The process of gaining residency in Uruguay is relatively simple, and often a primary reason for people to choose to move to Uruguay, over other destinations. It’ll take about six to 10 months to gain residency, and three to five years to obtain citizenship and a Uruguayan passport. The key benefit of having a Uruguayan passport is that it allows for visa-free travel to all of Latin America and several European countries.
To begin the process of applying for residency you need to obtain all necessary documents abroad, enter Uruguay as a tourist, then submit an application to the Dirección Nacional de Migración, or “DNM.” If you are a citizen of any OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) country—that is the U.S., Canada, Japan, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand—or from a South American country, you won’t need to acquire an entry visa prior to your flight to Uruguay. Upon entering Uruguay, you will be granted a tourist permit to stay for 90 days.
To apply for residency, you’ll need the following documents. Again, it is recommended that you gather these before you leave for Uruguay.
1) Your birth certificate (stamped by the Uruguayan consulate in your country of birth)
2) A marriage certificate (if the applicants are married)
3) A clean police record from the country of origin and from those countries where you resided in the past five years (for U.S. citizens, this document is obtained in Uruguay, at the local Interpol office)
4) Proof that you can support yourself throughout the residency process (this is also referred to as the “income requirement”).
The income requirement is fulfilled by proving that you have a yearly income of at least US $6,000. This can be demonstrated in a number of ways, including: a pension, a mutual fund, lease income from an asset inside or outside Uruguay, dividends of any nature, or a wage.
Uruguay’s immigration authorities scrutinize this requirement thoroughly, so the key is to prove it correctly, leaving no doubt to the authenticity and permanent/semi-permanent nature of the income source. Your proof of income will need to be certified by a notary in Uruguay. Before submitting it, work with your immigration lawyer to ensure that your proof of income statement is properly worded.
It is important to note that Uruguay does not require that you own property or have investments in the country, in order to grant residency. On the other hand, owning property does not eliminate the income requirement.
After gathering the necessary documents you will enter Uruguay as a tourist and file the request on a pre-appointed date, at the immigration authority (Dirección Nacional de Migración, or “DNM”, located in the Old City at Misiones 1513; tel. 916-04-71; website:
http://www.dnm.minterior.gub.uy/). From the moment you apply for residency, you may stay in Uruguay indefinitely, and even request a national identification (la cedula), which allows you to travel passport-less to Argentina, Chile, and Paraguay.
Citizenship and Second Passport
After five years of having filed for residency (three in the case of families) you can apply for citizenship. This is done at Uruguay’s “Electoral Court”. The requirement is that you have Uruguayan residency and a permanent connection with the country with no absence for more than six straight months, for three/five years (this is proved with documents and witnesses). The citizenship application process is quick, and usually citizenship is granted within three months of your request.
Uruguay allows multiple citizenship.
Citizenship for retirees (fast-track to passport)
A special law that applies to retirees with a government pension of over US$18,000 per year guarantees a Uruguayan passport more rapidly. For those who apply for residency under this law, a passport is granted after a year to eighteen months (normally 18 months). But the hurdles and requirements are higher: besides the fact that your income must be from an official pension, and at least US$18,000 per year, you must also own a property in Uruguay valued at US$100,000 or more. This law also allows you to bring in your car tax-free, but this is not recommended, since bureaucratic delays can make the process very expensive.