Interested in moving to Argentina? This is our simple Argentina Immigration Guide, containing all the info you need to get started. From getting a visa to finding work and (eventual) citizenship – it’s all here. Read on!
Argentina: Quick Facts
- Argentina is the 7th or 8th largest country in the world, depending how you look at it (there is an open claim on part of Antarctica). There are also sovereignty claims over the South Georgia Islands, South Sandwich Islands, and Falkland Islands.
- The country’s name is derived from the Latin word for “silver” (argentum) – early Spanish explorers were hoping to find silver mountains in the area.
- The country has approximately 44.3 million inhabitants. It is worth noting that the Greater Buenos Aires area contains more than a third of the country’s population, and accounts for 40% of its GDP (all in an area representing 0.14% of the country’s total).
- One of the most developed countries in South America, Argentina is a member of the G-20 (worldwide organization of major economies).
- While Argentina was one of the wealthiest nations at the turn of the 20th century, continued political instability and economic turmoil has reversed much of the gains. This has direct consequences for locals and visitors alike – there are now internal restrictions on foreign currency exchange.
- In popular culture, the country is primarily known for tango music, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, and football stars (such as Maradona and Messi). Argentina is also the home country of Pope Francis, the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church. Argentines are known for their love of meat – per capita consumption of beef/pork/chicken comes out to ~116 kg/year (and just 10 kg/year of fish).
- Argentinians strongly identify with Europe (arguably more than with South America) – the population primarily consists of descendants of European immigrants. From 1850 to 1930, many immigrants arrived from Italy and Spain (and to a lesser extent, from Germany and Britain).
- Corruption is widespread in both the public and private sectors, and cash is still king (used extensively for bribes). There is a general mistrust of the banking system due to a long history of bank crashes (and hyperinflation). Even large transactions (such as real estate) are still done with cash.
- Agriculture is considered to be one of Argentina’s most prominent industries. The country ranks third in the world in the production of soya beans, and is a major producer of corn and wheat.
- Argentina is a founding member of several prestigious international organizations, including the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, and the World Bank.
- In 2010, Argentina became the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage.
- Currency: Argentine Peso (ARS). The US Dollar (USD) is also popular, especially in major transactions (e.g. real estate).
- Spoken languages: Spanish is the official language (many speak basic English, too). There are significant immigrant populations that speak Italian and Levantine Arabic.
- Major religions: Roman Catholic (92%), Protestant (2%), and Jewish (2%).
- Major races: white European (97%, mostly Spanish and Italian), mestizo, Ameridian and other (3%).
- Largest cities: Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Rosario, Mendoza, and Tucumán.
Why move to Argentina
- It’s a beautiful country, with no shortage of interesting ecosystems to visit and explore. There are the Andes mountains, lakes, pampas, Amazonian jungles/waterfalls, dry/arid northwest heights, and even glaciers (as well as access to Antarctica in the south). World famous attractions include the Iguazú waterfalls and Perito Moreno glacier.
- Life in Argentina is comparable to what you might find in Europe, but at a much lower cost. Even though it is a more expensive country than others in South America, it affords a certain cultured and fast-paced lifestyle that many foreigners find attractive.
- The Argentinians are known for their warmth and friendliness, especially towards visitors. It is not uncommon for visitors to find themselves invited over for an “asado” (backyard barbeque) by someone they have just met.
- Wine connoisseurs are in for a treat – Argentina has an abundance of vineyards traversing its countryside.
- Argentina has many great shopping venues in its major cities, with a selection (relative to other South American countries).
- There are several ski resorts along the parts of the Andean Mountain Range that run through Argentina. Skiing is not a common leisure activity in South America, as most places are too warm for consistent ski seasons.
- Citizens are entitled to free education (all levels). This includes post-secondary (University) study, even at top national institutions. Excellent private bilingual schools can also be found in all major cities.
- Access to the free healthcare system. Note: while the quality of doctors is high, there is a shortage of equipment/resources, and long wait times for procedures are common.
- Argentina is heaven for night owls – dinner is typically served at 9 PM on weekdays (and sometimes not until 11 PM on weekends). On weekends, discos and clubs are open until noon the following day.
- Meat lovers find the local cuisine irresistible. World-class steakhouses abound, and great food can be had for relatively low prices.
Reasons not to move to Argentina
Note: these are common expat complaints, and may not apply to you.
- Relatively high taxes (37.2% of the country’s GDP comes from tax income). Many residents complain that there is little to show for it (i.e. not nearly enough is put to good civic use).
- Tough employment climate for expats, unless specifically relocated by a multinational corporation.
- Public administration is known to be inefficient. Many forego basic public services (e.g. education, health) altogether, opting for private education for their children (and private health insurance), if at all possible.
- The country’s high inflation rate is consistently a top expat complaint. Groceries like milk, meat, and grains see yearly price increases of up to 9%. Taxi fares are rising steadily as well. As Argentina is already more expensive country than most other South American countries, these price increases can be significant for those living on a fixed income.
- The culture of the afternoon siesta (a 2-4 hour period during which nearly all stores and shops close) can be a source of frustration for those unused to it. The siesta can start as early as noon and end as late as 5:00 PM. There are typically no set times for when a shop will close or open.
- When the rent is due or you need some quick cash, the low ATM withdrawal limits can throw a wrench in your plans. It can take several days to get substantial amounts of cash if you don’t have a national bank account to withdraw from.
- Those who have alternative diets will probably find less variety in Argentina than they are used to. It is a country overflowing in steak, and meat is the main staple of every meal. Vegetarians, vegans, and those who are living gluten-free will have a harder time finding places to eat.
- The dilapidated sidewalks and dirty streets of Argentina are a turn off for many people. While this is worse in certain parts of the major cities, most residents show no hesitation when it comes to littering.
- The country is not as safe as it used to be. Security has become a top concern for locals – criminal activity is increasing, with organized crime syndicates (mostly related to the drug trade) playing a major role.
- Commutes are often made unpleasant with inefficient public transport systems in the big cities. The train system is in dire need of overhaul.
- It’s hard to do anything (e.g. open a bank account, get cable service, sign up for a cell phone line) without a national ID card. The card is only issued to residents (more on obtaining residency status below).
Getting a Visa and Finding Work
Getting a visa for Argentina can be a lengthy process, and often times will require an in-person interview at the immigration office in the country’s capital, Buenos Aires.
- Tourism & Business: Foreigners traveling to Argentina for tourism and business purposes are issued a 90 day visa upon arrival, and do not need to apply for a visa beforehand. However, Argentine law requires that U.S. citizens must pay a reciprocity fee of $160 USD before arriving in Argentina. It can be paid online, and is good for a 10-year period. Every time you enter the country, you must present a receipt showing proof of the payment, so make sure you keep extra copies on hand. There are some nationalities that must apply for a Tourism visa before entering Argentina, so make sure to check with your country’s Argentine Embassy or Consulate before making the trip.
- Student Visa: You can only apply for this visa if you have enrolled in an educational institution that has been approved by Argentina’s immigration department. It is usually valid until the courses you’re taking have officially ended, and can’t be renewed.
- Contracted Personnel Visa: This visa is for individuals planning to live in Argentina and work for an Argentinean company that is registered with the immigration ministry, and is authorized to employ foreign workers. Most of the time, you can apply for this visa either before or after you enter the country. In some cases, you will have to provide certified copies of your credentials and past work experience.
- Financier Visa: Anyone who can prove a guaranteed minimum monthly income of $8,500 ARS (roughly $2,200 USD), and assure its deposit into an Argentinean bank account can apply for this type of visa. The stipend can be from investments, annuities, dividends from a business, or even a settlement. As long as the applicant can produce documentation that proves the income will continue while they are living in Argentina, they may apply for a Financier visa.
- Pensioner Visa: just as for the Financier visa, applying for a Pensioner visa requires that you prove a minimum monthly income of $8,500 ARS (about $2,200 USD). These stipends are most often awarded from private pensions or a government pension system, and you must prove that the minimum $8,500 ARS amount will be deposited into an Argentinean bank account on a monthly basis.
For nearly all of these visas, you will need to provide several copies of the following documents:
- A police report from your home country that was issued within six months of your visa application. This document must be “apostilled” (following notarization), translated into Spanish by an approved translator, and legalized by the Argentine court.
- A police report from Argentina (which will require a trip to the main police station). Here you will fill out an application form, provide a photo and a copy of your passport, get your fingerprints taken, and pay the appropriate fees.
- Original birth certificate that has been apostilled in the country of origin, translated into Spanish, and legalized in Argentina. Note: women in Argentina keep their maiden name after marriage, and their identification documents are usually in their maiden name. If the name on any of your documents (e.g. passport) is different from the one on your birth certificate, you may be required to obtain a letter from your embassy or consulate that confirms you are who you say you are.
- A notarized photocopy of your passport in its entirety. You will have to get it translated into Spanish and legalized as well.
- Two recent passport-sized photos are required for visa applications (it’s not a bad idea to have a few more handy, just in case).
- Other documents you may be asked for include: original marriage certificate, original certificate of divorce, any documentation for a change of name, etc. All of these documents must be apostilled in the country of their issuance, then translated into Spanish and legalized by the Argentine court.
Whether you are planning on staying in Argentina temporarily or for an extended period of time, you need to apply for a national identity card (called a DNI) within 90 days of entering the country. A DNI number is usually necessary to contract utility services, rent apartments, and make large purchases.
The typical path to obtaining permission to work in Argentina:
- Apply for a Permiso de Residencia (resident permit – temporary or permanent) through the Immigration Authorities (Dirección Nacional de Migraciones)
- Obtain a tax number (CUIT for independent workers, or CUIL for employees) through the Fiscal Authorities (AFIP – Administración Federal de Ingresos Públicos). This is necessary to be able to work and receive a salary, or to start a business.
- While waiting for the final resident permit to be submitted (temporary or permanent), a Residencia Precaria status is assigned (allowing one to obtain a tax number).
- For nationals of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela: the process for obtaining a temporary residence permit is much more straightforward. One can request this permit either through the Argentinean Consulate (in your country of origin) or in Argentina. The permit lasts for two years, and is renewable. Within 60 days of getting the permit, one must apply for a Documento Nacional de Identidad (national ID card) through the Registro Nacional de las Personas.
- For nationals of all other countries: all hired workers must have a sponsoring company. The company must be registered through the Renure (Registro Nacional Único de Requirentes Extranjeros) and complete the required paperwork. This permit can be requested either through the Argentinean Consulate in your country of origin, or in Argentina. The permit lasts for 12 months to three years, and is renewable. Within 60 days of getting the permit, one has to apply for a Documento Nacional de Identidad (national ID card) through the Registro Nacional de las Personas. Note: there are special permits reserved for certain occupations (scientists, researchers) as well as for retired persons.
With a residence permit, one can look for a job without the support of a sponsoring company.
Permanent Residency & Citizenship
- Residency: applying for residency in Argentina usually takes as long (if not longer) than applying for the visas covered above. While some are approved or denied within months, others wait several years. Obtaining permanent residence grants you the right to reside and work in Argentina indefinitely. Virtually all visas (with the exception of the Tourism and Student visas) count towards residency. Note: the requirements for residency can change unexpectedly- it’s highly recommended that you consult an immigration lawyer with ample experience in foreign residency applications. Navigating the bureaucracy may not be worth your time.
- Naturalization: Argentina has a fairly simple list of requirements for becoming a citizen. You must be at least 18 years of age, and have been living in Argentina continuously for at least 2 years. Your application for citizenship must be submitted in front of a federal judge. If you have not been in jail for more than three years, are not being prosecuted for a crime, and have not engaged in other illegal activities (such as working without a legal permit), your application will most likely be approved. Occasionally, the court will require proof of your legal residency, your ability to use and understand the Spanish language, and evidence of a clean criminal record from your home country and from Argentina. You should also have certified copies of your passport and birth certificate available, in case they are requested. It is important to note that there have been cases where applicants were asked to renounce their native citizenship. While the Argentine government does accept dual citizenship, you should realize that you will be recognized only as a citizen of Argentina while within its borders.
Starting a Business in Argentina
There are four types of businesses that exist in Argentina: branches, partnerships, corporations, and limited liability companies. In order to start up a business, you must have a residency visa, a business plan (in Spanish), and complete the following steps:
- Verify and reserve the name of the company with the Office of Corporations (Inspección General de Justicia or IGJ). You must pay to submit your request, and then wait for it to be approved.
- The founding partners of the business must pay to have their signatures certified by a public notary.
- A bank account must be opened in the name of the business at the national bank, and 25% of the subscribed capital (mandated by the government) has to be deposited into the account. You have to have proof of this deposit to continue on with the process.
- Next, you must publish a notice of the company’s formation in the official paper (Boletín Oficial).
- Buy special books (mandated by the government) for the business to use in its operations.
- Get a tax identification number (CUIT) from the national tax office (Administración Federal de Ingresos Públicos or AFIP).
- Register for social security.
Note: If you are looking to incorporate, then there are several additional steps you will need to complete. Most people invest in a lawyer with experience in helping foreigners start a business in Argentina. This is extremely helpful when facing changing laws, bureaucratic nightmares, and hidden costs.
One may also apply directly for a Residence Permit for Investors: this (temporary) permit is for foreigners who invest at least ARS$ 1,500,000 (~$187,000) in a venture that will benefit the local economy. Applicants must provide an overview of the proposed investment project, trade or service activity to be developed in the country, as well as prove the origin and legality of the funds (which must enter the country through banks or financial institutions authorized by the Argentina Republic Central Bank). The National Ministry of Industry then evaluates the project. Upon approval, the National Direction of Migration will grant temporary residence, setting a deadline for the realization of the investment. Investors are granted a temporary residency visa for a period of up to three years.
Recommended Reading & Resources
- Everything You Need To Know Before Moving To Buenos Aires
- Expat Entrepreneurs in Argentina: 10 Success Stories
- Migration Authority – official government website (in Spanish only)
- Brazil Immigration Guide
- Chile Immigration Guide
- Colombia Immigration Guide
- Ecuador Immigration Guide
- Uruguay Immigration Guide