Immigrating to Uruguay? The country doesn’t ask for a great deal—a monthly income of around 1500 USD and a clean criminal record. But they don’t like people who flit in and out. Lawyer Mark Teuten takes us step-by-step through the process as part of our series on Relocating to Uruguay.
What documents do you need to apply for residency in Uruguay?
Make sure you start getting everything together before you travel:
- Birth certificate It must be apostilled/legalised* in your country of birth. Once you arrive in Uruguay, get it translated by an official Uruguayan public translator. Any other translation won’t be accepted.
- Marriage certificate It must be apostilled/legalised in the country where the marriage took place. As above, once in Uruguay go to an official public translator to get the translation.
- Criminal records Before you arrive, apply for certificates from the police in your country of birth and any other country where you’ve lived for the last five years which establish that you have no prior criminal record. These also have to be apostilled/legalized and translated.
- Income You’ll need to show evidence of a minimum monthly income, the source of that income (such as your retirement pension, the rental of a property in Uruguay or abroad) and that the income is being paid into a Uruguayan bank account. A ballpark figure for a minimum income for single person could be around 1,500 USD. A Uruguayan public notary will need to certify it.
- Passport The original document and a photocopy. The Immigration Office does not keep the original passport, they just compare it with the photocopy.
- Two passport-style photos
- Health card (carné de salud) You get this in Uruguay. Most private hospitals and clinics provide medical cards. At a private clinic, you make an appointment and the process takes about 15 minutes for a cost of around 70 USD. The state provides health cards for free (go to the Ministerio de Salud Pública, Durazno 1242, Montevideo) but you can expect to spend a long time waiting around in rather run-down surroundings (and don’t expect anyone to speak English).
Without going into detail, this can involve getting the country authority to confirm that this is an original document or copy of one and then going to the nearest Uruguayan consulate for them to confirm that the stamp from the country authority is indeed what it says it is.
[Note from the Guru: I remember being horrified as the Uruguayan Embassy in London stamped all over my original birth certificate. But hey, you gotta do what you gotta do. And I got my residency.]
The most important residence requirement of all when immigrating to Uruguay
The Uruguayan immigration office (Migraciones) applies a criteria of “intent to reside permanently” to all applicants. And they actively examine immigration records. If they see that a person has come into Uruguay, filed for residence and then immediately left and has not come back, or has filed but is out of the country most of the time and not really living in Uruguay, then they will reject the application.
[Note from the Guru: When I quizzed Mark on this, he said: “This is the FIRST thing they check. It is absolutely fundamental to getting residence. Everything else has a solution, this can’t.” So take this seriously, folks.]
How does the residency application process work and how long does it take?
You can book an appointment to file for residency in advance. At the time of writing, appointments are being given for three months’ time. To get a head start you can apply without all the documents we talked about, as long as you have them ready within a few months afterwards. The minimum documentation is the passport and the photos.
Once you’ve applied for residence you’ll receive a temporary Uruguayan ID card known as a cedula (pronounced SEH-doo-la). A cedula is a very useful document to have.
[Guru note: I can’t agree more with Mark. Once you have your cedula, so many things become so much easier. As Uruguay is such an online society, anything that involves registering your name becomes so much easier – from legal stuff to buying cinema tickets]
Assuming that you are able to file all the necessary papers within a few months of the original filing and you meet the requirement to actually live in the country–with only temporary short term absences–, then you’ll receive the application for permanent residence within around one year.
60-min exploratory call: Is Uruguay a good fit for me?
A sixty-minute online exploratory call with Karen A Higgs, the founder of Guru’Guay–a internationally-recognised expert on the country–regarding your unique situation and needs. Ask all the burning questions you have!
Residency applicants for nationals who need a visa to enter Uruguay
If you are from a country where you need a (tourist) visa to get into Uruguay, then you should be aware that actually getting your visa is probably the hardest part of the whole process. Professional firms are not allowed to act as sponsors for visitors, making it hard to find a sponsor unless you have personal contacts. Usually, a sponsor needs to be a Uruguayan national who is prepared to go the immigration office and sign a sworn declaration that they will be responsible for the person whilst they are in the country and will ensure they leave.
However always check actual requirements for a tourist visa at your nearest Uruguayan consulate. They may vary.
Should you apply for residency yourself or get a professional to do it for you?
Getting permanent residence status in Uruguay is not hard in terms of the general requirements, especially if we compare it to other countries. But it is heavy on red tape. The process takes place in Spanish and if you speak nothing or very little, it’s important to attend appointments with an interpreter.
If you speak little or no Spanish or don’t have much time or live far from the immigration office, a professional adviser will make the immigration process much less painful and generally faster. At times the authorities make life difficult for applicants. For instance, calling them in for very minor matters. For a professional firm dealing with a number of client applicants that is not a problem. But for a private individual who may live a long way away from the immigration office that can be a real waste of time and money.
[Guru note: Having done the application process myself and being a very forgetful person who misses deadlines, it took me almost four years to get my residency. As I speak Spanish it didn’t actually occur to me to hire someone! If I had known what I know now I would definitely have used a professional and saved myself a lot of time and frustration.]
Mark Teuten is a British lawyer that lives in Montevideo since the 1990s.
He has law degrees from both the UK and Uruguay. He can help you with your residency applications, setting up a registered company and other legal matters. Guru’Guay has recommended him to our readers who have praised his trustworthiness, clarity, prompt communication even over great distances and careful advice regarding courses of action.
This article is for information purposes only. Please consult with a lawyer as to your particular circumstances.
Are you trying to travel to Uruguay right now? Find out what the current entry requirements are and if you meet them. UPDATED.
I often get asked what salaries are like in Uruguay. If you have any idea of the cost of living, you may be surprised. Figures from July 2020.
Renovations and property appraisal are Uruguay architect, Stella Lorenzo’s forte. She manages your construction team so your rebuild is on time & in budget.