not be such a great idea.
One of the ladies mentioned that I’d have to bring my own toilet paper. She wasn’t joking! The economic crisis in Venezuela is real. More on that HERE.
Soon the door opened, and we filed in, taking our place behind a desk stationed in the middle of the room.
The inside of the consulate was very interesting: one big open room, separated in half by a row of file cabinets and bookshelves. Tall ceilings and yellow walls. It almost resembled a classroom or activity center; it was nothing like your standard DMV-type “service” center. No glass partitions or counters, no stanchions or “numbers” to take; just a big yellow room with historic paintings on the wall and nationalistic trinkets on every shelf. A big knitted blanket with the colors of the Venezuelan flag adorned a big chair in the corner, a few framed pictures of Hugo Chavez were scattered about the shelves and a giant 3D black and gold Consulate “seal” was mounted on the back wall. The one thing I would’ve loved to take home was the Hugo Chavez bobble head, sitting on one of the bookshelves. I eyed it several times—what a cool souvenir that would have been to take home!
We signed in, one by one, and I took a seat and hung out with my new Venezuelan-Bakersfield friends. There was a little waiting area in the corner with two couches and some chairs, next to a small entertainment system that was playing some great Venezuelan music. I caught myself bobbing my head a couple times.
<<<RELATED ARTICLE: THE SAFEST WAY TO EXCHANGE YOUR U.S. CURRENCY TO VENEZUELAN BOLIVARES>>>
I was called up back to the desk not more than ten minutes later, where I presented by documents to two female officials. My heart almost sank after I mentioned that I wasn’t traveling until July and one of the ladies replied with, “That’s too early (to apply for a visa).” Fortunately it wasn’t that I couldn’t “apply” this much in advance of my travel—she just meant that the visa would only be valid for a year after it was issued; so since I would be getting the visa in December, and my travel wasn’t until July, that meant I’d only have less than six months left on the visa, which made no difference to me. I was then told to have a seat and wait to be called back.
Not ten minutes later I was called back up and told I was all set and that’s all they needed from me. I was all done. Gladys was the lady who assisted me and she was very pleasant. Not gonna lie, I was hoping for a little more: some questions, or anything else that would cause me to hang out for a little bit longer and experience this small piece of Venezuela here in the states, but no such luck. I asked Gladys how long it would take to get my visa back and she told me five days. It was back to my car and off to the airport to get back into the office.
Visiting the Consulado General de la Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela was a really cool experience that just got me more jazzed about visiting this interesting and troubled country.
You have to leave all your documents with the consulate–including your passport–that’s always kind of nerve-wracking. You also must leave them a pre-paid USPS or UPS envelope with tracking. I applied for my visa on a Monday and I am pleased to report that everything arrived to my office on Thursday. Four days, not bad!
Read some of the comments below for the latest updates and experiences, and please leave your own comment if you’ve been to the consulate recently!
Well, I made it to Caracas…amazing trip, but very scary! READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE!
UPDATE 4: Well friends, it looks like in just a few short months, the entire visa process has been turned upside down. Please read the comments below from updates from readers who’ve went to the embassy for their visas–some successful, some unsuccessful. Please read the updates, and leave your own if you have an experience.
<<<RELATED ARTICLE: CONVERT US DOLLARS TO VENEZUELAN BOLIVARES BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE USA>>>
66 thoughts on “Applying for my Venezuelan Tourist Visa at the San Francisco Consulate”
I live in San Francisco need to apply for Transit Visa . Tried calling entered a number to speak to someone yet always full. The website of the S.F.Consulate advises at least apply 30 days before departing into Venezuela. I’m leaving for Lima in two more weeks not only that a U.S.Citizen can’t apply for a Venezuelan Visa in Lima or LaPaz as I’m heading to Bolivia as well.
The other thing is a confirmed reservation on the airlines with flight numbers entering /leaving Venezuela , two photos,application, passport valid 6 months after departing Venezuela The 30 days ahead is not a problem as I would be spending three weeks in Bolivia & Peru so were looking at Mid-May as it’s early April 2016 right now. Hearing that you received your visa in a few days makes me sigh hopefully everything will be alright when I head down there Monday.
I’m going to pickup my passport as well if all goes well. I tell you what Latin America is doing in this backlash of visa cost trying to milk out Americans for top$$$$. Brazil $200-, Bolivia $160-, Argentina $160- Paraguay $160 (must apply in person at Embassy or Consulate or issued on arrival at Asuncion Airport not at land borders) Suriname $100- (visa valid 5 years or On Arrival Tourist Card $25- valid 30 days) ,Venezuela $30 (with all personal information revealed about you for Tourist visa, Transit visa as mentioned above valid 72 hours ).
Now we have today 3 countries in Latin America El Salvador,Panama, Ecuador using USD as their official currency ……Let me know how Venezuela works for you….
Hey Craig! Let me know how it goes. I’ve heard from others that calls and emails to the embassy go unanswered, so hopefully you just went down there. Good luck and let us know how it all worked out.
The lady at the consulate told me five weeks for a visa. Yeah right! I will try to get it in Lima or La Paz.
Hey Randy, I am married to a Venezuelan, I used to live there and have been there a total of 5 times. I will tell you that as things progressively get worse in a country that has the worlds worst economy for over 3 years running, (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-02-04/these-are-the-world-s-most-miserable-economies ) things change.
Unaware I needed a visa I was prepared to travel last Friday April 8th until the 6th when one of my many Venezuelan acquaintances mentioned I needed a visa. In my haste of searching for the fastest way to get a visa I tried calling all of the Venezuelan Embassy’s . Most either you could speak to anyone or the phone numbers don’t even work (this reminds me more of how Venezuela actually is).
I was only able to get a hold of the lady that answers the phone in San Francisco and some Guy in DC after many tries. The lady in Venezuela both my wife and I spoke to and got the same response “this phone number is not for this purpose, this information is found on-line or on the phone recording.” And then I was put back into the phone recording, oh I’d say this happened ten times.
The guy in DC said “I’m not allowed to answer questions”, but I pleaded with him and he answered a couple. He said there is no way I could fly to any consulate and rush my visa, all visas are now approved in Caracas and the minimum amount of time is 30 days. That’s all I could get out of him before he hung up.
That wasn’t acceptable. I found a lady though a businessman contact in Caracas who uses a lady to help expedite the visa, of course for some extra $$$ wait $$$$$$. She said 15-20 days. I hope this actually works.
Finally, because of my personality I want more info. So I keep calling different embassy offices. I was able to connect with a lady in Boston, this lady was very nice and pleasant. She told me the same thing visas are now approved in Caracas, and the fastest they are coming back is 30 days, but between 30-60 days. I just mention this too you, because your readers here and on trip advisor should be aware of this, so they are not misguided. You were fortunate for a 5 day turnaround, but this is no longer the case.
Hello Chrischan – I am in a very similar situation. My wife is Venezuelan and I, too, need a visa. We flew to DC and together applied in person. They spoke to both of us and we asked whether there would be any problem with my getting the visa in time for me to travel before Christmas. The clerk indicated “no problem.” Well, Christmas is here and no visa, of course. We had no idea that all processing is now done in Caracas. If you can I would like to know how I can lubricate the system with some USD’s if you would be so kind enlighten me about this.
Wow, that sucks–I’m so so sorry! What a mess!!!
UPDATE: Visa is arriving today or tomorrow. That is almost 11 weeks or 3 months from the day I applied in person at the embassy in DC. Unbelievable.
Three weeks ago I gave up on emailing to the address they hand you at the embassy for status updates. No one ever responds to the emails. I gave up calling the embassy phone number since it was never answered nor messages returned. I needed my passport back so I could get a Chinese Visa for an upcoming business trip. So, I just started slightly changing the main number for the embassy hoping to direct dial anybody. After 5 or 6 tries it worked and I reached a pleasant woman. She told me she did not work with visas and was on the other end of the building. But she did listen to me and volunteered to walk to the visa department and have them call me. Amazingly the next day they called. Long story short, don’t expect a quick or even reasonable turn around on your visa application.
Wow! Thank you for sharing this. What a hassle!
Oh wow, thank you so much for this Chrischan, I guess I lucked out just in time! I will share your info with my readers. Stay in touch.
Thanks for posting details. I want to report I went to Consulate in San Francisco as you did. Everything you said is correct except no music was playing. Also, the receptionist went over all of the documents and took it back for verification with someone else.
Nice staff and friendly at the Consulate.
Now the visa gets approved in Caracas, however it takes 5 days for them to send out. I am not sure what Chrischan earlier wrote, and I would love to see her come back and post how many days it took.
Nothing changed from the procedure you wrote as of May 19, 2016.
Ooooh, thanks for this updated intel! Tell us about your trip!!!
Went to the Venezuelan consulate in Chicago (which, randomly, is at the opera house). Simple interview with straightforward questions about dates of trip, checking all documentation, and that was it. 18 calendar days later they called and told me I could pick up my passport in person. This was about in line with what the consulate says by email, which is that visas take 10 working days.
This is awesome, thank you for your notes. Tell us about your trip please!
Hi, I have two questions. On the Venezuelan government’s website for Tourist Visa requirements, it says that requirement #7 is a copy of a leasing contract, a document proving house ownership, or a document demonstrating ownership of some other high value property (i.e. a car, fine art, etc.).
Do they really ask for that? What do I do if I do not own ANY high value property whatsoever? (I’m a broke 20-something year old, I live with my parents, borrow their cars, etc.)
Also for the proof of employment letter, is the San Francisco consulate picky about what the letter says (i.e. does it have to list your salary, expected dates of return, etc.)? Or is it just a simple statement from HR stating that you work for your company?
I’m going to drive up to San Fran from Orange County in a couple weeks and I’d really hate to go all that distance just to get sent back for missing documents.
Hi Peter. I’m not sure, I wish I knew definitive answers to your questions. You never really know how much they are going to scrutinize the documents when you apply for visas–I have the feeling most of the time they are just “formalities,” but who knows? I would suggest putting together as much as you can. Understand the reason most countries ask for these documents, is so they can know that you’d have a lot to lose by overstaying your visa and staying longer in their country; obviously if you own a car or house, etc. in the US, you’re more than likely not to abandon your assets here. Knowing this, I’d do your best to gather up as much as you can even if you’re using “creative license” if you know what I mean.
By the way, please tell us about your trip!
Thank you for the reply. I went to the consulate earlier this month and had no problems. Friendly staff, chill waiting room, and everything – but sadly, the processing time for a visa did get longer. I was told it would take two weeks for my passport to ship out (pending approval from Caracas), but as of now, it still hasn’t been sent. Visa or no visa, I hope I get my passport back soon since I want to travel this summer!
As for Venezuela itself – do you have contacts in the country, or are you doing it alone? Me – my plans are to book a short tour to Angel Falls with a tour operator, which will put in me in touch with their Venezuelan contacts. I’m on the fence about visiting Caracas, but just because the city is risky doesn’t mean you have to skip out on Venezuela altogether. Many tour operators offer packages in which your “day in Caracas” is nothing more than a night at the airport hotel, followed with an early departure for Angel Falls. Depending on the situation, I may end up doing this instead – but June and July are the perfect time to see Angel Falls, so I really do hope that you go!
P.S. I have not travelled as widely as you have, but I did go to Afghanistan and ex-Soviet Asia this spring with reliable guides, and I made it out fine. With some precaution, I expect Venezuela to be do-able and while it may be a bit of a challenge, I do believe you can pull it off. Just keep in mind that as your other blog-post said, sometimes the travel bug can lead one to have more balls than brains when going places – but that’s part of the excitement, no?
Regardless of what you decide, I wish you the best!
Hi, Randy. I have a question for you. I live in northern Missouri and I’m low on money so I am about to make a 1000 mile trip to New Orleans because that is the Venezuelan consulate for my region. Now, the only issue I have is that I am going to fly to Mexico on June 23 and won’t return until July 29. Anyway, I want to apply for a Venezuelan Tourist visa, and I have tried and tried to contact the consulate in both New Orleans and DC: no replies. All I have wanted to ask them was if there was a fast-processing, or rush, or urgent, or emergency fee that could be paid to insure that the visa is obtained faster. Since I’m headed for New Orleans on Sunday, June 5, I want to be able to make sure that my Visa and, more importantly my passport, will be back before I leave for Mexico. It was refreshing to hear that you received yours so quickly but others made comments about it taking longer for them. Do you know anything about whether there is some sort of fee that can be paid to make the process quicker?
So sorry, I am just now seeing this…how was your trip to the consulate? Please give us details!
I do not think there are any expedite options unfortunately.
Just wanted to share my Venezuela tourist visa experience. My wife and I went for our tourist visa on June 1. We were told the process would take 3 weeks to process but we got our visas back in around 15 days (includes package mailing time) to our location in Central Illinois. My wife is an American citizen while I am a Bangladeshi citizen. We will be flying to Caracas in a week and half.
This was at the Chicago Consulate btw..
Very nice, thank you for sharing! What brings you to Caracas? I just returned!
Pingback: Venezuela – Ramblin Randy
Hi do you remember how much and where do you paid for the prepaid envelope?.. Other thing the money order do you paid it the same day there or another place
Post office…6 or 8 bucks I think. Prepaid priority envelope, with tracking…save the tracking number!!! Buy the money order at the post office too.
Hi- wondering if the visa now takes 30+ days- do they keep your passport that whole time? Because I need mine for ID purposes and other travel during the application time frame.
Also I am planning a trip for dental work; I am subletting in NYC and do not work so do not really have any kind of employer or ownership documents although I can provide cable bills.. is it better to fake something rather than say I don’t have them? (would be going to NYC consulate). Thanks!
Hi Elena! I’m not at all an expert, nor do I work for the embassy, so the only thing I can tell you for a FACT is that yes, they WILL keep your passport the whole time. That’s always a bummer when having to apply for a visa at most embassies–they all keep your passport. It’s so inconvenient.
As far as documents, bring whatever you can. A bank statement, tax return, etc. My guess is that they do not scrutinize the documents.
Why are you going???
I’ll be flying from Seattle in attempt to submit my tourist visa application Dec. 9th at the San Francisco Consulate office! I’m hoping they will be open as I read some previous comments on Google that claimed they are currently closed and reopen on Dec. 1st. NERVOUS! Come on!
I noticed in you initial blog post the address you mentioned is different from the one I have: 1700 California St #420, San Francisco, CA 94109
This is appears to be correct. Let me know if I’m wrong.
I wont be traveling to Maracaibo until March 10th, 2017 so I should have ample time for the review process…LOL. I am definitely nervous about leaving my passport! I’ll be sure to update the post once I complete the application process.
Awesome! Good luck and let me know how it works.
When I fill out the proper paper work. Do I need to setup an appointment or do I just walk in?
Thank you for the response Randy.
Can you please help with the following questions? I want to do my due diligence before flying out to San Francisco from Los Angeles to visit the Venezuelan consulate. I understand you might not have all the answers, but any help is greatly appreciate it.
On the list of requirements
1. Proof of employment. I am self-employed. Do you know if they will accept a letter written by me verifying that I am self-employed? Do I need to take them my tax returns?
2. Home or property ownership – I don’t lease an apartment or own a home. I live with my parents. However, I do have a new car and its being financed by a finance company. Do you know if they will accept my contract with the finance company and accept it as personal property?
3. Bank Statement – Will they accept my business bank statement as proof of financial responsibility? I used my business checking account as personal checking account also for convenience.
4. Flight Details – When booking my flight, is it mandatory to book the flight three months in advance from the date of submitting the application or will they accept earlier dates.
Thank you in advance for any help or advise.
1) I’ve had similar circumstances, and in this case, I usually write up an employment letter on MY company’s stationary, and sign it a fictitious name (for example Susan Winfield, Human Relations Director.) You’re not fibbing…it IS an employment verification letter from YOUR company. Just get creative here, you’re not lying.
2) Again, why not get creative? Take 10 minutes to write up and pre-date a lease between you and your parents. Find a template on line, edit, sign and scan! Not sure about the vehicle title, but worth a shot.
3) If your name is on it, I’m guessing yes.
4) Not sure. I don’t think the dates matter, but I don’t know this for a fact. They just want to make sure you have plans to LEAVE Venezuela once you arrive.
I hope this helps…they’re just educated guesses.
Please tell me why you’re going, I’m very curious! And excited for you too!
I am retired and living off savings. I have plenty of money but no job, and no Social Security until August of 2018. How can I make this work?
Thank you for all your advice.
I just got back from visiting the Venezuelan Consulate in San Francisco. This was an adventure of its own.
I flew in and landed at the San Francisco Airport at 9:30 PM. Went straight to my hotel and did what you did, I went over all my documents and made sure they were all in order.
The following morning I got up and got ready. Walked over to the Venezuelan Consulate located, at 1700 California St #420, San Francisco, CA 94109. It was 8:30 am, I googled the consulate and it read open 9:00 am – 1:00 pm, but when I went to the door the hours read 9:30 am – 1:00 pm. So I waited till 9:30 am, and to my surprise the door was still closed at 9:30 am. So I waited and waited, then it was 10:00 am. I was frustrated and upset. Lots of things were going through my mind. The first, “how in the world could the consulate be closed on this Friday, I thought to myself. I just flew in from Los Angeles to drop off these documents and the consulate happens to be closed on this particular day. This was MADNESS!!!!
So I went downstairs and waited in front of the building trying to figure out my next move. I looked at my watch and it read 10:20 am. My flight was at 4:00 pm, I was flying out of San Francisco to Los Angeles later that afternoon. I then decided to go back upstairs one more time; maybe just maybe the consulate would somehow be open. As I stepped inside the elevator, this lady also stepped in and we both went up and exited the same floor. She stepped out first and I followed. As I followed her, I saw her go straight to her purse and retrieved a set of keys. As I looked up, I saw her place the key in the key slot of door which “of course belonged to the Venezuelan Consulate. My heart rejoiced with “Joy”. I immediately went inside and introduced myself. She told me to sign in and then called me inside her office. I presented her with all my documents and said that all my documents were in place and my visa would take 6 – 8 weeks. It would be mailed to my address and of course my “Passport would also have to stay behind. I then asked her why she came in so late. She said there was a big accident on the freeway and traffic was back up for hours. I nodded and said by and took off straight to the airport.
Lesson to be learned for all future visa applicants, If an unknown event occurs, have patience. Especially if you are flying in from different states. Can you imagined if this situation would of gotten the best of me and lost focus of the goal at hand. This trip would have been a catastrophe.
I went through this adventure while applying for a visa to visit Venezuela.
Stay tuned for my real trip to Venezuela…
Whew! I’m so glad!!! It could’ve been some random Venezuelan holiday, like “National Mailman’s Day,” Or “Venezuelan Day of the Geese,” etc. This used to ALWAYS happen in Brasil…they have a MILLION holidays. I’m so glad it worked out!!!
Do they have to send your paperwork to Caracas???
Yes, the lady told she had to send all my paperwork to Venezuela and it would take approximately 6-8 weeks for my visa to arrive.
Randy – excellent post and the comments are super helpful. My brother and I recently applied for our visas in Houston and would like to share our experience.
I went to Venezuela, specifically Los Roques, in 2010. At that time, visas were granted upon arrival. The Caracas airport is a busy, hectic place, that is for sure.
I have applied for visas before in advance, but never had to visit on consulate. Luckily there is one in Houston and I am located in Austin, so travel was not a major factor. My brother is in Houston, so it was easy to stay with him.
The Houston consulate is open Monday to Thursday, 9 am to 1 pm, Friday from 9 am to 12 pm. Great work hours huh?
We printed our forms in advance and read many sites. It is absolutely key to have the correct documents – the visa form passport photos, copies of plane tickets, proof of residence, proof of employment, and proof of funds, which is a bank statement.
A few comments on the paperwork – this is the most important part. The visa form that is online (3 page version) is now obsolete. There is a new one page version they gave us in person. I did not see this one page version online.
We provided the most recent month’s bank statements. It turns out you must supply 3 months of statements. They need to see the balance each month.
Proof of residence was a challenge since this was not clear – I provided property taxes, water bill and mortgage statement to cover all my bases. They are more familiar with a copy of a lease or rental.
When we arrived, which was just after 9 am, the waiting room was pretty full but there were 3 people working. It was a number system, so you enter, take a number and wait to be called. We were called in under 10 minutes, but this is where it gets fun.
The person was friendly, but immediately saw we had the wrong form. She printed out 2 new forms and gave them to us. She said to fill it out and just go back to her – we didn’t need to get a new number.
After we filled out the new form and went back to her, she went through the paperwork and saw the bank statements. She said we needed 3 months. Well, my brother lives about 30 minutes away, so we found a Kinkos nearby and went there to print out the statements. $40 later in printing and internet fees, we were headed back to the consulate. We gave 3 full months plus the current partial month to be safe.
We went right back to her and she went through all the paperwork. She then asked us for our “invitation letter” – I was confused. Our form stated exactly what we were doing (fishing in Los Roques) and where we were staying. She discussed this with another woman, then handed us 2 blank pieces of paper and said we needed to write an explanation of what we will be doing there. We decided to be as descriptive as possible. I even mentioned I have travelled there before and visited Los Roques.
Finally, we got back in line with her and completed the papers. She said she was done but I noticed she didn’t take our passports. I asked her and she acted surprised that she nearly forgot.
I also asked how long it would take. She said 4 to 6 weeks. I asked if the documents go to Caracas, she said no – all the visas are done in the consulate. That was a relief to hear.
All in all, it was fairly painless, but did have a few moments that could have easily been avoided with proper documentation online. The consulate does not answer phone calls – I have tried several times. However, I did receive a call this morning from them but I was unable to answer it. I did not receive a voice mail either.
One last tip – you cannot buy prepaid express mail or priority mail online from USPS. You must do it in an actual post office. Express mail actually cannot be prepaid – there must be a ship date to guarantee delivery. So the only option is priority mail with tracking. You can register the tracking number on USPS and they will notify you when the item ships.
Hope this helps someone else – and hopefully we get back to an easier visa system with them.
Keith, this is a FANTASTIC recap…thank you so much for taking the time. Your details will help many coming here for help. I can’t wait to hear about your trip. Like everyone asked me: why Venezuela now–with all the turmoil???
Randy – Los Roques is a unspoiled paradise that is pretty much sheltered from the issues on the mainland. It is a Venezuelan national park and had been since 1973. It is a great spot for kite surfing, wind surfing, beach bumming, diving, and fishing. We primarily go for fly fishing, which is all catch and release. Los Roques also gets its supplies from Aruba, a neighboring island. Many Brazilian tourists go there and fishing outfitters have been sending Canadian, European and Americans there for years.
Sounds awesome…need to make it there!!!
Best thing to do is obtain a Transit Visa its good for just 72 hours however it eliminates all the hassles of getting a ”LOI” tax records, etc etc then apply 3 months ahead of departing on a trip. You can even get a double entry transit visa good for a year from date of issuance. A transit visa does fine after all I hear that Caracas is the type of place where the longer you spend there, the chances increase of you getting robbed, kidnapped or shot.
Thanks Craig, great idea!!!
An update to my earlier post. My brother and I both received our visas and passports right at 4 weeks. As I mentioned earlier, they do not send the passports to Caracas. They estimated 4 to 6 weeks. Definitely keep your tracking number and add it to the USPS dashboard. You’ll get email or text messages when it ships.
Here is an update.
The Venezuelan Consulate denied my visa back in February of 2017. When I received my envelope with a note, it read ” Negada” or Rejected in English. I was furious and upset. I re-organized all my documents again and drove to San Francisco and delivered them in person. I asked the lady in the office why my Visa was denied, her answer was “I have no idea”. I told her that I really wanted to visit Venezuela and it was unfair because I had provided them with all the documents they requested. She told me to leave all the documents with her and for me to wait. I would be receiving a response in the mail.
Today, I received an envelop and inside was my” Venezuelan Visa” Hooray!!!!!!!
I finally got it after 3 1/2 months of flying and driving to San Francisco…
I hope this experience might helps someone with similar circumstances.
Wow! What a story!!! Were your airlines tickets purchased that far in advance, or did you have to change your flights because of the delay?
When will you travel, and did you secure a guide???
Yes, my airline tickets were purchased advanced for April, 2017. The reason I did this is because of all the horror stories I’ve read on online, blogs and internet.
Yes, I’ve secured a hotel and guide.
I will update you when I return from my trip to Venezuela.
I am looking forward to this trip and can’t wait to taste the food and experience the country and people.
Thank You for all your help.
I truly appreciate it.
I love in Atlanta, GA and because there is no consulate in the southern region you have the option to go to any visa office. I went to the consulate in Washington DC. I had every required item listed on the website. I am going there for a very specialized medical visit. I was told I needed a copy of the doctors passport. I was also scrutinized as to why I wanted to go see this doctor. Luckily I had the doctors cell phone number and he was able to leave his medical office and email me a copy of his passport. I was told there would be about a four week processing time. Needless to say I didn’t find out about this visa situation until a week before my trip so I had to rearrange everything.
Oh no! What a hassle!!!
I just got back from my Venezuela trip. Love it, Love it. Great people, great food.
Venezuela is a beautiful country.
Thank you for all your advice.
That’s awesome!!! Please share some details, here or via private message. I would love to hear about everything!
Hi Randy! Awesome write-up. I’m planning a late July trip to Ccs but I’ve so many questions about the visa. Did they have you submit a background check saying you’ve never committed a crime? I’m going off the website which doesn’t mention that, but my friend in Ccs, using Venezuelan sources has different information. For example, she needs to submit 3x bank statements and a notarized letter that she can and will accommodate me for a week. And now she says I need a background check. Did you have that? Did you feel they were meticulous about having every document?
Hey Felix! They didn’t ask me that, and actually didn’t ask me a word about my docs–I got my stuff back super quickly. HOWEVER…from others’ comments, it looks like things have changed, drastically, and FAST. My advice to over-prepare. I’m hearing of a lot of rejections. It’s easy to go to your local police department and request a letter that says your clean. You may not need that, but if you’re hearing about “background” checks, it certainly won’t hurt! What a pain in the butt!
Are you going to visit family?
Pingback: Will You Need a Visa? – Ramblin Randy
Update to my earlier posts. Our trip was fantastic, although when we departed the country was unravelling worse than when we got there.
Is anyone aware of a renewal process for the visa? Or must we apply again after it expires? I was told by a local that there is a renewal, but I have not found any info on it. I plan to go back again next year if the conditions are right.
Thanks again Randy for posting your experience. This has been super helpful for countless people.
So glad you had a safe and productive trip!!!
What an amazing blog! So informative and so riveting to read.
Unfortunately I bought my ticket to Venezuela and was not aware that I needed a visa. This blog helped out. To hear your experience and everyone else’s was very informative and reassuring. But I just got denied. Wanted to see what to do to reapply and see what other people’s experience was like. Any tips or insight?
A friend of mine just got denied to, with no reason why. We don’t know the answer to this mystery. Did Venezuela give YOU any reason??? MY best advice is to reapply at the consulate, but try and find someone there who can shed some light on why the denial happened in the first place. Please share with us all!
Randy, your blog is awesome and it actually inspired me to travel to Venezuela!
I was at the Venezuelan Consulate in Washington DC last week to submit my tourist visa application. They told me it will take 3-4 weeks to get my passport back (I am not aware if they would send my passport to Caracas or not). The entire staff was very professional, caring, and friendly. I had read very positive feedback about this consulate in their Google reviews as well.
Since I was the only applicant for a tourist visa, I was the first token holder! I was called in so quickly that I didn’t even have time to properly organize my documents which I had planned to do while having to wait there. Virtually there was no waiting at all. The officer was friendly, smart, and patient enough to check all documents one-by-one, asked me some questions, and required me to provide additional documents about the Angel Falls tour I would be taking in Venezuela. I had to go out for a while to find a FedEx office to print those documents, and when I came back – the security guard and the receptionist welcomed me back (without even needing to re-scan my bag), and I was immediately called in by the officer to collect those additional documents. Everything was super quick at this consulate, and I had a great experience.
“””HOWEVER”””, the tables have turned upside down since my visit last week. Avianca suspended all of its operations in Venezuela and my flight has got canceled. So I am not sure if the consulate will still consider my flight booking as valid! They might ask for a new booking with another airline (As of today, Copa and American Airlines are the only options to fly from US to Venezuela). Moreover, the elections on Sunday didn’t seem to go well and I’m not sure if it might affect my visa in any way. Even if my visa gets approved, I may not really consider traveling to Venezuela anytime soon (as there is no guarantee that any airline would continue operating these days for sure).
To this end, I would like to know how long the Venezuelan tourist visa remains valid? Is there any restriction that you must enter Venezuela within 90 days from the date the visa has been issued? Or can you enter any time until it expires?
Appreciate your reply! Thanks!
Wow Sunny, THANK YOU so much for your detailed review of the consulate there, sounds like they were really nice! Unless they changed things, there is no requirement to enter within 90 days of the visa issuance. I know this because I received my visa about four months before my trip, and I was really about the whole “90 days to enter” standard. It wasn’t the case with me and nothing was on the physical visa indicating this.
Regarding the cancellation of Avianca flights-since you already turned in your paper reservation, my hope is that this change with the airlines/flight will not matter. I can’t be sure, but I’m fairly certain they just needed to see your physical itinerary from the airlines to confirm you have a flight home. I would definitely try and re-book a new ticket, but that’s only me–you have to consider your safety and well-being. Only you can decide. Did United stop flying to Caracas from Houston??? Never mind, I just Googled it–wow, they DID cancel their flights too! A shame!!!
How long were you planning to stay? Do you have a guide from beginning the end, including airport pickup? And why did you pick Venezuela to visit at the current time? I did the same, just wondering your interest. Feel free to answer here or send me a direct message through the contact form. I’m anxious to hear about your trip!
Just reporting back here that I received my Tourist Visa today from Washington DC Consulate! It’s approved and valid only for the duration of my stay (as indicated on the flight itinerary submitted with visa application). It’s still a Multiple Entry visa. Previously, tourist visas have been valid for one entire year, which isn’t the case with me unfortunately 🙁
The consulate initially said that it will take 3-4 weeks to process the visa. I followed with them twice in the mean time, and got my visa in just over a week somehow 🙂
This is GREAT news Sunny!!! Woohoo!!!!! Congrats!!! Look forward to hearing about your trip.
Anyone know if its possible to obtain a visa for venezuela from an embassy outside of the US?
Randy, your blog is so super helpful and informative! I emailed you about your guide, but I wanted to post my experience at the Consulate for others planning on applying. I live in Los Angeles and went to the San Francisco Consulate on Monday 6/4/18 to apply for my visa. They open at 9:30am. I did not call or make an appointment after reading your experience to just show up. I arrived early around 8:45am and sat in the hallway with two other people from Venezuela that were renewing their passports. When the Consulate opened, we wrote our names down on a sign in sheet. There was one girl working and she called us in order of the sign in. I handed her my application and she asked me for my photos and other papers (nothing specific). I gave her all of my paperwork and sat in the lobby area with the others while she stayed behind the window and typed up my info. She asked me if I possessed any other nationalities and if I was traveling alone. That was it. I had expected questions or a verbal review of my documents and itinerary, especially since my flights are from Cartagena/Panama and departing to Miami/Belize. She handed me back my lease agreement and my bank statement and said she would receive an email from Venezuela notifying her if I’m denied or accepted. She said she would send me my passport either with or without a visa in 30 days. I’m in a mild panic because I have a trip to the Bahamas on the 30th. I wasn’t expecting the 30 day turnaround but I’ll cross that bridge when it gets closer. I’m really hoping it can be processed in time.
For others applying, I took everything on the list of required documents. I additionally submitted a business card and my hotel confirmation, and she kept those docs. I brought a USPS Priority Mail Express overnight envelope with tracking. They are definitely keeping my passport in SF. I’ll post an update of whether it’s approved.
Margaret, this is great info! Will you keep us updated on your visa and trip? Fingers crossed!
Update: My visa was approved! It is valid for one year from the date of issue, June 25, 2018. The consulate in San Francisco was very communicative and very nice. I contacted them after 2 weeks to see if it was possible to process my application before the 29th. They said they say 30 days but it usually takes 2 weeks to receive a response on whether you are approved. It took 3 weeks and they called me to let me know I was approved. I received my passport back with the Visa yesterday for a total of 3 1/2 weeks since I applied. I made the mistake of applying too soon with another trip planned out of the country. Definitely allow 4 weeks for processing.
So awesome!!! Thank you for the update, which I’m sure will be of help to many looking for answers.