Moving to Uruguay
A comprehensive guide to moving to Uruguay
Often overlooked between its larger neighbors Argentina and Brazil, despite its small size Uruguay has a lot to offer to expats. From magnificent beaches to four different seasons, read our guide on moving to Uruguay to learn all about this beautiful country.
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Relocating to Uruguay
- When moving to Uruguay, you need to pack for different weather. While the summers are hot, the winters can get quite cold and the winds should not be underestimated.
- Even though there are some coastal towns which are quite popular amongst retirees from abroad, the capital Montevideo is the place to be. Especially Ciudad Vieja, Carrasco, and Pocitos are very popular with expats.
- Most nationalities can enter Uruguay without a visa. If you do indeed need a visa, be aware that the process can take up to four weeks.
- If you’re only moving to Uruguay for a limited time-frame, the temporary residence permit is the one for you. Otherwise, you’ll need to apply for a permanent residence permit.
- Unlike other countries, you can look for a job in Uruguay on a tourist visa and apply for permanent residence once you have found employment.
Rivers, Plains, and Hills
Crammed in between its considerably larger neighbors Argentina and Brazil, Uruguay is located on the Atlantic Coast of South America. Most of its borders consist of large bodies of water — apart from the Atlantic to the east, there is Rio Uruguay to the west separating the country from Argentina, Rio de la Plata to the South, and a series of small rivers to the north and northeast, forming the border to Brazil. The country’s main attraction for expatriates, Montevideo, is located at roughly the same latitude as Sydney and Cape Town.
Uruguay is mostly dominated by plains and low hill ranges, and can be described as a combination of Argentina’s pampas and the highlands of southern Brazil. There are no extreme points of elevation; Uruguay’s highest peak, Cerro Catedral, has an elevation of some 510 m. While hikers and nature enthusiasts might be somewhat disappointed with the lack of natural sights, sun worshippers will be in heaven with the many towns and beach resorts on the Atlantic Coast.
Prepare for Four Different Seasons
Uruguay is located in the temperate climate zone. Those among you who think of life in South American countries as an endless series of 35°C days might want to think again: while Uruguay does get hot in summer (December – March), its seasons are fairly well defined with windy springs, warm summers, mild autumns, and actual winters. Yearly averages are between ca. 12°C and 21.5°C.
While there is little reason to pack for frosty days, you might want to hold on to your sweater and windproof jacket as winters do get quite chilly and humid. The latter item is particularly important when moving to Uruguay: as the landscape does not feature much in the way of mountains or forest and is mostly used for agriculture, strong winds are common and the weather can change very quickly. Rain is common throughout the year.
Uruguay’s Expat Hotspot
For all intents and purposes, Montevideo is the place to be for expats moving to Uruguay. More than half the population lives in the city’s greater metropolitan area where you’ll find job opportunities in most sectors. While there are a number of coastal towns, such as Punta del Este, which are fairly popular with retirees from abroad, chances are that Montevideo will be the top destination for your expat adventure in Uruguay.
While there are no real “expat neighborhoods”, there are three areas which do stand out: Cuidad Vieja, Carrasco, and Pocitos are popular with the international crowd and well-to-do Uruguayans. Rent there might be quite steep even for expats with generous remuneration packages. We recommend looking for temporary accommodation and exploring the city after you move to Uruguay — the neighborhoods mentioned above are only three of more than 60, so you can find your perfect fit.
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Uruguay: Visas and Residency
Residents of many countries can enter Uruguay without having to apply for a visa beforehand. The Dirección Nacional de Migración offers a complete overview of visa requirements on their homepage. If you do indeed need a visa, please allow up to four weeks for your application to be processed. You will need to submit the following:
- completed and signed application form
- passport valid for at least six months after your arrival in Uruguay
- passport-sized photo
- photocopy of your round trip ticket
- consular fee (42 USD)
Passing Through or Putting Down Roots?
There are two types of residence permits available to expatriates in Uruguay: temporary and permanent. The requirements are fairly similar for both and the application processes start at the Dirección Nacional de Migración in Montevideo, where you have to bring the required documents to in person. Uruguay does not distinguish between work and residence permits, so there is one less thing to worry about.
Unlike the immigration legislation in other expat destinations, it is perfectly legal to come to Uruguay without a job offer, and stay indefinitely once you have found employment or can prove you can afford to live there — provided the process does not take longer than the duration your tourist visa is valid for. This means that Uruguay may prove to be a viable option for expats-to-be trying to get things done on their own. Of course, you will not have to worry about this if you get posted to Uruguay by your employer in your home country.
Below are general requirements for both types of residence permits:
- one passport-sized photo
- health certificate issued by the Health Department of Uruguay
- police clearance certificate from the country you last lived in
- birth certificate
- entry/departure card
- original and copy of your passport
All foreign documents must be apostilled and, if applicable, translated into English. As the entire process of getting either kind of permit is handled in Spanish, most institutions require you to bring an interpreter if you are lacking the necessary language skills. While it is possible to handle everything yourself, some people might still be more comfortable with the support of an immigration lawyer. You should not have too hard a time finding a capable professional via an online search.
For more detailed information in English, please see the website of the Uruguayan Embassy in the US.
Just Passing Through
If you already know what you will be doing in Uruguay, e.g. if you are being sent abroad by your employer or want to conduct research in the country, you might want to opt for the temporary residence permit. Of the seven permit categories, category 1 is the one most pertinent to expatriates. With this permit, you can live and work in Uruguay for a maximum of four years.
Apart from the requirements listed above, you need to submit a signed statement from the Uruguayan branch office of your company indicating your position, duties, and monthly salary. If your employer is a private enterprise, they will also have to supply detailed information on the company itself. Again, the Uruguayan embassy has all details readily available on their website.
Putting Down Roots
This process is more long-winded, but also gives you the opportunity to get to know the country before you actually have to decide whether or not you want to live and work in Uruguay. If your fact-finding trip (by virtue of your tourist visa) ends with an employment offer and a real interest in staying in Uruguay, your journey begins at the Dirreción Nacional de Migración in Montevideo.
There you will have to submit a “letter of motivation”. Apart from basics such as your nationality, passport number, and date of entry, you have to state why you’d like to be a resident, where you live, and how you intend to pay for your stay (this is where your employment offer comes in handy). If your application is accepted, and the criminal background check is filed, you will shortly be the proud holder of a temporary cédula (ID card). With this temporary ID you actually already have all the rights of a “full” resident even though the permanent ID is only given after the procedure is completed. Congratulations!