How to obtain Residency, Citizenship and a Second Passport
Uruguay has a stated policy of welcoming foreign nationals who wish to come and live in the country. There is no immigration quota, nor does Uruguay ́s immigration authority discretionally reject applications. It is not required that the applicant invest in the country, either. As long as the applicant meets the requirements listed below permanent resident status is always granted.
An important thing to bear in mind is that Uruguay will issue permanent residency to applicants who can actually show that they spend time in the country, as opposed to simply filing for residency and leaving without returning (“paper residency”).
Once you become a permanent resident, there is no longer a requirement to spend time in the country; you will lose your resident status only if you stay abroad more than three years.
During the approximately six to twelve months that it takes to obtain permanent residency, you need to show “intent to reside” in the country, meaning that you should spend most of that period in Uruguay (although not the whole time, and you may enter and exit the country as you wish). If you only spend just above half the time in the country during the application process, you must show that you intend to reside in Uruguay through additional means (an activity; if married, that your spouse is also in Uruguay; that your children under 18 are in a local school, etc.).
If, after residency, you also wish to obtain Uruguayan citizenship (and a second passport), you need to wait three years (if married), or five years (if single). This period starts to run from the moment you first arrived in Uruguay to file for residency, and you need to spend at least six months out of each of those 3/5 years in the country to obtain citizenship (besides other formal requirements which mainly consist of gathering paperwork during the period, to prove your connection with the country).
2. REQUIREMENTS TO OBTAIN PERMANENT RESIDENCY
The required documents to apply for Permanent Residency are:
a) Birth Certificate: For those who don’t keep their birth certificate, there is a useful online service to obtain it: www.vitalcheck.com (this service is only available in the US).
b) Marriage certificate: This is optional. The advantage of filing a marriage certificate is that it enables only one of the spouses to have to prove an income source (see “d”, below).
c) Police record: To prove that one has a clean police record, he or she must obtain a police certificate from the country of birth, from the country which issued the applicant’s passport (if different from the country of birth) and from those countries where he/she resided.
d) Proof of Income: The Proof of Income (PoI) requirement is fulfilled by proving that you have a steady stream of income to support yourself (and your family, if applicable). The amount of income you declare has to be consistent with your lifestyle. The PoI may be proven in a number of ways: a pension, dividends, rental income, or a work contract with a company in Uruguay, among others.
Note: We review the source of income with you, to ensure that it is acceptable for immigration purposes. A simple bank statement will not suffice as PoI, since it does not prove a steady stream of income. Thus, the prior verification that the documents you submit are correct is of great importance.
In addition, you have to prove that the income is actually received in Uruguay, so it’s convenient to open a bank account in the country, which is easy, and can be done in a day, at some banks.
e) Medical check-up: A brief and simple medical checkup is required, from one of several authorized private clinics in Uruguay. This exam is fast, and it is not a screening test.
f) Proof of address: Uruguay requires that applicants have an actual address in Uruguay (a property, owned or rented) which you must provide by simply stating it in the application. A hotel address is acceptable, if you do not have another address when filing the application.
3. STAMPING YOUR DOCUMENTS BEFORE YOU SEND THEM
Documents “a”, “b”, “c” and “d” (from the list in the previous chapter) need to be Apostilled in your home country (if your country is part of the Apostille Treaty: the United States, for example, is part of it). An Apostille is a simple stamp, which you obtain locally, at a state office.
If your documents come from a country that is NOT part of the Apostille Treaty (eg Canada), the documents need to be stamped at the competent Uruguayan consulate (the consulate in the country where the document was issued). The stamping procedure is called “legalization” and all consulates are familiar with it.
4. THE PERMANENT RESIDENCY APPLICATION PROCESS
This chapter lists all the relevant steps, in order, to, facilitate understanding:
1. First, let us know when you intend to travel to Uruguay (to file your application).
2. Then, you must gather the necessary documents that you need from your home country. Those documents are the ones labeled “a”, “b”, “c”, and “d”, in Chapter 2, above. Note that item “c” is optional if you are a US citizen: you can request it at the Interpol office in Uruguay (see step 10 below).
3. Scan and send us the documents by email, so we can verify that they are correct.
4. Once we confirm that the documents are correct, please send (by FedEx, UPS or DHL) or bring the originals to us. When we receive them, we will work on them:
- If some of your documents needed Consulate legalization (this is the case of documents issued in countries that are not members of the Apostille Convention) they will need a Foreign Ministry stamp.
- We will need to have them translated by an official interpreter (our firm handles this)
- And we shall prepare the notary document prepared by a conveyance attorney (locally called “escribano”) required by the National Migration Office.
5. Enter Uruguay. If you come from the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan or Latin America, you don ́t need a visa. Simply enter as a tourist.
6. We’ll escort you to the National Migration Office (NMO) to submit your application. You do not need to submit all the required documents in this instance (although you can, if you have them all ready). In this instance, you only need to bring:
- Your passport
- Two photos (passport size)
- If you file with minors, both parents need to be present and the birth certificate for the parents and the minors, plus the marriage certificate (items “a” and “b” from the list in Chapter 2 above), must be filed (duly apostilled and officially translated).
7. When you file your application (step 7, above), the NMO issues a document which enables to have your temporary identity card, called “cedula de identidad” issued. A week later, we ́ll pick it up at the National Civil Identification Office for you. And within 90 days, we’ll file those documents that have not been filed, on your behalf.
8. Open a bank account in Uruguay, if you do not already have one. We’ll escort you.
9. If you are a US national and did not obtain the background check in the US, we’ll take you to the local Interpol office to request your police record. (This appointment has to be booked in advance, and we ́ll handle that for you.)
10. We’ll take you to the medical checkup private clinic (item “g” in Chapter 2, above) to obtain your health card. This appointment also has to be booked in advance, and we ́ll handle that for you: we usually schedule both the Interpol visit and the medical check up, back-to-back, on the same day. They each take about one hour.
After you file your application at the NMO, your file will go through several stages. We ́ll monitor the process, and provide answers to the NMO on routine questions they sometimes have on your Proof of Income (PoI). The NMO may request an update on the PoI halfway through the process, to make sure that you still have means to support yourself.
The NMO may also request a brief interview with the applicant, to confirm information on the documents that have been filed. We’ll escort you to the interview, if it occurs.
Permanent Resident status is usually granted within six to twelve months (on average). In the meantime, you will be a “Temporary Resident”, with a Uruguayan National Identification Card (“cédula de identidad”) from the beginning, and as such, you may stay in the country indefinitely (or come and go), and even bring your household goods import tax free.
After you obtain Permanent Resident status, you are issued the definitive identification card.
Note: If you plan on bringing household goods, please make sure you indicate this from the start, so that when we escort you to initiate the application (step 7, above), we request a document to enable this duty free, for the Customs Authority.
We can recommend an independent local moving agent with relocation experience. It will be important to know what items you wish to bring from the start, so the agent can assess their value. The agent will also explain what documents need to be brought and what requirements must be met, to allow for a smooth importation of the goods (usually, only an insurance bond, which is released after you obtain the resident status). The moving agent will also be able to assist you in case you wish to bring pets with you.
5. THE ADVANTAGES OF OBTAINING PERMANENT RESIDENT STATUS
The advantages of obtaining permanent resident status are, mainly:
- Once you have your permanent residency, you’ll be able to apply for citizenship (and a Uruguayan passport) in 3 years (if married), or in 5 years (for single applicants). Time starts to count from the day you first arrived in Uruguay to file for Permanent Residency, regardless of when Permanent Resident status was actually granted.
- You will be able to stay in Uruguay indefinitely (from the moment you file your application).
- You will be able to bring your personal belongings and household goods duty free.
- You’ll be able to work in any trade.
- You’ll obtain a National Identification Document, called "Cedula de Identidad", and local health insurance.
- You’ll have easier travel requirements among South American countries.
6. OUR SERVICES
Our firm’s bilingual associates will work side by side with you along the way and make sure that you are assisted in every step:
- We'll secure your NMO appointment date and escort you on the application date.
- We'll help you identify the competent authority to apostille your documents (or, alternatively, contact the competent Uruguayan consulate, if applicable).
- We'll determine which is the best source of income to use, and will help you draft the supporting documents so they have the correct wording that the NMO requires.
- Our notaries will produce the sworn certificates that the NMO requires for your proof of income and your address, based on the documents you send us.
- We'll have your documents translated by our in-house certified translators; and then stamped at the Foreign Ministry in Montevideo.
- We'll register your birth certificate (and marriage certificate, if applicable) at the National Registry so you can have your “cédula” issued.
- We'll escort you to the Interpol appointment to get your police record (for U.S. citizens), and we'll book and escort you to your medical check-up in Uruguay.
- We'll connect you with experienced movers and work with them to make sure your belongings arrive properly.
- One of our qualified associates will be present with you at the filing, and at the interview (to translate and assist you).
- As your application moves within the NMO, we'll submit the updates that are usually requested during the process, on your proof of income, and closely monitor your file.
- We'll assist you in obtaining your first temporary national ID (“cédula”).
- We'll assist you in renewing your temporary national ID a year later if necessary.
- At the end of the process, we will assist you in obtaining your definitive cédula.
- We'll assist you in obtaining a driver's license.
- We will get as many re-entry permits for you as necessary. **
- We'll assist you with your application for citizenship and a second passport, once the necessary time (three or five years) has elapsed.
FAQ: Is Spanish required to apply for Permanent Residency?
ANSWER: No. Spanish is not required. But, at the NMO, the Registries, and the other offices where paperwork has to be filed, employees do not speak English, so the assistance by someone who is bilingual and experienced in dealing with these offices is recommended. *
7. ABOUT ACT 16,340 (A LAW WITH ADDITIONAL BENEFITS FOR PENSIONERS)
A special law (# 16,340) allows certain types of residency applicants (pensioners) to enjoy two additional benefits: bringing your car free of import duties, and obtaining a passport before having to wait for the 3/5 years to become a citizen. This is not an alternative residency application path or alternative visa. You must first apply for residency under the path outlined above, and after you obtain your residency, you may apply for the Act 16,340 benefits (you have six months to do this, after the residency is granted, for the importation of the car).
- You can bring a car duty free.
- You (as well as your spouse and children under 18) can obtain a Uruguayan passport.
- You must invest U$S 100,000 either in a property or Uruguayan Treasuries, and hold the investment for 10 years (the property may be switched).
- You must have a minimum income of USD 1,500 per month.
- The income must be retirement-type income.
Most residency applicants don ́t choose to take the additional step of applying for the Act 16,340 benefits, since the import process for the car is complex, and this type of passport comes without citizenship (you still have to wait 3/5 years since you first arrived, to obtain citizenship).
8. CITIZENSHIP AND SECOND PASSPORT
Permanent residents of Uruguay who are over 18 years old may apply for citizenship, after certain time elapses:
- Three years for a couple, or a family.
- Five years for those who are single.
Important: the clock starts ticking from the day you first arrive in the country to file for residency (and not on the day you obtain resident status).
The citizenship application is filed at Uruguay’s “Electoral Court” (EC). You will have to file in person, with the proper documentation. Citizenship is granted within four months, on average.
9. ADDITIONAL USEFUL INFORMATION
Finding the right place to live in and realtors who can help you
Most people that move to Uruguay pick one of the following places and types of homes to live in:
- Montevideo: condos in the coastline neighborhoods of Pocitos or Punta Carretas or in the Old City; houses in residential Carrasco.
- Punta del Este: beachfront condos or houses.
- Piriápolis, Atlántida or Rocha: houses near or on the coastline.
- Colonia: colonial houses.
- Farms which are distributed throughout the whole country.
We’ll be pleased to recommend appropriate realtors in each of these areas, so you can explore the different alternatives and get the right help finding your home.
In addition, our firm’s conveyance attorneys (escribanos) will assist in the required due diligence on the property, to ensure you obtain a clean title.
Visit www.fs.com.uy to download our information on the property purchase process in Uruguay, and contact us with any questions on acquiring real estate.
Other useful services
When moving to Uruguay, you will probably need help finding the right health insurance plan, schools and universities for your children, tips on purchasing appliances, paying bills, and other day to day matters. We can either help you with these issues or recommend a relocation company that handles these non-legal matters.