Residency Intro for those looking for a new country

Well, it’s mid-November 2016 as this post happens, and our site is getting hammered. Can’t imagine why all of a sudden so many people are considering moving to another country, jaja!

Entry to Ciudad Vieja
Entry to Ciudad Vieja from Plaza Independencia in Montevideo

If you are, please do be thoughtful about what, where, why, when, and how you do it. We try to stay out of partisan politics here at the Uruguay Expat Life & Uruguay For Me site network, though we have in the past reported on our perceptions of the Uruguay elections, in terms of describing how it works. But if you are thinking of moving here, perhaps from the USA (hmm, why all of a sudden?) please do understand that changing countries is nothing to be taken trivially.

We’ve covered some of the process of getting residency, of being here legally as a legal immigrant (that is what an “expat” indeed becomes if you are looking to be here permanently or for the indefinite future), and we’ll have more to say about it, in a more organized way, with resources links, in an upcoming “Uruguay Basics” series article. And even more in a deeper-dive article.

But due to the huge, tremendous recent interest, so big we’ve had to make the firewall higher, here are a few crucial concepts. Granted, mostly a stream-of-consciousness “Thinking about it? Here’s the scoop” kind of quick piece. Here you go:

Pan de Azucar "Sugarloaf" mountain looking from Pan de Azucar city
Pan de Azucar “Sugarloaf” mountain looking from Pan de Azucar city

  1. “One does not simply move to Canada,” as memes might mention. However, one can simply move to Uruguay. If anything about moving to a new country is “simple”. Uruguay is one of the few countries where you start your residency processing, while you are visiting on a tourist permit. Most countries, including the oft-mentioned, “If X happens I’m moving to Canada”, require complex, expensive, drawn out application processes that can take years before you are even allowed to move into the country. Here in Uruguay, you show up (legally on a tourist permit, which for many nations does not require a visa and is a stamp for 90 days on arrival), and then you can get settled and sorted.

    Centro in Montevideo
    Centro in Montevideo
  2. You’re nuts if you just show up on your first visit and decide you are living here. We still strongly recommend the concept we call the “Uruguay Reality Check” trip of about 1-3 weeks, of non-touristic serious poking around places and prices and your Spanish-language capability. If you’re still interested after that, followed by what we call the “Uruguay Test Drive” of a minimum 2-month stay, in some rental in an area where you checked out the first trip as a possible new home area. Living like a local, dealing with everyday life stuff.
  3. That works out, then, hey, maybe you have discovered Uruguay is for you. Great. That’s where you make your serious plans, round up a year-round place to live, arrange banking, utilities, health care (we have lots of articles!) etc. And once you have a year-round residence, bills in your name, local phone (cell, landline, or both), then maybe it’s time to start your residency processing officially.
  4. You have to know Spanish. Seriously, folks, if you have zero Spanish, you are going to have a really hard time here. And you will probably get ripped off by “expat fixers”, who are not all that common, but they love the poorly-educated-in-Spanish. I’m not talking fluency needed, but basic, “couple of years of high school or solid year of college Spanish” is what you need minimum. This isn’t Mexico, Panama, or even Ecuador. There are no major “expat colonies” here, no places with concentration of “gringos” (and nobody even says “gringo” except some “expats”). You should never expect to be able to transact any activities of everyday life in English, and on the still-rare times you discover someone knows English, you should consider that a lucky surprise. If you don’t think you can call for an ambulance, get urgent care, deal with a sick pet, shop for appliances, buy groceries at the store or at the street market (feria), do your banking, talk to a rental agent, get a plumber, in Spanish, you are going to have a really hard time here. (And yes, have done all of the above, and more, and learned all sorts of “interesting” medical terms, and plumbing ones too. Even though I’m not fluent, I have that basic functional level from a few years of study years ago, and “jump in the pool” immersion now. Especially when the “pool” becomes literal in the kitchen floor or backyard septic.)
  5. This is not the article which will explain how to get residency. But the very short “how to get residency” is this: You go to the Immigration Office handling residency, with your passport, your birth certificate (initially it can be untranslated and not Apolstiled / legalised), some proof of your Uruguay address, and a request to change your status from Tourist to Resident. At that point, under the expedited process Uruguay started putting into place in 2013-2014, you will likely get either a specific date to bring back more documents to get your initial “Resident in Processing” (Residente en Trámite) status that allows you to get your cédula (National ID card), or if you have a reasonable set of things ready, you might be offered it that day.
  6. That initial “cedula provisioria” with status of “residente en trámite” is now good for 2 years, up from the original 1 year, to allow both you to do all the documentation and process things needed, and Uruguay to review them. You are quite strongly encouraged by them, and certainly by us, to get everything you need together as soon as possible. If there are some things not quite ready, but you have presented most requirements to Migraciones (Immigration) residency section by the expiration of that first 2-year period, you will probably get a 1-year renewal of your en trámite status. If you’ve been a slacker, you may well get a lecture and a very formal note giving you 30 days max to get it done. Or you may get something else. So don’t be a slacker.
  7. What are those things? Think of them as nowadays being a bunch of stepping-stones, all of which you have to cover, but not really in specific order. That’s different than several years ago when you needed to get all of them done before even getting that first en-trámite provisional ID.In no particular order, but all required:Proof of actual physical residence here and evidence of intent to live here – no more of this fly in, apply, fly away for months. Uruguay doesn’t want “second flag” document-seekers, it wants actual immigrants who want to live here.A Uruguay national health card called the “Carné de Salud” which is not at all any kind of health coverage, but is a basic national health exam (including being very fussy about bad teeth, so you’re getting cavities fixed if you want to live here.) It’s also not at all any kind of meat – note the accent on the final “e” in “carné” as opposed to the yummy Uruguayan carne I was eating just before writing this.Your documentation, as in birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce certificates (if it might be relevant on name changes or custody issues), officially apostiled by the secretary/ministry of state (and that means your State’s Secretary of State, not the Federal one, in federal countries like the US) or “legalised” by the Uruguayan consulate in the country of origin, if one of the few remaining non-Apostile Treaty countries such as Canada (thus the Canadian spelling of “legalised”.) After Apostile in the origin country, translated by an official translator in Uruguay, unless you want to make your life more difficult by doing the translation back “home” and having to apostile/legalize 2 things per document. Then, filed in the Uruguay Civil Registry, then you go back and get Uruguayan versions of them to present to Immigration.Criminal background check. How, where, by whom, and whether you get it or you have to go through INTERPOL depends on where you are from. If you are from the USA do not even consider trying to get it yourself. You must go through INTERPOL Uruguay and if it comes into your hands at all, it is useless. (They do let you walk the sealed envelope over to FedEx if you do it the same day. But you’d better not dawdle.)

    And the big one. Money. Income. That’s as in money coming in, from rent, work, pension, other provable ongoing sources of fresh new money every month – NOT SAVINGS. Migraciones has gotten more aware that the “online gig economy” and “location independent digital professionals” are a thing, and that multiple smaller “money received in Uruguay” might be via US (or other non-UY) ATM Debit card withdrawals of money that was earned and paid via PayPal or similar – and you’re welcome, it was an “interesting lesson” that Lisa and I taught them on that, jaja! Of course, the “old school” of “Retire overseas” where people have a big (for Uruguay) Social Security or other Retirement pension, and/or rental income from “back home”, with big chunks of money wired monthly, is well-understood. But it’s no longer the only mode of “income received in Uruguay” they understand.

    How much money? There is no longer any “magic number” – any site that says there is, is seriously outdated or just sloppy. There also is no longer any special “Retiree passport fast-track” that had some 1500 dollar monthly requirement. Immigration now goes by a “do you have enough income, received in Uruguay, for your lifestyle in Uruguay?” Obviously, if your lifestyle and location here (remember they are fussy about “are you really living here?”) is a luxury condo in Trump Tower Punta del Este (yes, that’s a thing), you will need a whole lot more than if you are in a modest middle-class seaside town like us in Atlántida, and somebody in a small town in the interior would need less than that. No magic number, but you probably should “guesstimate” about 1000 USD per person for any realistic minimum. That’s both what a decent-job Uruguay wage-earner might make, and is a “scrimping but modestly comfortable” reality level in non-plush places.

    What’s not on that “Income” section? Getting a job. Do not be unrealistic, your chance of finding work in Uruguay is essentially nonexistent. Yes, there are exceptions. But it’s a ridiculously unlikely outcome and if you are planning to move yourself (and family?) on the hope that “I’ll find a job” then NOPE.

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Mark Mercer

Site co-owner Mark Mercer. AKA Marcos Cristoforo Mercer, AKA the Fuzzy Wanderer. Expat from USA living in Uruguay as of mid-2012, after "test-driving" it for a few months in 2011 and early 2012. Married to Lisamaria, AKA well-known travel and fitness writer Lisa Marie Mercer. Follow Mark on Twitter @mcmxs and his many other sites, which you can find at I write and engage about many of my other interests, on Google+ at

3 thoughts on “Residency Intro for those looking for a new country”

  1. Great article, thank you! We have bought our tickets to Uruguay, me and my husband. Not for a holiday, to discover and live. If we like the things that we will experience there, we want to move. I researched about cost of living, it is almost the same with where I live. But I am curious about opening a bank account (what they want as document) or how to find a temporary rental house for first year. I looked for the websites as Find a few houses but my Spanish is not fluent, can’t talk with them on the phone. Well, how is it possible for expats (and which documents are needed). If you can give some information/advice, it will be so great.

  2. There is a family from the U.S. that has no regular income but does have a sizable inheritance. Would they still need to show a regular income? What if they are on the run from the U.S. government or law. Is there extradition? This family has been living in Uruguay for almost 18 months.
    Is Uruguay at risk of increasing numbers of criminals moving there if there’s no extradition?

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