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Bolivia

Temporary immigration to Bolivia varied between 17 and 26 thousand between 2010 and 2013, much higher than permanent immigration levels, which ranged from around 1,000 in 2010 to close to 3,800 in 2013. More than 50% of temporary immigration occurred in the context of international agreements, essentially Mercosur.

The foreign-born population has held steady relative to the total population, at some 1.4% of the total, a figure that corresponds to that for all of  Latin America and the Caribbean.

From 2009 to 2012, emigration increased some 23% – rising by about 6,000 individuals per year – and in 2012, some 98,000 Bolivians emigrated abroad. In 2012, three fourths of Bolivians went to Argentina, followed by Chile, Spain and the United States. From 2009 to 2012, migration to Spain and the United States decreased some 36% and 30%, respectively.

The labor market situation of Bolivian migrants in Europe and the United States is not very favorable overall. Their unemployment rate has surpassed 20%, and for men during 2012-2013, it was more than 27%. The unemployment rate among Bolivian women has been lower than among men, and while it also saw an increase, it was two percentage points less than that registered for men.

Remittances represent nearly 5% of Bolivia’s Gross Domestic Product. Despite a decrease in remittances due to the 2007-2012 financial crisis, these have begun to increase again in the past year. By 2013, Bolivia received 1.2 billion dollars in remittances, an increase of 8% in comparison with 2012.

In 2012, through the “Law for Protecting Refugee Persons”, Bolivia established a set of rules for protecting refugees and those who request this status, in accordance with the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol, and other international instruments on human rights ratified by Bolivia.  However, the annual number of asylum requests and the number of refugees residing in the country remain very low. For 2013, 20 asylum applications were received, and refugees in the country numbered fewer than 800, mainly from Peru and Colombia.

In 2013, a new Immigration Law[1] was enacted, and a Presidential Decree[2] established the regulatory framework for Bolivian immigration policy. The objective of the Law is to regulate the entry, transit, stay and departure of people in the territory of the Plurinational State of Bolivia and to establish institutional spaces of coordination that guarantee the rights of Bolivian and foreign migrant persons, in accordance with the Political Constitution of the State, International Instruments on matters of Human Rights ratified by the State, and rules in force.

The law replaces an earlier one (1996) and provides broad rights to foreigners, including the right to family reunification, to vote in municipal elections; to request and receive shelter; to freedom of movement within Bolivia; and to the  assistance of an interpreter. The law also establishes that migrant associations or organizations that are legally incorporated and registered with the National Migration Directorate can act as party plaintiffs in the protection of migrant rights.

The law establishes different stay categories: (a) transit, for a 180-day period; (b) temporary, for a maximum of 3 years; and (c) permanent, for which a prior 3-year-stay in the country is required. Additionally, the law recognizes the right of a migrant to develop any lucrative activity – by him/herself or as an employeee – regardless of the category of stay. Employers, under the law, are obliged to strictly fulfil the labor legislation, regardless of the migration status of the immigrant and his/her condition – regular or irregular. 

Additionally, the law introduces the category of “climate change migrant”.

In late 2013 a Decree was enacted based on the new law providing for the regularization of foreigners in an irregular situation in Bolivian territory.. Foreigners who wish to stay in the country and to be regularized had to come forward between January 5th, 2014 when the law came into effect and June 5th of the same year.[3]

The new immigration law incorporates a number of policy initiatives in favor of returning Bolivians.[4] Returnees with job and/or artistic skills may have skills which were acquired abroad recognized through the Plurinational System of Competency Certification of the Ministry of Education. In addition the family unit may bring into the country personal effects of normal use without having to pay an import tax.

In Bolivia, the Agreement on Residence for Nationals of States Party to Mercosur applies to all citizens of countries party to Mercosur who wish to settle in Bolivian territory. The goal is to grant legal residence to nationals of these States who wish to reside in the territory. Temporary residence is granted for 2 years, after which nationals of signatory countries may acquire permanent residence.  Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia recognize the right to health and education for all  under the agreement.

Recent trends in migrant’s flows and stocks and in labor market outcomes of emigrants

Bolivia (Plurinational State of)
Migration inflows (foreign nationals) Persons Per 1000 inhabitants Percent change
  2010 2011 2012 2013 2013 2013/2010
Permanent 1020 927 1317 3814 0.35741060049479 273.92156862745
Temporary 17482 20303 26141 18449 1.7288589849314 5.5314037295504
Permanent migration inflows (foreign nationals) by type Persons   % distribution      
  2010 2013 2010 2013    
Family 86 82 8.4313725490196 2.1499737808076    
International agreements 71 2815 6.9607843137255 73.807026743576    
Work 150 154 14.705882352941 4.0377556371264    
Other and unknown 713 763 69.901960784314 20.00524383849    
Total 1020 3814 100 100    
Temporary migration inflows (foreign nationals) by type Persons   % distribution      
  2010 2013 2010 2013    
Family 386 361 2.2079853563665 1.956745623069    
International agreements 2126 9761 12.161079967967 52.908016694672    
Study 7026 1027 40.189909621325 5.5666973819719    
Work 4118 3521 23.555657247455 19.085045259906    
Other and unknown 3826 3779 21.885367806887 20.483495040382    
Total 17482 18449 100 100    
Migration outflows (nationals) Persons       % of total % change
            outflows
From unstandardised destination country data 2009 2010 2011 2012 2012 2012/2009
All countries 79644 67179 88480 98120 100 23.198232132992
Argentina 58438 44713 67149 73984 75.401549123522 26.602553133235
Chile 3635 5836 7156 12050 12.280880554423 231.49931224209
Spain 9484 7390 7010 6025 6.1404402772116 -36.471952762547
United States 4246 3388 3325 2962 3.0187525479005 -30.240226095148
Asylum seekers and refugees Per million inhabitants         Number of persons
          Average 2010-2013  
  2010 2011 2012 2013   2013
Inflows of asylum seekers 4.7258048636408 3.0994402120405 3.4297849191404 1.874203463528 3.2823083645874 20
Refugees resident in the country 68.4257162548 69.349974744405 69.834231825832 70.095209535947 69.426283090246 748
Components of population growth Per 1000 inhabitants          
  1985-1990 1990-1995 1995-2000 2000-2005 2005-2010  
Total 23.5 23.35 21.34 19.27 16.45  
Natural increase 25.814 26.094 23.803 22.195 19.826  
Net migration -2.314 -2.744 -2.463 -2.925 -3.376  
Foreign-born population Percentage of the total population       Persons % change
          (thousands)  
  1990 2000 2010 2013 2013 2013/2010
  0.8770915004108 1.0483244148421 1.435686998042 1.4462291026314 154.33 0.7342898977142
Remittances Millions of dollars       % of GDP % change
  2010 2011 2012 2013 2013 2013/2010
  964 1012 1094 1182 5.1 22.614107883817
Macroeconomic indicators Annual growth in %       Average annual growth Level
  2010 2011 2012 2013 2010-2013 2013
Real GDP 4.1267225646833 5.1739291615213 5.1764315918348 6.7751293857954 5.3130531759587 -
GDP/per capita ((PPP ) in constant 2011 international dollars) 2.5219299628179 3.5 3.5 5 3.7457054228153 5934
Labour market outcomes of emigrants in Europe and the United States Percentages          
  Men   Women   Total  
  2010-11 2012-13 2010-11 2012-13 2010-11 2012-13
Participation rate 89.18942 84.93856 85.3951 83.29341 87.0129 83.99051
Employment rate 70.14052 61.69682 75.13793 69.98172 73.00716 66.47119
Unemployment rate 21.35781 27.363 12.01141 15.98168 16.09617 20.85868


[1] Law No. 370

[2] Decree No. 1923

[3] Presidential Decree Number 1800

[4] It is estimated that 40% of Bolivians who went to Spain have returned (see Table 7, chapter 1).