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 was enacted, and a Presidential Decree 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.
The new immigration law incorporates a number of policy initiatives in favor of returning Bolivians. 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|
|Permanent migration inflows (foreign nationals) by type||Persons||% distribution|
|Other and unknown||713||763||69.901960784314||20.00524383849|
|Temporary migration inflows (foreign nationals) by type||Persons||% distribution|
|Other and unknown||3826||3779||21.885367806887||20.483495040382|
|Migration outflows (nationals)||Persons||% of total||% change|
|From unstandardised destination country data||2009||2010||2011||2012||2012||2012/2009|
|Asylum seekers and refugees||Per million inhabitants||Number of persons|
|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|
|Foreign-born population||Percentage of the total population||Persons||% change|
|Remittances||Millions of dollars||% of GDP||% change|
|Macroeconomic indicators||Annual growth in %||Average annual growth||Level|
|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|
 Law No. 370
 Decree No. 1923
 Presidential Decree Number 1800
 It is estimated that 40% of Bolivians who went to Spain have returned (see Table 7, chapter 1).