Uruguay—One of the Easiest Countries to Gain Residency and Citizenship
Time and time again, foreign nationals living in Uruguay tell of the ease in which they were able to gain residency. While certainly bureaucratic, the process is simple, and often a primary reason why some people choose to move to Uruguay, over other destinations. The process of gaining residency can take about six to 10 months. To apply for citizenship and/or a Uruguayan passport usually takes three to five years.
To begin the process of applying for residency you need to obtain all necessary documents abroad, enter Uruguay as a tourist, then submit an application to the Dirección Nacional de Migración, or “DNM.” It is also recommended that you open a bank account upon entering the country. (Check out Ola’s Quick Guide to Banking in Uruguay to learn how to open a bank account.)
Uruguay does not require an entry visa for citizens of any OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) country—that is the U.S., Canada, Japan, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand—or from a South American country. Upon entering Uruguay, you will be granted a tourist permit to stay for 90 days.
While still abroad, it is recommended that you gather the following required documents for your residency application:
1) Your birth certificate (stamped by the Uruguayan consulate in your country of birth)
2) A marriage certificate (if the applicants are married)
3) A clean police record from the country of origin and from those countries where you resided in the past five years (for U.S. citizens, this document is obtained in Uruguay, at the local Interpol office)
4) Proof that you can support yourself throughout the residency process (this is also referred to as the “income requirement”). The income requirement is fulfilled by proving that you have a yearly income of at least US$6,000. This can be demonstrated in a number of ways, including: a pension, a mutual fund, lease income from an asset inside or outside Uruguay, dividends of any nature, or a wage. Uruguay’s immigration authorities scrutinize this requirement thoroughly, so the key is to prove it correctly, leaving no doubt to the authenticity and permanent/semi-permanent nature of the income source. Your proof of income will need to be certified by a notary in Uruguay. Before submitting it, work with your immigration lawyer to ensure that your proof of income statement is properly worded.
It is important to note that Uruguay does not require that you own property or have investments in the country, in order to grant residency. On the other hand, owning property does not eliminate the income requirement.
After gathering the necessary documents you will enter Uruguay as a tourist and file the request on a pre-appointed date, at the immigration authority (Dirección Nacional de Migración, or “DNM”, located in the Old City at Misiones 1513; tel. 916-04-71; website: http://www.dnm.minterior.gub.uy/). From the moment you apply for residency, you may stay in Uruguay indefinitely, and even request a national identification (la cedula), which allows you to travel passport-less to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Paraguay.
After five years of having filed for residency (three in the case of families) you can apply for citizenship. This is done at Uruguay’s “Electoral Court”. The requirement is that you have Uruguayan residency and a permanent connection with the country with no absence for more than six straight months, for three/five years (this is proved with documents and witnesses). The citizenship application process is quick, and usually citizenship is granted within three months of your request.
The key benefit of citizenship is a Uruguayan passport, which allows for visa-free travel to all of Latin America and several European countries. Uruguay allows multiple citizenship.
Citizenship for retirees
A special law that applies to retirees with a government pension of over US$18,000 per year guarantees a Uruguayan passport more rapidly. For those who apply for residency under this law, a passport is granted after a year to eighteen months (normally 18 months). But the hurdles and requirements are higher: besides the fact that your income must be from official pension, and at least US$18,000 per year, you must also own a property in Uruguay valued at US$100,000 or more. This law also allows you to bring in your car tax-free, but this is not recommended, since bureaucratic delays can make the process very expensive.
U.S. Consulate in Montevideo
The American Citizens Services Section of the U.S. Embassy in Uruguay provides assistance to American citizens in Uruguay. American citizens can request passports, register their children born outside Uruguay, and ask for help in emergency cases. They also legalize documents for use in the U.S. As of May 1, 2010, all non-emergency American Citizen Services (passports, notarials, reports of birth abroad, visa pages, etc) will be by appointment only. For more, visit: http://montevideo.usembassy.gov/usaweb/consular/defaultEN.htm.
Moving your belongings to Uruguay
You can bring all household items free of duty or import taxes. When you apply for residency, you will need to ask the “DNM” for an authorization form to bring your items into Uruguay. You will then take this form to the Uruguayan Customs Authority, to whom you will post a bond for the value of the eventual duties and taxes. Your belongings must be brought into the country before you are granted residency. In order to bring your goods here, you will need to use a Customs Agent in Uruguay, a shipping agent from your country, and a residency lawyer/professional. You will need to provide the Uruguayan Customs Authority a list of what items you are bringing into the country. It is wise to also provide that list to your lawyer beforehand, so they can tell you if it is reasonable. It might be better to leave certain items in your home country. Ola writer Syd recently wrote an article about moving to Uruguay, where he recounts how he and his wife shipped their belongings.
For more information abour relocating to Uruguay, contact Fischer & Schickendantz at firstname.lastname@example.org. As Uruguay’s leading immigration and relocation law firm, Fischer & Schickendantz has international experience and a bilingual staff, who understands a foreign national’s needs in detail. You can also download a Powerpoint Presentation about immigrating to Uruguay from their website.