Saturday, January 30, 2010
When thinking of relocating overseas, one of the first priorities for many of us is choosing the "right" property. We spend a lot of time considering the property price, style, location, rental potential, and accessibility.
Often, it's easy to overlook an important factor: residency. If your plan is living in your overseas home part of the year or full-time, you should check out just how easy it is to do that in your new country, and if you can fulfill all the requirements, such as monthly income or investment levels.
Uruguay is one of the easier countries for residency, leading to citizenship and a second passport. There is a difference...you can reside in a country, with a residency permit, but not have a passport or the right to vote or work there, for example. Uruguay's application process for citizenship is brief. Uruguay has the added benefit of recognizing multiple citizenships, too.
Buying your home in Uruguay does not automatically grant residency--although lease income from a property in Uruguay can count as proof of income to get residency.
The income requirement for residency is $6000 a year ($500 a month). That's one of the lower amounts required for residency in the region. Combined with Uruguay's affordable property prices, business-friendly policies and reputation for safety, it's not hard to see why it's becoming a more popular choice with expats.
We've already covered Belize, Costa Rica, Brazil, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Panama to date. Each country has different requirements for residency...and different benefits, from importing a vehicle tax-free to discounts on entertainment and travel.
Juan Federico Fischer, our Uruguay attorney, outlines the process for residency in Uruguay below.
Uruguay is an open country to foreign citizens: not only for those doing business or buying property, but also for those seeking legal residency.
Any foreign citizen that meets certain basic requirements can apply for residency. In addition, if one wishes to, one can subsequently apply for citizenship, and a second passport.
The Filing Process
The residency application is done before the Direccion Nacional de Migracion (DNM), Uruguay's immigration authority. The key, when applying, is to make sure that the required documents are presented in due form (with the required stampings and wording) so it is recommended that you seek the assistance of an immigration lawyer to avoid delays and unnecessary costs.
The process starts with the request for an appointment at the DNM. The request should be made a month ahead of the intended travel date, since slots must usually be reserved with one month's notice. The request is done through a letter to the DNM, usually prepared by an attorney and signed by the applicant, and a copy of the person's passport.
The next step is to gather the documents that are required for the filing. The documents one submits at the DNM must be previously stamped at the Uruguayan consulate in the country where they were issued. This stamping procedure is called "legalization", and all Uruguayan consulates are familiar with it. (Note: "legalization" is not synonymous with "Apostille". Apostilled documents won't be accepted; they need the consulate's stamp.) In those countries where there are no Uruguayan consulates, the rule that governs is that of "indirect legalization": legalization through a third country's consulate or in a Uruguayan consulate in a neighboring country.
The easiest way to proceed is to check where the closest Uruguayan consulate is (for a list of Uruguayan consulates, please check the following link, and click on your country: http://www.mrree.gub.uy/gxpsites/hgxpp001?7,1,55,O,S,0,MNU;E;17;3;MNU.
Call the consulate, explain to them that you will be sending documents for legalization, and they'll ask you to send the documents, a check for the legalization fee, and a self-addressed stamped envelope for the return of the legalized documents to you. Some Uruguayan consulates waive the legalization fee if the applicant has a lawyer or agent in Uruguay fax a letter to the consulate stating that the legalization is intended for residency purpose.
The Required Documents
The required documents are:
- The person's birth certificate.
- The couple's marriage certificate, when the applicants are a married couple.
- The Criminal Record: To prove that one has a clean police record, he or she must present a police certificate from the country of origin and from those countries where one resided in the past five years. In the case of U.S. citizens, the U.S. record is requested in Uruguay, at the local Interpol office, so one needn't worry about obtaining it in the U.S.
- Proof of Income.
Once the documents are legalized, one must send them to his/her immigration lawyer for a further stamping at Uruguay's Foreign Ministry, and to be translated into Spanish by a certified interpreter.
The Proof of Income requirement is fulfilled by proving that the person has a steady stream of income of at least USD 6,000 per year (or USD 500 per month). If the applicants are a married couple, only one of the spouses needs to prove an income source.
Income can be proven in a number of ways: a pension, a mutual fund, lease income from a property inside or outside Uruguay, dividends of any nature, salary, or a work contract with a company in Uruguay, to name common examples.
One has to prove that the income is actually received in Uruguay, so it is important to open a bank account in the country, which is easy, and can be done in a day at some banks.
Uruguay's immigration authorities scrutinize this requirement thoroughly, so the key is to prove it correctly, leaving no doubt of the authenticity and permanent or semi-permanent nature of the income source. The actual document that the applicant will submit is a sworn statement by a Uruguayan notary/lawyer, with an authenticated copy of the relevant documents.
It's important to note that Uruguay does not require that you own property or have investments in the country in order to gain residency. On the other hand, owning property does not eliminate the income requirement.
Once the person has collected all the relevant documents, and verified with an immigration lawyer that they are correct, he or she will enter the country.
Upon entering Uruguay, the person will be granted a tourist permit, to stay for 90 days (this period can be extended for another 90 days through a written request to the immigration authority).
Before that period expires, the person will formally file the request for residency at the DNM, on the pre-arranged date. From the moment a person applies for residency, he or she may stay in Uruguay indefinitely, and even request a temporary national identification ("cedula de identidad").
Besides the four documents that one must bring from abroad (three, in the case of U.S. citizens, who obtain their criminal record at the Interpol office in Uruguay), one has other requirements to meet, inside Uruguay:
- The Health Certificate: This is a health certificate issued by the Uruguayan Health Ministry or one of a few authorized private clinics. A basic medical test must be completed, and an immigration lawyer will set up the appointment for the applicant. The applicant must bring his or her record of the last tetanus vaccine (if impossible, the clinic will simply give the applicant a tetanus shot).
- The Interpol record (for U.S. citizens). The immigration lawyer assisting the applicant will help request this.
- Original passport.
- The entry card obtained upon entering Uruguay.
- Four passport-size pictures.
After filing for residency, the applicant does not need to stay in Uruguay, but should enter the country once, before the granting of the residency, or at least once a year.
On average, six to twelve months after the initial filing, residency is granted.
Resident status will be lost if, after obtaining it, one does not enter the country at all for three years.
Household Goods and Personal Possessions
One of the benefits of filing for residency is that it authorizes the applicant to bring one's household goods and personal belongings into the country, duty free. Household goods do not include a car.
The application can be done in two instances:
This first option is as soon as the person files for residency. In this case, one doesn't have to wait until residency is granted. One files for residency, posts a bond with the Uruguayan customs authority (the bond can be obtained at a bank or insurance company in Uruguay), and the items can then be shipped. After the residency is obtained, the bond is cancelled.
The alternative path is to bring in the goods after residency has been granted. This is possible, but requires extra documentation, and is not recommendable.
To proceed with the shipping of goods, it's key to have your shipping agent contact your Uruguayan immigration lawyer, who will verify that the list of assets is duly stamped by the Uruguayan consulate from the country of shipment, and that the list includes items that are reasonably understood as being household goods.
Five years after filing for residency (three in the case of families) one can apply for citizenship. This is done at Uruguay's "Electoral Court", and the requirement is that one have Uruguayan residency. To obtain citizenship there is no specific time requirement, although it is recommended to have had a permanent connection with the country (a domicile, a property, activity, etc.) and no absence for more than six months per year, for three/five years (this is proven with documents and witnesses). The citizenship application process is brief.
Uruguay allows multiple citizenships, and the key benefit of citizenship is a Uruguayan passport, which allows for visa-free travel to all of Latin America and several European countries.
Juan Federico Fischer
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