Argentina Immigration Guide

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!

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 1 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” Guevera, 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.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

  • 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 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 World-class steakhouses abound, and great food can be had for relatively low prices.

Reasons not to move to Argentina

VISAS 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. A notarized photocopy of your passport in its entirety. You will have to get it translated into Spanish and legalized as well.
  5. 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).
  6. 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 identitycard (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:

  1. Apply for a Permiso de Residencia (resident permit – temporary or permanent) through the Immigration Authorities (Dirección Nacional de Migraciones)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

OBTAINING RESIDENCY AND 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:

  1. 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.
  2. The founding partners of the business must pay to have their signatures certified by a public notary.
  3. 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.
  4. Next, you must publish a notice of the company’s formation in the official paper (Boletín Oficial).
  5. Buy special books (mandated by the government) for the business to use in its operations.
  6. Get a tax identification number (CUIT) from the national tax office (Administración Federal de Ingresos Públicos or AFIP).
  7. 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.

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Brazil Immigration Guide

Interested in moving to Brazil? This is our simple Brazil 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!

QUICK FACTS

  • Taking up nearly half of the South American continent (by land area), Brazil is the largest country in Latin America and the fifth largest country in the world.
  • Has a population of almost 200 million.
  • Currently ranked as having the 7th largest economy in the world by the World Bank, and has a steady annual growth rate of around 5%. Known as one of the four BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) that are currently exhibiting high rates of economic growth and development.
  • Nearly two-thirds of the Amazon rainforest is found within its borders.
  • Was the host of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and set to host the summer Olympic Games in 2016.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

  • Currency: Brazilian real (BRL).
  • Spoken languages: the official language is Portuguese. A good number of Brazilians also speak Spanish.
  • Major religions: Roman Catholic (~64.6%), Protestant (~22.2%).
  • Largest cities: São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Brasília, Fortaleza, and Belo Horizonte.

Why move to Brazil

  • Brazil is beautiful. Its lengthy coastline boasts some of the best beaches in the world. Hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to the coast each year to enjoy the sparkling seas and warm sands. The Amazon rainforest is another famous attraction – the exotic flora and fauna within create a magical landscape that is perfect for adventure and exploration.
  • Brazil has a stable and growing economy. Its industrial capacity, resource independence, technological capabilities, and consumer market strength make it ideal for investments and business opportunities.
  • Fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and seafood are readily available in all parts of the country. Additionally, due to less use of GMO and preservatives (relative to western nations), foods are much healthier than those available in more developed countries.
  • The cost of living in Brazil is significantly lower than in some first-world countries. Utilities and food generally cost about half of what they would be in the United States.
  • Even though medical costs in Brazil are quite high, healthcare insurance is affordable and provides excellent coverage. Pharmacies are plentiful, and prescription requirements are more relaxed than in North America and Europe.
  • Brazil is a melting pot of cultures – racial diversity is not a new development here, but rather the norm. Chances are, you won’t stand out in Brazil by your looks alone. This makes it much easier to assimilate into the local culture.
  • Brazilians are very friendlywarmopen, and outgoing (even towards strangers and visitors). Brazilians know how to have a good time and enjoy life. The country is known for its outlandish festivals (e.g. Carnival) that bring whole cities together in celebration.
  • If you’re into football (soccer), you’ve come to the right place – futebol is not just a sport, but a way of life in Brazil. Brazil is crazy about the game, and consistently produces players that make their mark on the world stage.

VISAS AND FINDING WORK

In order to enter Brazil, you must hold a valid passport that will not expire in the next 6 months. A visa is required for most foreign nationals. Tourist and business visas are usually issued on arrival (to most nationalities), and are valid for 90 days. Most other visa applications are typically done through a Brazilian embassy or consulate abroad.

Note: certain neighboring countries (such as Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay) have bilateral agreements with Brazil – nationals from these countries are not required to obtain a visa to enter Brazil. Many European residents can also enter without a visa, though a valid passport is required.

The most common visa types are:

  • Tourist visa (VITUR): allows for multiple entries into the country for a period lasting 90 days from issue.
  • Business visa (usually VITEM-II): for professionals visiting Brazilian offices of existing companies, looking to establish contacts, attending conferences, or investigating investment opportunities to enter the country for 3 months (and in some cases may be extended up to a year).
  • Work visa (usually VITEM-V): any foreigner looking to work in Brazil must have a work visa or Brazilian residency. In most cases, you should have a job secured before planning to move. The employing company must submit a work permit application to its local Ministry of Labor & Employment – this is the first step to meet the requirements in the work visa application process. After the application is approved, the approval is published in one of the local legal newspapers and sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. After this, the Ministry will contact the Consulate or Embassy, which will then start the visa process.
  • Permanent visa (VIPER): issued to individuals who invest a minimum of $150,000 BRL (roughly $65,000 USD) in Brazil, or to those who are seeking residency or looking to retire here.

OBTAINING RESIDENCY AND CITIZENSHIP

In order to become a permanent resident of Brazil, foreigners must complete the following requirements:

  • Applicants must have a valid passport that is over 6 months away from expiration and has two blank visa pages. A completed visa application, recent passport photo, proof of jurisdiction, certified birth certificate, and police clearance should be included in the application packet.
  • Those who are transferring retirement pensions need to provide a notarized letter that verifies the applicant’s retirement, documented proof that the monthly pension stipend is at least $6,000 BRL, and a notarized statement from the issuing financial institution showing that the funds can be transferred to Brazil each month.
  • Those obtaining a residency visa through investment must prove that their $150,000 BRL investment will help to create jobs and produce revenue in Brazil.
  • Anyone planning on permanently residing in Brazil is required to register with the Foreign National Register (RNE). Once this process is completed, you will be issued an identification card. This step is mandatory for anyone residing in Brazil for longer than 90 days.
  • Residency is permanent (except for investment visas) and does not expire. You will never need to renew your VIPER or re-apply, unless you have been out of the country for more than two years.

Citizenship: foreigners who have lived in Brazil for an uninterrupted period of 15 years can apply for Brazilian citizenship, provided that they have no criminal record. However, foreigners who (1) have permanent residence in Brazil, (2) have lived in Brazil for an uninterrupted period of 4 years, (3) are able to speak and write Portuguese, and (4) can prove they have the resources necessary to support themselves may apply after 4 years. Those who have a Brazilian spouse, parent, or child, or who are nationals of a Portuguese-speaking country may apply after just one year of residency. Children born in Brazil to foreign parents are automatically awarded Brazilian citizenship.

STARTING A BUSINESS IN BRAZIL

Brazil has developed a reputation for being a difficult place to start a business (especially for for individuals and foreigners). If you have your permanent visa, this process might be a little easier. The following is a (basic) list of requirements for starting a business in Brazil:

  • The individual owner or partners of the business must be clearly identified. Because the business director or administrator must be a resident of Brazil, you must have a permanent visa to maintain control of the company. Otherwise, you can only be a shareholder.
  • There are various categories of incorporation, including civil, mercantile, and individual firm.
  • You must prove a minimum investment of $150,000 BRL in the business, and open a Brazilian bank account.
  • The business has to be accredited by the Central Bank and properly registered.

This process generally takes at least 60 days. We are your professional source for the legal paperwork, visas and permits. We have top Brazilian law firms partners with us. we therefore will provide a full service from providing the information to complete settlement. We will also assist in choosing the best structure for your business and identify the legal documents required. In any case, our work, fees and agreements are 100% guaranteed for satisfaction and completion of your paperwork.

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Chile Immigration Guide

QUICK FACTS

  • Chile stretches over ~292,000 sq. miles (756,000 sq. km), and has a population of ~5 million people.
  • Chile is an extremely narrowcountry (geographically), and is part of the volcanic zone known as the Pacific Ring of Fire. There are over 1,300 volcanoes found along the country’s mountain ranges.
  • More than one-third of the world’s copperis produced in Chile. It is also the number one exporter of salmon.
  • Many tours to the mysterious Polynesian Easter Island and Antarctica set out from Chile.
  • Chile is the home of the driestdesert on earth – the Atacama Desert. It sees less than 0.05 mm of rain each year.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

  • Currency: Chilean Peso (CLP).
  • Spoken languages: Spanishis the official language. Native languages such as Mapudungun and Quechua are spoken only by a limited few.
  • Major religions: Around 63% of Chileans belong to the Catholic church, while 15% identify themselves as Protestant or Evangelical Christians.
  • Largest cities: Santiago is the largest city in Chile, with a population of nearly 6 million. Concepción and Valparaíso are the next largest cities, each with just under 1 million residents.

Why move to Chile

  • Chile is the first (and as of September 2014, the only) South American member of the OECD(Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development). The OECD is an organization comprised mainly of countries with high-income economies that are leaders in economic development and world trade.
  • Some organizations have praised Chile as having the most advanced medicalcare in Latin America. There is a good public healthcare system (available to expats), though you can opt for private insurance if you want. The medical facilities tend to be surprisingly modern, and the medical staff is very well educated. The country also has a good reputation in practicing successful preventative medicine.
  • Chile has become one of the easiest places in the world to starta business, which has made it incredibly popular with expanding corporations and entrepreneurs.
  • Chile has been hailed as theleast corrupt country in South America. This, coupled with its economic stability and low crime rate have classified it as one of the most “advanced” developing countries in the world.

VISAS AND FINDING WORK

Here are some of the more common visas issued to foreigners coming to Chile:

  • Tourist visa: individuals traveling to Chile for tourism purposes will be issued a tourist card (Tarjeta de Turismo) upon their arrival. They are permitted to stay in the country for up to 90 days, and must surrender their tourist card upon departure. Citizens of certain countries (Australia, Canada, Mexico, U.S., etc.) entering Chile through the Santiago airport will have to pay a fee for their tourist card. You should check with the closest Chilean Embassy to find out which countries do not have a reciprocal visa agreement with Chile, in case you are required to apply for a visa before your trip.
  • Work visa: in order to qualify for a work visa (Visa Sujeto a Contrato), you must be sponsored by a Chilean company. Foreigners can apply for a work visa at their country’s Chilean Embassy, or at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the capital city of Santiago. You must include a letter from your employer and a notarized work contract (in Spanish) with your visa application. In certain cases, applicants will also have to provide proof of their credentials.
  • Temporary residency visa: Anyone can apply for this type of visa (Visa Temporario). It is an attractive option, as it permits the holder to work or study in Chile for up to one year. A letter explaining the reasons for your application must be submitted with the rest of the required documents. This visa can be extended for an additional year, but after two year you must apply for permanent residency or leave the country.

Foreigners can also apply for investment and retirement visas when moving to Chile. However, these visas tend to have more paperwork involved and therefore we advise of signing up for our services to assist you on proper and legal forms.

OBTAINING RESIDENCY AND CITIZENSHIP

Becoming a resident: a residency visa (Permanencia Definitiva) can be applied for upon the expiration of a temporary residency or work visa. If you have lived in the country under a temporary residency visa, then you must have spent at least 180 days per year in the country to apply for permanent residency. If you are applying from a work visa, then you will need to prove that you have lived in the country for an uninterrupted period of at least two years. Students may also apply for permanent residency, as long as they have lived in the country for at least two years (and have completed their studies). A residency visa is valid for five years and can be renewed indefinitely. Residency is only revoked if you leave Chile for more than one year at a time. To apply for residency, you must submit the following documents:

  • A certified Chilean police report proving that you have no criminal history in the country
  • A medical exam performed by an approved Chilean physician
  • A letter stating why you want to live in Chile on a permanent basis
  • Proof of income (e.g. bank statements)
  • A document issued by the international police showing all your entries and exits from Chile
  • Two color photographs that are passport size with your passport number or RUT number
  • Notarized copies of all your passport pages and both sides of your Chilean ID card (if you have one)

Becoming a citizen: after living in Chile for five years under a permanent residency visa, you are eligible to apply for Chilean citizenship. If you become a Chilean citizen, you will be issued a Chilean passport. You will not be required to revoke your current citizenship. In order to apply, you must have your own permanent residency visa (rather than being a dependent of a spouse or relative), you must have a clean criminal record, and you must provide proof of sufficient income to support yourself.

STARTING A BUSINESS IN CHILE

Over the past few years Chile has tried to attract entrepreneurs and investors from around the globe. A number of changes in policy have made starting a business in Chile easier than starting a business almost anywhere else. In fact, it is now possible to create a Chilean business online.

When applying for an investment visa tied to a business venture, applicants must provide a business plan, prove that they possess the capital to fund the endeavor, and that it will be transferred into a Chilean bank account. If the person starting the business is residing in Chile, it usually takes around 30 days to complete the process. If a proxy is representing the owners, then the process could take longer. The process of starting a business generally consists of the following steps:

  1. An investment/entrepreneurial visa must be applied for and approved.
  2. The business must be registered with the tax authorities (SII), and must get its own taxpayer number (called a RUT).
  3. Before operations can commence, a municipal license and all applicable permits must be obtained.

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Colombia Immigration Guide

Interested in moving to Colombia? This is our simple Colombia 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!

QUICK FACTS

  • The Republic of Colombia has a population of ~5 million(according to a 2012 census), and has an area of ~1.14 million sq. km. It is divided into 32 departments (departamentos) and a District Capital.
  • Overall, the country has a relatively small immigrant population that, for several decades, has hovered at just above 100,000. The latest official figures as reported by the United Nations shows Colombia in 2013 of having 129,000 immigrants, or less than 0.3% of the total population. Most immigrants are located either near the capital city, Bogota, or along the Caribbean coasts and islands.
  • Colombia has a strong growing economy, supported by increased oil production, a rapidly expanding technological sector, and by its (world-renowned) coffee industry.
  • Though Colombia has had a violent reputation in the past, its crime rate has decreased significantly in the past decade. Most offenses are tied to narcotics trafficking, and are most common in outlying, dilapidated parts of large cities.
  • It is considered to be one the world’s megadiverse countries. This means that a majority of the Earth’s species can be found within its borders. Thousands of butterflies, birds, and fish are endemic to the country, which also boasts over 50,000 different types of plants. This is, in part, due to Colombia’s incredibly diverse landscape. Snow-capped mountains along the Andean range, the lush jungles of the Amazon rainforest, vast savannahs, and gorgeous sandy beaches can all be explored without leaving the country.
  • Colombia is the only South American country that has direct access to both the Pacific and Caribbean oceans. Its coasts are popular destinations for vacationers from around the world. Each major port provides a strategic advantage to the import and export industry.
  • Health insurance is a mixed public private system – over 97% of the population has coverage (according to the government). The average life expectancy has been rising rapidly, from 72.3 years in 2005 to 74.8 in 2012.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

  • Currency: Colombian Peso(COP)
  • Spoken languages: Spanish is the primary official language. However, there are 68 regional dialects and languages that are also officially recognized in parts of the country. In fact, English is an official language of the islands of Providencia, Santa Catalina, and San Andrés.
  • Colombians are friendly people and are quick with a smile. They love to get to know foreigners. Even attempting to use some Spanish, however badly, gets high marks. The first time you are introduced a simple handshake is expected. However, once they are familiar with each other, women practice the beso (kiss) wherein they touch cheek-to-cheek and make a kissing noise. Men receive besos from women, and continue to shake hands with other men.
  • Major religions: Roman Catholic (75%), Protestant (17.2%).
  • Largest cities: Bogota, Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla, Bucaramanga, and Cartagena.

Why move to Colombia

  • In a nutshell, the top reasons for moving to Colombia include: a growing economystable governmentuniversal education, and near universal healthcare.
  • Foreigners are accepted and welcomed – Colombians are extremely easy to get to know and you will soon feel like you’re part of their family.
  • Colombians have virtually no accent, so their Spanish is arguably the easiest to understand. This is helpful for expats who have a limited Spanish vocabulary, or are attempting to learn Spanish while abroad.
  • Benefits if you are working in Colombia include:
  1. Most workers get two additional (’13th month”) paychecks each year. One before Christmas, and one before Easter.
  2. There are a total of 18 holidays in Colombia (12 Catholic and 6 Civic holidays) plus Palm and Easter Sundays. There are also a variety of local holidays (e.g. two days just for Carnival in Barranquilla).
  3. All workers are entitled to 14 days paid vacation.
  4. Maternity leave is 12 weeks, while paternity leave ranges from 4-8 days.
  5. Retirement age is 62 for men and 57 for women. A public retirement system pays between 65% and 80% of your average ending salary.
  6. Workers who are fired or laid off without just cause must be paid a month’s full wage for every year they worked at the company.
  • Colombia is full of astounding culture, from the hot clubs in Cali and Bogota – to the Latin beat along the shores of Cartagena.
  • It is a beautiful place, with dazzling natural scenery, resplendent parks and gardens.
  • The country has amazing biodiversity, with world-class beaches on both the Pacific and Caribe, stunning mountains, cloud forests, Amazon rainforest, mangrove swamps and highland plains.
  • Its major cities are among the most modern and cosmopolitan in all of South America. In addition to its entertainment and cultural offerings, there are creature comforts to be found in the big cities.
  • Colombian coffee is legendary, but you have never really had coffee until you’ve enjoyed the humble campesino: a rich, almost-espresso drink served with cream, sugar and cinnamon.
  • Artists like Shakira are just the tip of the iceberg, as every city has a thriving music scene. The range is impressive, from full philharmonic orchestras and ballet companies to techno grunge bands lighting it up in tiny clubs.
  • Cost of living  Colombia is low. The minimum wage stands at COL$589,500 (US$333). Most expats can find they can live magnificently well, often in a large home with a housekeeper/cook, for less than US $1,500/month.
  • Food is fresh, varied, wholesome, and if you go to the local open-air markets are extremely cheap.
  • Rent is generally affordable (although some areas of the large cities can get pricey). Many landlords prefer renting to foreigners as they tend to be reliable tenants.
  • Utilities(electricity, water, cable, telephone) are cheap, often amazingly cheap. The phone system can be iffy but the country has excellent cell phone coverage, at least around the larger towns and cities.
  • Public transport is extensive, efficient, and very affordable. Buses seem to be a constant stream on the main roads (there are no actual bus stops – you simply eye the bus you need and wave, and a ride costs about $0.50). In the major cities, a taxi ride starts at $2 and typically doesn’t exceed $8 (for most urban journeys). Rural areas have busetas, and sometimes merely an old pickup or motorcycle taxis. For those who want to drive themselves, used cars are some of the cheapest in Latin America.
  • Although there are relatively small numbers of expats, they are primarily concentrated in the capital, Bogota, and the popular getaway islands off the north (Caribbean) coast. In short, you can find expat groups to hang out with if you want.
  • Colombia is receptive to foreign investment, with relatively open visa options.
  • Since the implementation of the 2012 Free Trade Agreement with the United States, Colombia has risen to one of the highest importers of American goods. It also has strong ties to Europe and Asia. This means that more products are available, and at a lower cost, than might be found in other South American countries.
  • Colombia celebrates 18 national holidays, and is known for its colorful parades and festivals.

VISAS AND FINDING WORK

  • Colombian visas are divided into two types: the N series for permanent visas and the T series for temporary. They have relatively few restrictions – with no vaccination requirements or currency restrictions, unlike in some other Latin American countries.
  • Work visa: if you are looking to obtain a work visa (also known as an entrepreneur’s visa), you must meet a number of requirements. These types of visas are usually reserved for professionals, so you must provide proof of your credentials (such as an apostilled copy of a college degree or field certification). Its best to find a job before applying for a work visa, because you will most likely have to produce your business contract. The company you plan on working for will probably have to sponsor your application as well. Even if you are looking to work as a private contractor, you will still need to apply for this visa. The duration of a work visa is usually a year. After holding this type of visa for 5 consecutive years, you can apply for permanent residency.
  • Tourist visas are simple to obtain for most visitors and are valid for 90 days, although they can be extended up to 180 days. Most simply require a passport valid for at least 180 days from entry. Visitors from the US and EU countries can simply arrive in Colombia with a valid passport and receive the visa.
  • Student visas are available for those who will be staying longer than 90 days and have already been accepted to a school in Colombia. Note: student visas can only be issued in the capital, Bogota.
  • Asylum seekers can request either to receive refugee status, eligibility to asylum or the recognition of the refugee attribute. People accepted into Colombia due to humanitarian or political reasons (according to international law) receive a residence permit. This visa is typically good for three years.
  • Travelers who can document that they are employees of a business (or investors) can potentially receive a Business Visa. This is good for three years and can be used for multiple entries into Colombia. Note: the visa holder must not stay in Colombia for more than six months at a time.
  • Investment visa: in Colombia, an investment visa is a type of permanent visa. It can be obtained in one of three ways: (1) Through the purchase of at least $100,000 USD in stocks, bonds, or certified deposits, (2) by purchasing at least $100,000 USD worth of stocks or shares in a private company, or (3) by purchasing a minimum of $200,000 USD in real estate. This visa does not have to be renewed, and you can apply for permanent residency after holding it for 3 years. (If you are applying for residency from a Resident Investor visa, you will be required to provide proof of your continued investment in Colombia.)
  • Business owner or associate visa: the Socio Propietario visa is for those who are owners or partners of an established commercial business in Colombia. A minimum investment of $57,000,000 COP in shares (or if you own a company, an accountant’s estimate that your company is valued at $57,000,000 COP or more) is necessary to apply for this visa. You can apply for permanent residency after you have held this type of visa for 4 years.
  • Rentista visa: for individuals who are not retired, but receive a monthly income of at least $5,667,00 COP (nearly $3,000 USD). You must prove that you are regularly issued this income, and that it is transferred into Colombia. It is valid for one year at a time.
  • Retirement (pension) visa: to qualify for this visa, you must be a retired individual who receives a monthly stipend equal to $1,700,100 pesos (roughly $880 USD) from a foreign financial institution (for instance, out of a trust fund or from Social Security). The duration of this visa is one year. It must be renewed every year with all original documents. After 5 years, those residing in Colombian on a pension visa can apply for permanent residency.
  • Those seeking medical care in Colombia can receive a visa of from 90 days to three years.
  • A foreigner who wishes to stay in Colombia for longer than 90 days (and wants to work or study) requires a permanent visa. Visas must be requested at a local Colombian embassy or consulate, several months prior to the intended day of entry into Colombia. It is possible to first travel to Colombia on a temporary visa and apply for a permanent visa. However you would still have to leave Colombia and do the paperwork outside the country at a Colombian embassy.
  • Family members arriving in Colombia must show documentation of their relationship with the primary visa holder. Spouses must show proof of legal marriage. Children must have proof that the visa holder is the parent or legal guardian of the child. These visas are generally good for up to three years, depending on the type of visa for the main visa holder.

OBTAINING RESIDENCY AND CITIZENSHIP

People who want to live and work in Colombia must acquire a cedulaextranjera. Among ways you can qualify for a work or residency visa are:

  1. Qualifying as a long-term holder of a temporary visa. Some temporary visas can turn into permanent visas if the holder has them for a continuous period of five years. Please note the following visas cannot be transferred to a permanent residence visa: preferred, courtesy, business, crew member, temporary student, temporary entrepreneurship, temporary for medical treatments, temporary for official business, temporary for adoption, temporary visitor, tourist.
  2. A Resident Investor visa is available for a person who is investing a minimum of $100,000 with the money registered with the Banc of the Republic.
  3. An Immigrant visa is available for up to three years. These are primarily for people with useful skills.

If you would like to become a naturalized citizen of Colombia, you will need to complete the following steps:

  1. Write a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Relations (Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores) formally requesting Colombian citizenship, and explaining the reasons you are applying. The letter should include your name, identification document, nationality, country of origin, current residence, and residence prior to living in Colombia.
  2. Authorize the DAS (Department of Security) to request a background check from the Department of Foreign Affairs.
  3. Provide a notarized copy of your passport, along with six passport-sized photos (4 x 5 cm), recently taken
  4. Submit a certificate of “good conduct” from the country you lived in prior to residing in Colombia
  5. Submit any certificates of military service from your homeland, unless over 50 years of age
  6. Provide authenticated copies of two income statements, or a certification of income by a public accountant. If you own a business, provide a certificate from the Chamber of Commerce about your business
  7. Pass an oral test at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The exam assesses the applicant’s knowledge of Spanish, the Colombian constitution, and basic information about the country.

STARTING A BUSINESS IN COLOMBIA

The growing economy and stable political situation makes for numerous opportunities. Many expats have opened successful import/export businesses. Meanwhile, many others have enjoyed success with restaurants, clubs and hotel/resorts (lifestyle businesses). With that said, Colombia has a unique business culture and there are a number of points to keep in mind:

  • Start by hiring an accountant and a lawyer. Colombia’s tax and employment laws can be baffling to the newcomer. Local experts can guide you through the early days and steer you away from expensive mistakes.
  • Look to the foreign enclaves in Bogota and the Caribbean islands. You will find other expats who know the system and can provide you with important tips and contacts. Most of these areas also have local chambers of commerce dedicated to expat businesses.
  • Be patient. Business and government in Colombia goes at its own pace. If you try to rush to get things done, chances are you’ll get frustrated. The successful realize things will take longer than they wish and plan accordingly.

There are currently two ways to get into the Colombian market: by purchasing a majority of shares in a company currently operating in Colombia, or by starting up a new business.

  • Buying in: whether you purchase a business outright or buy enough shares to become a legal partner, the investment will have to equal at least $57,000,000 COP (or what it would cost to pay 100 monthly salaries).
  • Creating a business: a sole proprietorship (Persona Natural) business does not require a cedula (Colombian ID), and can be set up on a tourist visa. Just like buying into an existing company, starting a sole proprietorship requires an investment of $57,000,000 COP. Individuals with visas tied to their business can apply for permanent residency after 4 years. This type of business can always be incorporated as an SAS company at a later date. If you are planning on creating an SAS or SA corporation, it will be necessary to obtain a legal representative who is either a Colombian national or a foreigner that has a current residency visa. In either case you will need to:
  1. Register with the Registry of Commerce and get a pre-taxpayer ID (known as a pre-RUT)
  2. Open a bank account with your pre-RUT and deposit the necessary funds
  3. Register your company with the Caja de Compensación Familiar (Family Compensation Fund), Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje (Governmental Learning Service), Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar (Colombian Family Institute), and Administrator of Professional Risks (ARL)
  4. Register your employees for public health coverage
  5. Register both the employer and the employees for Colpensiones pensions, and with private pension funds
  6. Register employees with a severance fund

Note: Colombia is a developing country, and the requirements for the creation of a business are subject to unexpected change. Make sure to consult with an experienced lawyer who is well informed and up-to-date on Colombian business and immigration law.

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Ecuador Immigration Guide

Interested in moving to Ecuador? This is our simple Ecuador 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!

QUICK FACTS

  • The Republic of Ecuador has a population of ~13 million (according to a 2012 census), and has an area of 283,560 sq. km. It is divided into 24 provinces.
  • The immigrant population has been estimated by the Ecuadorian government at somewhat over 200,000, or ~2% of the total population. The immigrant breakdown: Colombians: 123,000; Peruvians: 31,000; U.S. citizens: 22,000; Spanish: 20,500; Cubans: 11,500; Canadians: 2,000; Venezuelans: 1,500; and Argentinians: 1,500. Most English speaking immigrants are found around Quito, the capital city, with other large populations in Guayaquil and Cuenca. There are also large enclaves of expats along La Ruta del Sol (Pacific Coast) and in a number of smaller communities in the Sierras.
  • Ecuador has a strong growing economy, supported by increased oil production, and exports in shrimp, bananas, coffee and flowers.
  • Health insurance is a mixed public private system with the government reporting that over 93% of the population is covered. Medical care is relatively cheap, even for the uninsured; medical tourism is growing. Ecuador has a very high average life expectancy (~75.6 years according to 2011 data).
  • Colonized and ruled by the Spanish for more than 300 years, Ecuador gained its independence in 1830.
  • The unique Galápagos Island chain is located 1,000 west of the mainland. Studied extensively by Charles Darwin, the islands contain a number of endemic species (including the waved albatross and blue-footed booby). All in all, Ecuador is considered the most biodiverse country in the world per unit area.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

  • Currency: US Dollar (USD). Ecuador is one of several countries that use the USD as its official currency. All paper bills are USD, though the government has also issued a number of coins in $0.05, $0.10, $0.25 and $0.50 denominations for local use. The $1.00 coin is greatly preferred over the $1.00 bill.
  • Spoken languages: Spanish is the primary official language. 13 other languages and dialects are also spoken, such as Quechua and Shua in the Sierras (Andes). These are modern dialects that have developed from the languages used at the time of the Spanish invasion of the Inca Empire.
  • Major religions: Roman Catholic (80%) and Protestant (11%). Jewish, Buddhist and Mormon believers make up the majority of the remainder.
  • Largest cities: Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca.
  • Ecuadorians are friendly people and are quick with a smile. They love to get to know foreigners. Trying to use some Spanish, even if done badly, gets high marks. The first time you are introduced a simple handshake is expected. However, once they know you, women practice the beso (kiss) wherein they touch cheek-to-cheek and make a kissing noise. Men receive besos from women, and continue to shake hands with other men.

Why move to Ecuador

  • Ecuador’s mix of a strong healthcare systemreasonable costsbusiness opportunities, and healthy lifestyle has put several of its communities on “Best Place to Live” and “Best Place to Retire” lists. This is especially true for the old, Spanish Colonial university town of Cuenca, with an extremely active English speaking community that has exploded in growth the last decade.
  • Ecuador is a small but an incredibly bio- and culturally diverse country, housing not only the Galápagos Islands, but also featuring the La Costa (Pacific Coast), Las Sierras (Andes Mountains), and Oriente (Amazonian Rain Forest)
  • Ecuador has quickly gone from being economically and politically unstable to one of the more stable countries in South America. There is a steadily growing economy that is fueled by exports (especially oil), a stable government, universal education and near universal healthcare.
  • Foreigners are accepted and welcomed – Ecuadorians are extremely easy to get to know and love to show off their families, food, and their country.
  • Benefits if you are working in Ecuador include:
    1. Workers get two additional (13th month) paychecks each year. One before Christmas, and one before the start of the school year (April).
    2. There are a total of 9 mandatory holidays in Ecuador. There are also a wide variety of local holidays – for example, almost every city celebrates its own Independence Day.
    3. All workers are entitled to 15 days of paid vacation.
    4. The Ecuador constitution requires that all employees receive 15% of the profits made by a company, to be paid in April.
    5. Maternity leave is paid for 10 weeks, 75% paid for by the government (25% by the employer).
    6. Retirement age begins at 60 to receive benefits (this is sometimes extended to 70 years depending on the work history of the employee). Those 65 or older also receive a number of discounts for transportation (50% discount on national air flights, for example) and other services. Most businesses have separate lines for disabled, pregnant and over-60 persons, meaning few lines at the bank or supermarket.
    7. Workers who have worked in the same company for more than three years, who are fired or laid off without just cause must be paid a month’s full wage for every year they worked at the company. All employees must also receive an additional amount equal to 25% of the last month’s wage if terminated.
  • Ecuador is full of unique history and culture, from Inca Ruins to 500-year-old cathedrals and mountainous jungle trails (often used for extreme sports competitions).
  • It is a beautiful place, with dazzling natural scenery, uncrowded but world-class beaches, resplendent parks and gardens, stunning mountains, cloud forests, the Amazon rainforest, mangrove swamps, and highland plains.
  • It seems every small village has its own special craft. For example, one village produces “Panama Hats” (the originals come from Ecuador, not Panama). Another village produces hand-carved wooden furniture, while yet another specialized in Alpaca-wool rugs, and so on. The artisan-ship is centuries old, impeccable in quality, and surprisingly inexpensive.
  • The cost of living in Ecuador is low. The minimum wage stands at USD $340/month. Most expats can find they can live magnificently well, often in a large home with a housekeeper/cook, for less than $1800/month.
  • Food is fresh, varied, and very cheap (if you go to the local open-air markets).
  • Rent is generally affordable (with the exception of upscale areas in the major cities). Many landlords prefer renting to foreigners (expats have a good reputation for paying their bills on time).
  • Utilities (electricity, water, cable, telephone) are very cheap. The country has excellent cell phone coverage (at least around the larger towns and cities).
  • Public transport is extensive and cheap. Long distance buses are clean, comfortable and go almost everywhere in the country for less than $15. Rural areas feature small pickup trucks or motorcycle taxis.
  • The expat communities tend to work together, with lots of special events and gatherings to keep the news and gossip flowing. It’s a beaten path.
  • The country is receptive to foreign investment, with relatively open visa options. Many expats have set up businesses in the tourism, import/export, and hospitality industries.

VISAS AND FINDING WORK

  • Ecuador visas are divided into two types: those for temporary stays and those for more permanent residence. Temporary visas do not allow people to work, although many people do work under the table, sometimes for years. They have relatively few restrictions – with no vaccination requirements or currency restrictions.
  • Tourist visas are simple to obtain for most visitors and are valid for 90 days, although they can be extended up to 180 days. Most simply require a passport valid for at least 180 days from entry. Visitors from the US and EU countries can simply arrive in Ecuador with a valid passport and receive the visa.
  • There are also a number of student and cultural interchange visas. These are available for those who will be staying longer than 90 days and have already been accepted to a school, volunteer or cultural interchange program. These are good for 12 months. In the past these have been simple to extend, but recently there has been a new regulatory push to require people using such visas for longer than 12 months to apply for a resident visa.
  • Asylum seekers can request either to receive refugee status, eligibility to asylum or the recognition of the refugee attribute. People accepted into Ecuador due to humanitarian or political reasons (according to international law) receive a residence permit. This visa is normally good for one year but is renewable.
  • Travelers who can document that they are employees of a business or are investors can receive a Business Visa. This is good for one year and can be extended more than once. There are lengthy restrictions on business operations in Ecuador – for example, 80% of local employees n the business must be Ecuadorian. In general, those doing any kind of business in the country are advised to employ the services of an abogado.

OBTAINING RESIDENCY AND CITIZENSHIP

People who want to live and work in Ecuador must acquire either an appropriate visa (for volunteer or cultural interchange positions), or identity cards, called cedula or a censo. Among ways you can qualify for a work or residency visa are:

  • Resident Investor visa is available for a person who is investing a minimum of $10,000-$25,000 in Ecuador, depending on the exact circumstances. The funds must go either directly into the investment (business, real estate, etc) or be deposited in an Ecuadorian bank. As the exact circumstances and required amount varies widely, it is recommended that you employ an experienced abogado to work through your options.
  • Professional visas are available for up to one year and can be extended almost indefinitely. It is designed for professionals (e.g. lawyers, doctors, teachers) with a recognized university degree who wish to practice their profession in Ecuador.
  • Pensioner’s visas are for those looking to retire in Ecuador. A person needs to demonstrate that they are receiving a pension from their home country of at least $800 per month.

STARTING A BUSINESS IN ECUADOR

The growing economy and stable political situation of Ecuador makes for numerous opportunities. Many foreigners have opened successful import/export businesses, tourist companies, restaurants, or hotels/inns. With that said, Ecuador has a unique business culture and there are a number of points to keep in mind:

  • Start by hiring an accountant and a lawyer. Ecuadorian tax and employment laws can be baffling to the newcomer. Local experts can guide you through the early days and steer you away from expensive mistakes.
  • Look to the foreign enclaves in Quito, Guayaquil, Cuenca and along the Ruta del Sol. You will find other expats who know the system and can provide you with important tips and contacts. Most of these areas also have local chambers of commerce dedicated to expat businesses.
  • Be patient. Business and government in Ecuador goes at its own pace. Business here is as much about contacts (who you know) as it is about identifying on a market opportunity. If you expect to rush through the process, prepare for frustration – the successful realize that everything in Ecuador takes longer than estimated (and plan accordingly).

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Uruguay Immigration Guide

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!

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 3.4 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.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

  • 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 airclean 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.

VISAS 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.

OBTAINING RESIDENCY AND CITIZENSHIP

In order to obtain residency in Uruguay, you must fulfill the following requirements:

  1. Submit a letter to the government notifying them of your intent to immigrate.
  2. Provide a birth certificate that has been legalized by the Uruguayan Consulate
  3. 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.)
  4. Provide proof of steady monthly income (such as pension stipends, dividends, rental income, or a work contract)
  5. Go through a medical exam (akin to a routine check-up) by an authorized clinic in Uruguay.
  6. 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:

  1. Select a business name and have it registered
  2. Open a bank account, pay the required bank fees, and deposit the initial capital required to open the business
  3. Both the company bylaws and the signatures of the business owners must be notarized
  4. 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. We are here to help and assist you into moving to Uruguay. We will make sure that you receive full service with guaranteed success towards moving to your new home. 

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Panama Immigration Guide

 Selecting an offshore jurisdiction is an integral part of establishing an offshore structure or financial account. The jurisdiction that you choose should have at the very minimum, the following 10 characteristics:

  1. Advantageous Fiscal Platform For Offshore Business– Panama has no capital gains tax on offshore investments, no interest income tax on offshore bank account interest, no offshore income tax, etc.
  2. Favorable Incorporation Laws– the corporate laws of the country should enable you to hold “Bearer Shares”, have directors from any country, inexpensive, and be able to incorporate Private Interest Foundations like Panama does.
  3. Stable Currency With No Currency Restriction Regulations– the currency of the country must be stable, and there should be no restrictions on the movement of funds in or out of the country, and your offshore bank should be able to hold your money in any major currency.
  4. Strict Privacy Laws– there should be strict privacy laws that protect your banking information and corporate book information.
  5. Stable Government– the government of the country should be a stable democracy. The country should also be safe to visit.
  6. Stable Economy– the economy of the country should be stable, with consistent growth and low inflation.
  7. Excellent Banking System– the banking system of the country should be advanced in areas of international banking regulations, infrastructure, government auditing, and technology.
  8. Excellent Communications System & No Natural Disasters– the communications systems of the country should be technologically advanced in comparison with first world countries, and the country should be located in a region that is free of environmental / natural disasters (hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, tidal waves, etc.), so communications are never severed or problematic.
  9. Language Compatibility– the language of the country should be suitable for your understanding.
  10. Time Zone Compatibility & Close Location– the time zone of the country should be such that you can contact your offshore provider or financial institution during your normal domestic business hours & fly to the country quickly (same day) if necessary to handle urgent business or financial needs.

After careful research, you will find Panama to be the ideal jurisdiction for your offshore needs, since Panama meets ALL of the above criteria! The Panama corporation law was promulgated over 80 years ago and has since been copied by many of the other tax haven nations. Panama is one of the most popular places in the world to incorporate, with currently over 500,000 registered entities. Panama also offers the Panama Private Interest Foundation, which is one of the most useful asset protection and estate planning vehicles available today.

Panama Offshore Benefits and Advantages

  1. Advantageous Fiscal Platform for Offshore Business:Non-resident offshore Panamanian Corporations (Panama IBC’s) and Private Interest Foundations do not pay tax on offshore income.
  • No income tax of foreign earned income.
  • No capital gains tax (except on sales of real estate located in Panama).
  • No interest income tax.
  • No offshore sales tax.
  • No tax on issuance of corporate shares.
  • No tax to shareholders.
  • No stock sale or transfer tax (except where sale of shares is for transfer of Panama real estate).
  • No capital stock tax.
  • No offshore property tax (except on real estate located in Panama).
  • No estate tax.
  • No gift tax.
  • No stamp tax.
  • No succession tax.
  • No inventory tax.
  • No municipal tax.
  • No state tax.
  • No federal tax.
  1. Panama offers the most favorable and most flexible incorporation laws available in the world.Private Interest Foundations are also available, and are one of the most widely used estate planning structures in the world today.
  • Panama is the registered domicile for over 500,000 corporations & foundations, making it the second most popular jurisdiction to incorporate in the world, next to Hong Kong.
  • Panama does not impose any reporting requirements for non-resident offshore Panamanian corporations.
  • Panama does not allow “piercing the corporate veil”.
  • Panama corporations share certificates can be issued in Nominative or Bearer form (anonymous form of ownership), with or without par value.
  • Panama corporations do not require Paid-In Capital, nor is there a time limit in which authorized capital must be fully paid.
  • Panama corporation’s directors, officers and shareholders may be of any nationality and resident of any country.
  • Neither the directors nor the officers of Panama corporations need to be shareholders.
  • Meetings of directors, officers, and shareholders may be held in any country and accounting books may be kept in any country.
  • It is not necessary for the interested parties to be present in Panama for the purpose of establishing a corporation.
  • Panama offshore corporations conducting business outside of Panama do not require a commercial license for offshore business activities.
  1. Panama’s circulating currency is the US Dollarand Panama has no currency exchange controls or currency restrictions so funds can flow in and out of the country freely.
  • Panama uses the U.S. dollar as its legal tender (currency), instilling tremendous fiscal and monetary discipline while keeping inflation very low – under two percent for the last 40 years.
  • A dollar economy insulates Panama from global economic shocks. During the Asian monetary crisis of 1998, Panama became one of the healthiest economies in Latin America.
  • No currency exchange controls. Panama has no restrictions on monetary remittances abroad, including dividends, interests, branch profits and royalties.
  • No restrictions on funds flowing in or out of the country in any currency.
  1. Panama continues to maintain what we consider to be the most solid banking and corporate book secrecy laws in the world, which are engraved in its’ constitution. It is clear that Panama remains the most secure offshore financial center, where privacy and confidentiality is not only respected, but vigorously protected by constitutional law. Panama has several double taxation treaties, which are beneficial for foreign investment in Panama, however, bank secrecy laws in Panama remain in effect.
  • Panama offers the best bank secrecy laws in the world.
  • Panama offers the best corporate book secrecy laws in the world.
  • There is no such thing as “piercing the corporate veil” in Panama.
  • Revealing banking information to third parties is a crime, punishable by prison.
  • Panama Corporations offer “Bearer Shares”, allowing shareholders to maintain 100% anonymity and privacy.
  • Panama Private Interest Foundations allow for Private Protectorate Documents and Private Letters of Wishes, enabling controllers (Protectors) and beneficiaries of Private Interest Foundations to remain 100% anonymous and private.
  1. Panama has what is considered by government analysts to be the most stable government in all of Central or South America.
  • Democratic government since 1990. The Government of Panama is headed by the executive branch, which is composed of a president and two vice presidents, democratically elected for a five-year term by direct vote.
  • Mireya Moscoso was the Panama’s first female president and led the country at a moment of great historical importance as the Panama Canal began a new era under Panamanian administration.  As of this writing (June 2010), the president is businessman Ricardo Martinelli (whose term will end in 2014), and he is a right wing, pro-business advocate, with commitments to make Panama into “the best place to do business in the world”.
  • The Panamanian military was abolished by constitutional amendment in 1994, and the government still has a unique security arrangement with the U.S. due to the Neutrality Treaty of the Panama Canal. As a result, the risks of going back to the earlier military regime are virtually non-existent (Source: Euromoney Report/Lehman Brothers, Feb. 26, 1999).
  • Stable government with excellent government infrastructure.
  • Pro-business government attitude and policy.
  • Civil law system.
  • Moody’s has issued Panama a sovereign debt ceiling of Ba1 and Standard & Poors has assigned a default-risk rating of BB+.
  • Panama is a peaceful country with no military. Unlike many neighboring countries, personal security concerns are limited. Panama has the lowest crime rate in all of Central and South America.
  1. Panama’s economy is one of the most stable, prosperous, and most advanced in all of Central and South America.

Panama is home to the second largest international distribution and trade center (free trade zone) in the world next to Hong Kong. Panama’s Colon Free Zone has over 1500 international import/export businesses operating within it, receives more than 250,000 visitors yearly, and generates exports and re-exports valued at more than US$11 billion annually.

Panama Visas and Residency Program

Panama offers several permanent residency visa programs.  Foreigners have several options to choose from in order to live permanently in Panama.

Here is a list with a short explanation of every Panama immigration visa that grants permanent residency:

1. Panama Friendly Nations Visa

If you are a citizen from one of the 50 friendly nations listed below and wish to relocate to Panama in order to conduct economic or professional business activities, you can qualify for this fast track permanent residency program:

Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein,  Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Marino, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United States of America, Uruguay, United Kingdom (Great Britain & Northern Ireland).

2. Panama Self Economic Solvency Visa

There are 3 options available to qualify for this unique Panama economic solvency visa created to attract wealthy foreigners to become permanent Panama residents:

  1. a) Make an investment of at least $300,000 USD in Panama real property equity (not counting loans or mortgages amounts).  For every dependent to be included with the visa, an additional $2,000 USD must be invested.  The title can either be in a person’s name or in a Panama Private Interest Foundation (the primary applicant must either be a beneficiary or the creator).  The property cannot be in the name of a Trust or a corporation.  The primary applicant must also show the ability to support the family while living in Panama.
  2. b) Make an investment of at least $300,000 USD in a 3 year Panama bank time deposit (“Certificate of Deposit”).  For each dependent, an additional $2,000 USD
    needs to be invested.  The Panama bank CD can only be in the name of the primary applicant and not in a trust, corporation, or foundation.
  3. c) Combine the first two options by making an investment in both Panama real property and a Panama bank CD where the equity and cash amount total at least $300,000 USD (or foreign currency equivalent).  An additional $2,000 USD must be invested for each dependent.

To learn more about Panama’s Self-Economic Solvency Visa Call us.

3. Panama Business Investor Visa

Foreigners can obtain a Panama Business Investor Visa by investing in a Panama business with at least $160,000 USD in capital stock.  The investor can apply for the visa as an officer or shareholder of the Panama corporation.   An additional $2,000 must be invested per dependent.

To learn more about Panama’s Business Investor Visa call us.

4. Panama Reforestation Investor Visa

Permanent residency leading to full citizenship can be achieved with just a minimum $80,000 USD investment to purchase at least 5 hectares of titled land in a government certified reforestation project.  An additional $2,000 will be needed for each dependent.  Panama reforestation investments have averaged annual returns of 23% over the past 20 years.

Learn more about Panama’s Reforestation Investor Visa 

5. Panama Retired or Pensioned Program

Retirees or people with lifetime annuities or pensions can qualify for the Panama Pensioner Visa, also know as the Panama retirement visa.  This permanent residency visa is for anyone over 18 years of age who obtains monthly pensions or annuities of at least $1,000 USD for the rest of their lives.  An additional $250 per month must be received for each dependent. Married couples can combine their annuities or pensions to meet the minimum requirement.  An exception exists where the primary applicant purchases Panama real estate valued at least $100,000 lowering the monthly minimum to $750.  The annuity or pension can come from a government, its military, a corporation, a bank, an insurance company, a Trust, or private company.  There are many discounts available to card carrying pensioners in Panama including pharmacies, restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, concerts, and domestic airfare.

6. Marry a Panama Citizen

A legal, valid marriage (not a sham) to a Panama citizen can lead to permanent residency. Call us to find out about marrying a Panama citizen.

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Note: This is a small snapshot of the countries of the South and Central America, where we have established legal representatives and law firms assisting us and our clients in obtaining legal and immigration status. We have business, investment and property consultants available to answer all of your questions. Call us with confidence and peace of mind. We guarantee our services to be exceeding your expectations.