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New visa allows year work holidays in Chile, Peru, Mexico and Colombia

New visa allows year work holidays in Chile, Peru, Mexico and Colombia

Posted by Dubraswka Aguilar on June 24, 2014

President Michelle Bachelet joined member states Mexico, Peru and Colombia on Friday for the ninth Pacific Alliance summit in Punta Mita, Mexico, where heads of state approved a working visa program and discussed the possibilities for expansion with other Latin American countries.

Presidents Enrique Peña Nieto of México, Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, and Ollanta Humala of Peru in addition to Bachelet were in attendance. Santos joined just after winning his second term in office on June 15. The Working Holiday Program was signed by foreign ministers of each country. In effect this August, the program allows people between 18 and 30 years old to visit and work in any of the four-member states for up to a year.

Although citizens of the Pacific Alliance states can visit other member countries for up to 90 days without a visa, work visas have always been required. The new program allows each country to issue up to 300 one year-long visas based on application requirements, which are to be determined.

Trade bloc members also discussed the importance of opening dialogue with the Mercosur trade bloc that includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

“The Pacific Alliance looks to expand beyond its current structure, and realizes that its biggest task is to unite the Pacific’s two shores,” Bachelet said at the summit, referencing the bloc’s ties to the Northern Hemisphere.

Bachelet proposed a meeting between the Pacific Alliance and Mercosur members for July in efforts to create stronger links between the two.

“Beyond the differences, there is an opportunity to create a partnership between the Pacific Alliance and Mercosur,” Bachelet said at the start of the summit. “It’s not only possible, but necessary.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Heraldo Muñoz also attended the summit and emphasized that the alliance only looks to deepen communication between the two blocs.

“Our purpose is not a merger or union of the two groups. Such a situation would be unrealistic,” Muñoz told La Tercera. “But we can explore areas of agreement on issues of common interest.”

All four heads of state are expected to convene once more in Cartagena, Colombia, in July to explore commercial integration. The ninth summit also brought 32 observer countries who are considering joining the Pacific Alliance.

The alliance formed in June 2012 in Chile and comprises 35 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of Latin America.

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