The steps to become a legal resident of Uruguay

As the world changes more people are immigrating to Uruguay. Spaniards are coming to Uruguay for jobs, Indians are coming to join the tech industry, Argentines are coming across the river for greater personal safety, Germans are coming to start small businesses, and North Americans are coming to take in Uruguay’s tolerant and low-key culture.

The purpose of this post is to help you determine if becoming a legal resident of Uruguay makes sense for your objectives, as well as explain the steps of the residency process.

Why get Uruguay Residency?

Before making an application for residency, consider your objectives:
Residence is not required to:
  • open or have a bank account.
  • buy, own, or sell real estate. 
  • spend a lot of time in Uruguay. (A 90-day tourist visa can usually be extended to 180 days for a small fee. If you leave and reenter Uruguay (whether it is a trip visiting family in your home country or a weekend in Buenos Aires) the 90 days starts again. 
Applying for legal residency in Uruguay:
  • secures your ability to live full-time in Uruguay, without the need to take occasional trips out of the country. 
  • allows you to work in Uruguay
  • allows you to import your household goods duty-free. 
  • is the first step toward Uruguayan citizenship. 

How to get Uruguay Residency

To obtain Uruguay residency you need to set up an interview with the Uruguayan immigration authority at the Dirección Nacional de Migracion. At the Uruguay residency interview you will need to provide documentation proving your identity, the date you arrived in the country, your marital status, and your means of financial support. You must also provide certification that you do not pose a health risk or criminal threat to society.

Hiring an experienced bilingual immigration attorney or consultant to help you gather your documentation and then represent you through the interview and Uruguay residency procedure is money well spent. They know the requirements, the process, and keep up on changes. Even if you are a proficient Spanish speaker, you will be much better off hiring an experienced representative. Otherwise you may spend a lot of time and frustration figuring out the quirks and peculiarities of a bureaucratic system that you will just pass through once. 

What you need to bring to your Immigration Interview

  • Travel Documents: Your passport and your tourist entry certificate
  • Documents from abroad: Your birth certificate, your marriage certificate or divorce papers, and a Police certificate (US citizens need an FBI report)
  • Income Certification
  • A Uruguayan Health ID
  • Two ID type photos 
Travel Documents  Passport: You need to bring your passport and a photocopy of your passport. The immigration office personnel checks that the photocopy matches the original and keeps the photocopy.

Tourist entry certificate: If you have a passport from a country that doesn't require a visa to visit Uruguay, you will be given a stamped paper which is your Tourist Certificate that documents when you enter the country. The tourist entry certificate allows you to stay in the country for 90 days, but can be extended for another 90 days at the immigration office for a small processing fee. 

Link: If you have a passport from one of these countries or entities you do not need a visa to enter Uruguay 

Documents from abroad

  • Birth Certificate
  • Marriage Certificate or Divorce Papers (decree of dissolution)
  • Police Certificate – from your home country and any countries you have lived in over the past five years.
 NOTE FOR US CITIZENS: Instead of a Police Certificate, US Citizens need an FBI report. The process to get the FBI reports starts with an appointment at the Uruguayan Interpol office in Montevideo as described here.

 Special handling for documents from abroad

a) Authentication of public documents by apostille in country of origin 

You need to get your birth certificate verified with an apostille with authority over the location of your birth. Your marriage certificate or divorce papers need to be verified with an apostille with authority over the location where the union (or unraveling) took place. If you are not a US Citizen, the Police Certificate needs to be verified with an apostille. It needs to come from your country of origin, plus any countries you have lived in during the last five years.

Documents required for Uruguay residency, that were issued by a State within the US need to go to the corresponding Secretary of State or the appropriate deputy. See list here

For other countries a list to help identify the appropriate entity to apostille documents is here.

Note: The process of having public documents verified with an apostille is new as of 14 October 2012. For more information on this change. 

b) Translation of documents into Spanish by Public Translator in Uruguay
All of the above documents that have been verified with an apostille abroad (that are not in Spanish) must be translated by a Public Translator (Traductora Publica) when they arrive in Uruguay. A Traductora Publica is an occupational title for a translator who is trained and certified to translate legal documents.

 c) Legalization of documents in Uruguay
The documents that have been verified with an apostille abroad, translated in Uruguay by a Public Translator, must now be legalized in Uruguay by the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores. In addition, your verifed, translated, and legalized birth certificate must also be registered at the Uruguayan Ministerio de Educación y Cultura. 

Income Certification

In order to obtain Uruguay residency you must show a means of financial support. Instead of a specific dollar amount, the immigration authority wants to see an income that is consistent with your standard of living.

Both the source and amount of monthly income must be verified by an escribano (often called a notary) who prepares an income verification certificate that is presented to the authorities at your immigration interview. The form and wording of this stamped certificate must be very precise.

The income requirement for Uruguay residency can be satisfied by social security or a retirement pension, a business activity, investment earnings, or rental income. There are allowances to be supported by others in the case of a student or missionary. And they may grant a conditional residency on the basis of a documented job offer or self-employment in Uruguay.
Note: The Uruguay immigration authority measure means of support in regularly received monthly income (not net worth or cash in the bank).
Note: In order for real estate rental income to qualify, the property must be held by you or a member of your household. It cannot be held by a corporation or trust. 

Health Certificate

In order to obtain the Uruguay Health Certificate required for Uruguay residency, you need to get a medical exam. You can get the exam free at the Ministry of Public Health (Ministerio de Salud Pública), or you can pay to have the exam at one of the several private clinics and hospitals authorized to provide a Health Certificate for the purposes of legal residency.

The exam consists of a dental check up, blood tests, a health interview, eye test, and a physical examination. You will probably be asked to come to the appointment with a urine sample (first of the morning) and to have fasted for a set number of hours prior to your appointment for the blood testing.

If the health check is accepted, a photo ID health card is issued by the hospital or clinic.

1) Using a private hospital or clinic will probably provide a better experience than the exam provided for free at the Ministerio de Salud Pública.
2) Bring documentation of a tetanus shot if you have had one. If you do not have documentation of a tetanus shot you can get vaccinated for tetanus in Uruguay.
3) Small plastic urine sample containers are available in Uruguayan pharmacies.

Two ID photos – These can be obtained at most local photo shops, which are plentiful in most communities.

 Uruguay Immigration Proceedings

 Once all your  properly verified, translated, and legalized documents are completed, you are ready for your immigration interview.  The immigration authority will review all your documents, checking that everything required is included and prepare a file.

If all your documents are in order, your official application for permanent Uruguay residency begins its bureaucratic journey. This can take anywhere from six to 24 months depending on the workload of immigration, any unusual circumstances in your file, and the timely actions of your immigration attorney or consultant.

Live, work, and get settled in Uruguay during the residency process

While many countries require that you become a legal resident before you can reside in the country, in Uruguay it is different. After your immigration interview, you get a temporary national Identification card. This  allows you to live and work in Uruguay while you wait for your final approval. You may also have your household goods shipped to Uruguay duty free, by putting up a 10,000 US dollar bond, which is returned to you once your permanent residency is approved.

Additional requirements and verification 

 In recent years Uruguay's immigration authority has been overwhelmed with the number of residency applications. In addition to more people wanting to live and work in Uruguay, they found that many applicants sought to be "paper residents" of Uruguay. Because of this the immigration authority has implemented changes to help assure that applicants are living in Uruguay or are ready to live in Uruguay and able to financially support themselves.

The immigration authority now requires applicants to provide their home address in Uruguay. They send notifications to that address, and may stop by the address unannounced to verify it is where the applicant lives. They may also ask that you come in for an interview to discuss your  plans in Uruguay.

Between your immigration interview and final residency approval, the immigration authority may also  require an additional verification of your monthly income coming into Uruguay. In some cases the immigration authority has added a requirement (for applicants that have income but are not retired) to temporarily get a Uruguayan business license, tax ID and start paying Uruguayan social security taxes during the process.

Getting your Uruguayan Cedula! 

Once your application is officially approved you return your temporary national identification card for a new one – you have successfully completed the process for Uruguay residency and are now a fully approved legal permanent resident of Uruguay! Your Uruguayan national ID card is known in Uruguay as your “cedula”.  Your first cedula is good for three years before it has to be renewed.

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