Lawyer Francesca Magno leads Andersen’s residency and relocation team which is based in both Montevideo and Punta del Este on the coast. In part down thanks to Uruguay’s generally positive response to the pandemic, Francesca’s team has tripled in size since the pandemic started.
In this interview, Karen A Higgs, founder of Guru’Guay, brings a bunch of questions from Guru’Guay readers regarding the essential to getting to live in Uruguay—getting residency, bringing personal belongings tax-free and health care.
This article is based on the interview and has been edited for brevity and clarity.
The big question is, is it easy to get residency in Uruguay?
It is. Uruguay has a stated policy to be a very open and welcoming country for people coming from abroad who want to live in Uruguay. Whether retiring, coming to open a company or work for a company, whatever their situation is, we are very welcoming. Uruguay does not have an immigration quota and the residency process is very clear. If you comply with the requirements, you will get your residency granted.
What are the Uruguayan requirements?
The requirements are a valid passport, passport pictures, a clean criminal record, birth certificate and proof of income. If the applicant is married, they may present their marriage certificate. All these documents must be apostilled. Besides, you need a health card, vaccines, and that’s it.
What is this apostille business?
An apostille makes a private or public document coming from a country internationally recognised. So for example, when you get a birth certificate from the USA apostilled, this makes that document valid for Uruguay. Usually you get the apostille done at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of your country, or the country of origin of the document; in some countries it may be in a different office.
Not every country is a signatory to the 1961 Hague Convention of the apostille. If your country is not, you get your documents legalised in the country of origin at the Uruguayan consulate there.
What are the income requirements?
The income requirements are very simple. Proof of income can be things like an employment contract, your pension, a rental lease contract from abroad or dividends from a company. It’s not a tax matter—we’re not asking that to tax you. Uruguay needs to know that you can support yourself while living here—in the manner you’re accustomed.
Is there a minimum amount expected?
You need to show that you can live here in Uruguay. The very minimum has been changing and is based on the minimum salary of Uruguay which is around 19,500 Uruguayan pesos.
However, Uruguay is not a cheap country and the government expects you to show you can support your current lifestyle. We usually recommend a client present income of more than 1,500 dollars per month.
And for a couple, maybe around 2,500 US dollars?
Yes. What we usually do is ask the person interested in residency to tell us what they do, where they live, their lifestyle, their age, if they have kids, if they are paying for college or private education, and so on. Because all this be taken into account regarding the individual income requirement. Of course, cost of living is not the same from country to country and that is factored in.
Our clients show us different proofs of income, and we evaluate which ones to present. It’s very case-by-case. As attorneys, we want to make sure our clients comply with everything to the letter so they obtain their residency as fast as possible.
What vaccinations are obligatory in Uruguay for residency?
For adults, if you were born before 1967, the only vaccines necessary are diphtheria and tetanus (DTaP). If you were born after 1967, you will need the DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough) and MMR, which is measles, mumps and rubella, vaccines.
[Ed. note: Children under 18 must be able to prove they have all the vaccines required for Uruguayan children.]
How long does it take to get a Uruguayan ID?
The first step in the process to get your residency is to get your Uruguayan ID card, your ‘cédula’. If you have everything in place, you can get a provisional cédula as a residency-in-process on the same day as your interview at the National Migration Office.
After the interview, you go to the National Direction of Identification (DNIC), to get your card. They will take your fingerprints and your picture, and basically that’s it.
How do you get the appointment for the ID?
This is something that we set up for our clients but if somebody wants to do it themselves they do it online. They need to get their documents together, upload them to the government webpage, pay for the appointment, and then they’ll be able to choose a date for the appointment. The National Migration Office has a central office in Montevideo and also offices all over the country. So if the applicant is here to sightsee as well as get their residency, they can choose from offices in Punta del Este or Colonia too.
As soon you have an appointment at the National Migration Office, book and pay your appointment at the DNIC for the same day, leaving sufficient time for your NMO interview. That way you can get your cédula as a resident-in-process from Day One.You’ll get your definitive cédula once your residency is granted. [Editor’s note: Francesca added post-interview: if your file goes through without any delay, because it was complete on Day 1, you can expect to get your definitive cédula in 9-12 months, and sometimes even less time!]
Once you’ve got your temporary cédula, are there any travel restrictions?
Once you are a resident-in-process, whenever you leave the country you need to show a re-entry permit. This will allow you to come back and forth to Uruguay without any problem. For instance, Uruguay’s borders were closed for over 18 months during the pandemic. However, if you had this document, you could come and go freely.
If you plan to travel more than once outside Uruguay in a year, you can pay for multiple re-entries when you request the permit. The permit then acts like a voucher, and it’s valid for a year. The permits are obtained at the National Migration Office or airport in person or with a legal representative.
New residents who want to bring their belongings to Uruguay in a container have the option to do this duty free. When is the cut-off point for this benefit?
Basically, there’s a six-month term that counts—and this is the important part—from the day the person is considered to have settled in Uruguay. It’s not from the time the residency is granted. So if you land, already knowing you have an appointment at the migration office in one month’s time, you could contact a removal company before you leave. However, plans can change. Your residency could be delayed, or you come, apply and then have to leave for some reason. That’s why we always recommend our clients use a moving company to guide them through the process door-to-door and ensure they comply with the term—because this benefit can really save a lot of money.
Uruguay’s got a good healthcare system. How do you advise your clients regarding setting up healthcare here?
Uruguay has a very good health system and there are different options to suit different circumstances. If you own a business here (from a corporation to a sole trader) or are employed by a Uruguayan business, you are eligible to join Uruguay’s national healthcare system (FONASA), which gives you access to choose from different private healthcare providers known as ‘mutualistas’.
If you are not eligible to join FONASA there are two options—private health insurance and the public health system (called ASSE). Requisites may vary regarding age and so on but, at the end of the day, everyone has access to healthcare in Uruguay.