Interested in moving to Uruguay? This is our simple Uruguay 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!
Uruguay: Quick Facts
- Uruguay is well known for its stable political system and is considered to be one of the least corrupt countries in Latin America (second only to Chile).
- The country is home to about 3.5 million people.
- Uruguay has the highest literacy rate in South America, with a national average of 97.3%. Education is taken very seriously – Uruguay was the first country to provide every student with a free laptop.
- Mate – a tea-like coffee alternative – is one of the country’s most popular drinks. In fact, it is so popular that most Uruguayans have their own special “mate mugs” that they carry around with them.
- Currency: Uruguayan peso (UYU).
- Spoken languages: The official language of Uruguay is Spanish, though it is unique because of a heavy Italian influence. English is commonly spoken n the business world and among the younger generation.
- Major religions: Uruguay has no official religion, and it guarantees religious freedom to all its citizens. Just under 50% of the population identifies itself as Catholic, and around 9% professes to be Christian.
- Largest cities: Montevideo, Salto, and Cuidad de la Costa.
Why move to Uruguay
- Uruguay has a great public healthcare system available to all its residents (including expats living permanently in the country). There are private plans available at affordable rates for those looking to supplement the public services offered. Expats can rest assured knowing that medical equipment is modern and the doctors are well trained. To top it off, prices for treatment are very competitive (especially relative to the cost of similar care around the world).
- Furry friends are welcome in Uruguay – there is no quarantine period for pets tagging along with their owners.
- Like other Latin American countries, Uruguay is known for its friendly people.
- It is easy to buy, sell, and rent property in Uruguay. Anyone can own property, and enjoys the same rights as property-owning citizens. The real estate market is still full of opportunities. There are many opportunities to be had in coastal towns. Even apartments and properties in the major cities can still be found at affordable prices.
- Uruguay has a consistently temperate climate throughout the nation, with mild seasons. Most people survive without heating or air-conditioning no matter where they live.
- Clean air, clean water, and clean streets. The country has a low pollution level, and is thus appealing to expats with respiratory issues like asthma and COPD.
- The Uruguayan government is a constitutional republic, and is considered to be extremely stable and consistent. There tends to be a low level of bureaucracy and corruption within the government structure, especially when compared with other South American countries.
Reasons Not to move to Uruguay
Note: these are common expat complaints, and may not apply to you.
- Imports from countries outside of South America are few and far between, especially when it comes to food items.
- Uruguay is one of the more expensive countries in Latin America, and has a higher price tag attached to things like groceries, clothing, and electronics.
- Even though its beaches are gorgeous, the waters are cold for most of the year (about 9 months).
- With the exception of its capital, Uruguay has some of the worst roads and sidewalks.
- Vehicle costs are high. Used cars in less than pristine condition can sell for up to $20,000 USD, and gas prices have been known to reach $6.50 USD a gallon.
Getting a Visa and Finding Work
If you are visiting Uruguay as a tourist, you will be issued a 90-day temporary visa when you pass through airport immigration (or when crossing the border). If you wish to extend the visa for another 90 days, you can do so at any immigration office for an additional fee. When leaving the country by air, you’ll be charged a departure tax of around $30 USD. Anyone wishing to change their visa status from temporary to permanent can file a request with the immigration department as long as they haven’t exceeded 180 days in the country.
- Rentista Visa: one of the most common visas issued to foreigners moving to Uruguay. As of now, there is no specific income requirement to be met upon application, but the generally accepted amount is around $1,500 USD per month for single applicants. With a rentista visa you are able to ship in your household belongings duty-free.
- Work Visa: to be considered for a work visa, you must have a legal work contract or a letter of commitment from your Uruguayan employer. The submitted document should be notarized and include information on the company, the salary, and the terms of employment. Usually, your potential employer will apply for this type of visa on your behalf.
- Retirement Visa: just as with a rentista visa, you are able to ship in household goods duty-free. In addition, you can also import a vehicle and apply for a Uruguayan passport. The requirements for retirement visas are extremely lax in comparison with neighboring countries, but have been changing in recent years. Make sure to check with an immigration lawyer or the nearest Uruguayan Embassy for the most up-to-date information on retirement visas.
Note: you must have all required foreign documents legalized by the Uruguayan Consulate. In most cases, these documents will have to be translated into Spanish. A public notary or an accountant must certify any proof of income. Once your visa request has been given an application number, you can apply for your cedula (Uruguayan ID card). Once you’ve been issued a cedula, you have all the rights of a resident even though your application is still being processed.
Permanent Residency and Citizenship
In order to obtain residency in Uruguay, you must fulfill the following requirements:
- Submit a letter to the government notifying them of your intent to immigrate.
- Provide a birth certificate that has been legalized by the Uruguayan Consulate
- Provide a marriage certificate legalized by the Uruguayan Consulate (The submission of a marriage certificate is optional, but when submitted only one spouse must provide proof of income.)
- Provide proof of steady monthly income (such as pension stipends, dividends, rental income, or a work contract)
- Go through a medical exam (akin to a routine check-up) by an authorized clinic in Uruguay.
- Prove that you hold an Uruguayan address (this can be done at a local police station by bringing your passport and two witnesses that will verify where you live)
- Just as when applying for a visa, all foreign documents must be apostilled in the country of origin. Some applicants may be asked to engage in a brief interview for verification purposes. Residence applications are usually processed in 1 – 2 years. Once you’ve obtained your residency, there is no requirement as to how long you must remain in the country. The only way your residency will be revoked is if you are outside of the country for three consecutive years or more.
- Citizenship: married couples that have resided in the country for at least three years and have been granted residency are able to apply for Uruguayan citizenship. Single residents must have been in Uruguay for five years before they can apply for citizenship. Unlike in other South American countries, the countdown for citizenship eligibility begins from the day you set foot in Uruguay, regardless of when your residency is approved.
Starting a Business in Uruguay
There are several reasons that Uruguay is attractive to foreign entrepreneurs. It has a steadily growing economy, a stable government, and a good commercial infrastructure. The general steps necessary for starting a business are:
- Select a business name and have it registered
- Open a bank account, pay the required bank fees, and deposit the initial capital required to open the business
- Both the company bylaws and the signatures of the business owners must be notarized
- Register the business at a local Empresa en el Día, and pay the fees to incorporate the business (if applicable)
Note: in most cases, you must have a permanent visa in order to start a business in Uruguay. The costs associated with starting a business are generally low, though the taxes on business are considered by some to be quite high. Make sure to consult a lawyer experienced in Uruguayan business immigration law if you are planning on starting a business.
Recommended Reading & Resources
- Moving to Uruguay (perspectives from a local and an expat)
- Information about Permanent Residence in Uruguay – official government site
- Brazil Immigration Guide
- Chile Immigration Guide
- Colombia Immigration Guide
- Ecuador Immigration Guide
- Argentina Immigration Guide