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Is it Possible to Become a Resident in Uruguay if You Need to Get a Job or Start a Business to Meet the Income Requirement?

Mark Teuten
By  Montevideo Attorney, Mark Teuten 

There are many people interested in coming to live in Uruguay, but who do not have a source of income to support themselves.

Thus, they need to start their own business here or get a job in order to be able to comply with the income requirement for residence purposes.

We are often asked if this is possible and if we can assist in this respect.

The answer to the first question is that “yes”,  it is possible, and our firm can help with your residency application. The answer to the second is “no”, as a law firm we can’t help you find a job or start a business!

But, since it is a question which comes up so frequently we hope this article will give some practical guidance to those who are in this situation.

Starting with the legal situation, for those who wish to obtain residency, it is not necessary to provide documentation showing that one has the necessary income to support oneself at the date of filing for residence.

Rather it is now possible to file with just a minimum of documentation – a passport and a criminal record report – and then file the other necessary documents at a later date.

With the current delays at the Immigration Office, this means that applicants can count on having at least around six months after the initial filing to provide this documentation.

For those who do not need a visa to get into the country, they can simply come and go from the country every 180 days under their tourist visa and wait until they have a job or a business that will support them.

Note: If you have a passport from one of these countries, you do not need  a visa to enter Uruguay. 

So against this background what are the possibilities:

Getting a job

People should be aware that Uruguay is a small country and thus has a small labour market. It is also a less developed country. So while not poor it is not rich, and the employment market is far removed from that of North American or Europe for example.

But some points to bear in mind: 

  • Without knowing Spanish your job opportunities are virtually nil. 
  • Any professional qualifications you may hold from another country will likely not be recognized. And to get them recognized will involve long and drawn out paperwork - at the very least.
  • There are some areas in Uruguay where there is virtually full employment and in which it may be possible to get a job notwithstanding the above – these areas are English teaching (more so if you have a professional teaching qualification), Engineering and Information Technology.
  • You do not need a Uruguayan ID card (cedula) in order to get a job. It is possible for an employer to register an employee using their passport. However, many employers will want an ID card before taking somebody on. In that case, as soon as you have applied for residence you can apply for a cedula, so again from a practical point of view, this should not be an issue.   

Starting a business

You can start a business by registering yourself as a sole trader, or by forming a company if you want to limit your personal liability.

Registering as a sole trader is the cheapest option, and you can even do it yourself if you are prepared to go to the BPS (Social Security Office) yourself.

But, in general, it is better to get an expert to do this (cost around 500 US dollars). Forming a company is also more complicated and expensive than in many other countries (cost around 4,000 US dollars).

People should note that as soon as they register, in whatever capacity, they will be responsible for social security payments on a monthly basis of at least approximately 130 US dollars, whether or not they are actually trading. Once you start to trade then the social security costs and other taxes will be higher.

We know of many people who have fantastic business ideas or something that has already worked in other countries. But this does not necessarily mean that it will work in Uruguay, or in order for it to work you will need to adapt it to Uruguayan culture and business practice.

In this respect, we would say that it is essential that you have a trusted local adviser to guide you. Note though that there are no restrictions on what areas you can trade in – except where a professional qualification is necessary – or any legal requirement that you have a local partner.

In conclusion, it is possible to come to Uruguay on a tourist visa and then apply for residence and search for a job or start your own business and you can then use this as proof that you have the means to support yourself.

It may not be easy, but if you are really committed to the country, then it should be possible. Good luck!

For more information on residency or other legal matters: 
Mark Teuten
mteuten@teutenabogados.com
Teuten Abogados
Zabala 1542 Esc.301
Montevideo, Uruguay, CP 11000
Tels: (+598) 2915-4684 or (+598) 2916-1664

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