Friday, December 3, 2010

Uruguay!

It's -5 C (21 F) this morning and as I'm shivering over my morning coffee, I'm asking the question all of us ask sooner or later: "why the hell didn't I move to Uruguay?" Currently the weather in Montevideo is 21 C, or 70 F. I could be looking forward to a leisurely day at work before strolling down to the beach and enjoying the sun.

Montevideo - Uruguay
Montevideo, Uruguay
Photo by Roberto Tietzmann
By why bring up Uruguay? First, I've discovered that for many Americans, when they say "I'd love to live in another country", they're silently adding the word "in Europe" to that. I live in Europe because there's a lot of work in my field here and I also have a lot of relatives here. That being said, if I had to do it all over again, I'd seriously look at Uruguay. There are plenty of other exciting opportunities for moving abroad, but since so many Americans keep hearing about Europe, the other possibilities get ignored. Fortunately that attitude seems to be changing and I'll be doing my best to help with that.

The Law

Here's one of the main reasons you want to consider Uruguay: any foreign visitor can apply for a residence permit. In fact, Uruguay is becoming well-known amongst expats for its ease of entry. Show up on a tourist visa, prove a steady income, apply for residency. It's a touch more involved than that (such as proving you have no criminal record), but honestly, it's one of the easiest countries to immigrate to. One Peter Stross on a Uruguayan expat web site listed the legal steps you need to apply for residency.

  1. Certified copy of Birth Certificate, duly legalized by Uruguayan Consulate closest to or at place of birth.
  2. Certified copy of Marriage Certificate (if applicable), duly legalized by Uruguayan Consulate closest to or at place of marriage.
  3. Certified copy of Divorce Sentence (only applicable, if applicant is divorced and has intentions to get married again), duly legalized by Uruguayan Consulate closest to or at place of divorce (please ask for more specifications if this is the case)
  4. In case of minors doing the process alone or with only one of the parents, please ask before travelling.
  5. Good Conduct Certificate issued by country’s National Police (i.e. FBI for U.S.) of country of birth, duly legalized by Uruguayan Consulate closest to or at place of residency.
  6. Good Conduct Certificate issued by country’s National Police (i.e. FBI for U.S.) where applicant has lived for the past 5 years (if several countries, than from each country), duly legalized by Uruguayan Consulate closest to or at place of residency.
  7. In case that you have a Police Record, prove of accomplished sentence, duly legalized by the corresponding Uruguayan Consulate.
Montevideo: Architecture-Different styles
Beautiful Architecture
Photo by Christian Ostrosky
There's a bit more, such as proof of income. They don't want beggars moving there, obviously. That page states it's $6,000 a year ($500 a month), but I've heard they've increased this to a bit over $600 a month. You'll have to check. You are apparently also allowed to seek work there, so you could meet the income requirement by simply taking local employment in your field. Added bonus: while speaking Spanish is a huge plus, many in Montevideo (the capital) speak English and many expats take jobs there without ever learning the language.

Warning: I am not a lawyer and you'll have to do your own research. For example, you can't buy a one-way ticket. Your return ticket can be for a few months out, but you must have it (doesn't mean you have to use it).

Why Uruguay?

Just because you can immigrate somewhere doesn't mean you'd want to (think "Somalia"). What's so compelling about Montevideo that you'd want to live there?
Just recently my former employer released an article about Uruguayan immigration today. Bounded by an economically prosperous Brazil to the north and a struggling Argentina to the West, Uruguay is enjoying very low unemployment levels and very high rates of growth. Today it's one of the most politically and economically stable countries in South America.

Carnival?
Photo by Vince Alongi
It's fair to say that Uruguay is a rather tolerant society. They've permitted gay civil unions and gay adoption (the first Latin American country to do so) and are known for being a rather secular country for South America. But they're not just open-minded, they're far-sighted, too. Did you know that every single primary student in Uruguay has been given a free laptop by the government?

Of course, they're also very green, have fantastic freedom of the press and extremely low corruption:


All things considered, Uruguay is a very tempting target. Great infrastructure, great economy, low corruption, very green, very tolerant. I think more and more Americans are going to start hearing about it and heading down there.
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