I’m overdue on this update – we have started the official residency processing. Lisamaria and I are doing this as much as possible “do-it-yourself” – both to save money, and because that’s the kind of people we are. At least in travel. Not so much on home repair, jejejeje.
Two weeks ago we made a day-trip into Montevideo, to visit the Dirreción Nacional de Migraciones – the National Directorate of Immigration. Quite friendly and helpful office. Purpose: to deliver our “Carta del Soliciud para Cambio de Categoria” – our letter of request for Change of Category, from Tourist, to Resident.
Said letter which I wrote myself, by the way, primarily in Spanish as the original language rather than translated. Simple language and phrasing, explaining as required why we wanted to become residents, how we could afford it, where we lived, and the bare facts (passport numbers, dates of birth, etc.)
Obviously we had done a lot of research ahead of time, and had chatted with cyberspace and local expat friends. However, we did not hire any kind of “expeditor”, of which there are many, nor an immigration lawyer. We had arranged a tradeout of editing-for-translation with one of Lisa’s clients. Because what would be a “Mark & Lisa have an adventure” experience without something going wrong, they had a conflict and couldn’t make it. So we were on our own with my long-ago junior high, high school, college, and once-in-a-while self-studied español and Lisa’s 9 months in Uruguay osmosis-spanish for this first visit.
Result: Two “Certifcado de LLegada” with a “calidad de residente permanente en trámite.” – Certificates of Arrival as Permanent Residents in Processing. With an appointment for our official “iniciar” – start of processing – for November 1. By then, we will have to present a number of items:
- Birth Certificates legalized both in the USA by the Uruguayan Consulate-General covering the area of the USA where issued (already done), and then registered in Uruguay with the MREE (Ministry of External Relations) – not yet done and requires at least 3 visits!, and then filed with the DNI (Dirección de Identidad Nacional – Directorate of National Identity – 1 or 2 more appointments!)
- Rinse-and-repeat the above for Marriage Certificate, including having to get it from New York City and send it to the NYC Consulado-General del Uruguay in the USA; then all those MREE and DNI visits.
- FBI Criminal History record; most easily obtained from the INTERPOL office in Montevideo, Uruguay rather than going through the FBI in the USA directly. INTERPOL is used to getting requests from USA folks; the FBI in the USA is not used to dealing directly with “Americans” for this type of request.
- Uruguay health exam certificate for purposes of immigration – the same exam that all uruguayos have to get every couple of years, to renew their cédula (certificate of national identity for work). Not a heavy-duty special pass/fail subjective like for example Immigration Canada requires and uses to screen out Canadian Immigrants.
- Statement by an escribana (essentially a certified public accountant) that we have sufficient income available in Uruguay in order to support ourselves with our proposed lifestyle in Uruguay. Until recently, this only had to be $500USD. It has never been the $1500 that Uruguay Consulates in the USA sometimes quote; that’s a now-expired special fast-track-to-citizenship for retirees that also has a $100,000 real-estate purchase or 6-year-deposit-bond requirement. Nowadays the regular process is rumored to want to see “proof you can afford it” rather than specifically $500, and they prefer to see that you already have a home in Uruguay which you’re affording. Which we do, and can prove.We have to prove it to the accountant; then she/he writes the letter to DNM. We don’t have to prove it directly to Uruguay’s DNM immigrations people. I’ve already put together the spreadsheet showing that our freelance and my former company’s closed-out-pension-into-monthly-annuity income more than covers it. And we’ve been continuously paying an apartment, utilities, food, meds, everyday living expenses, for 10 months already, with at least one of us living there continuously since Sept 1 2011, and in our permanent apartment since 1 December. So the numbers work, and work even better once we no longer have any USA living expenses as of August.
For the November interview, and even perhaps for the meeting with the escribana, we will need that translator, to make sure we can fully understand any questions and completely communicate our positions and responses.
But this is a comprehensible, fair, attainable process. I am highly impressed by how welcoming, helpful, and fair both the official process and the officials with whom we’ve already worked with have been.
Can you imagine what some uruguayo trying to move to the USA legally has been going through at the same time? The US is certainly still a great country, despite its (ours, I’m still an “American”) flaws, and there are good reasons why a non-“American” would want to become an “American”. Yet just to get a visa to visit the USA, a uruguayo would have to undergo an in-person interview at the US Embassy in Montevideo, and I’m guessing it would be a whole lot less friendly than our very nice chat with the DNM official Montevideo. Nor did we have to get wanded, patted down, searched, or otherwise go through security to enter her office.
I did have to get permission to leave Uruguay and to return home to Uruguay after my visit back to the USA, where I am now until sometime in August. As now an immigrant in process, I can’t just up and leave Uruguay and expect to re-enter as a tourist. Thus, for 496 Pesos Uruguayos (about $24 US), I purchased a permit (looks almost like the Certificados above) that let me leave from Carrasco International Airport a few days later, stamped that I exited. I will present it for re-entry when I return home to Uruguay in August.
As an “American” I admittedly had a moment of “WTF I need a permit to leave this country?” (probably a flashback to East Germany November 1989 two weeks before the wall fell detained by the failing regime with a STASI plant in the Checkpoint Charlie waiting room), but immediately sanity resumed. (Or insanity, for those readers who think my whole expatriation is insane.) Of course I needed a permit – I just told them I have arrived in Uruguay as tourist but now want to live here permanently – leaving a few days later without special notice is bizarre if the intent is to begin a permanent new life there. I am not leaving Uruguay as “American”, I was leaving it temporarily, as a “Potential Uruguayan in process”; one who did not yet have any permanent Uruguayan identification. So of course it is reasonable for my new country to keep track of my comings and goings out of and into it until I am officially a Uruguay Resident. At that point, I can then come and go as I please. Which by then may be easier than exiting the USA with all the crackdowns the US Government is making (Ex-PATRIOT Act proposals, stop-and-frisk, etc.)
I have to say that when I returned to the USA via San Francisco, I enjoyed my interaction with the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration & Customs Enforcement agent. I of course entered as a US Citizen, my only legal nationality, in the US Citizen/Resident Line. He asked me, “Purpose of your visit to Uruguay?” I replied “I’m moving there.” With an inquisitive and slightly surprised look, he responded, “Why?” I was taught to tell the truth. In general unless it will be hurtful, and always to Immigrations officials. So I answered, “Freer country.”
His look was priceless!
It’s not my only reason. But it is one of them.
Please be clear: I don’t recommend that everyone wanting to do this, try to do it yourself. We also are early in the process, and may well need to hire some assistance beyond the escribana and translator if things go sideways. There are good people out there able to provide some or all of the assistance you may need, including end-to-end document preparation, legal representation, and all the rest But for some people, doing this yourself, with research and initiative is possible. Other people may want to do some of it yourself, some of it with assistance. For some folks, hiring somebody to do it all is the best choice.
As we find out more and move deeper into the process, Lisa and I will be providing info to help others do it too, based on what we do right and wrong and how we learn from the experience. I’m sure at least some hilarity will ensue.