The road to immigration in Uruguay

07 September, 2013 — Platschi

"Uruguay is one of the few countries in the world, where it is still easily possible to immigrate."

Phrases like these, or similar, one can find plentyful all over the internet. Indeed, it seems easy to get a residency or working permit for Uruguay, but unfortunately, bureaucracy is always just a stone's throw away. At least, we have to admit, there's barely any physical fighting included, unlike in Moldovan offices.

Let's use this article to give a short guide regarding the residency progress in the (Southern) winter 2013. One side note: The process is as individual as it can be for each person, depending on previous places of living, nationality, marital status, and so on. Anyway, most documents need to be collected by each human anyway.

Our situation was as following: We booked a one-way ticket from Germany to Montevideo, without knowing if we will like the country or have the wish to stay long-term, or travel further or back to Europe after a visit to the continent. Top priority, at first, was to learn a new language and get to know the culture on the continent. And, of course, go hitchhiking. All options open, so to say. Nevertheless, in case, we prepared the documents needed beforehand in Germany, Russia and Moldova. Below, I will only talk mostly about my personal progress as a German citizen, as in case of Maria, documents were somewhat more difficult to collect, given the fact she was born in a state that does not exist anymore since about 22 years.

After three months in Uruguay, once our tourist visa ran out, we decided to extend those for another three months and started the residency/work permit progress, due to the fact that I found a local job just about a week before the visa deadline ran out. To do so, one visits one of the many Migraciones offices in the country, pays a fee (550$ in June 2013, all prices in UYU) and is allowed to stay three more months. Somehow, the woman behind the desk confound things and set the date to September 2014, instead of 2013. Nice move on her part, so to say.

Now, for the job, I needed a cédula de identidad / work permit as soon as possible. From now on, things went fast. Oh wait, as fast as it might be possible in Uruguay, Read yourself.

The progress of residency/working permit can be divided into three parts:


In my case, as a German national, collecting documents was quite easy. Back in Europe, I needed to collect the following items:

  • Official birth certificate with apostille
  • Official German Führungszeugnis [criminal record certificate] in its standard version with apostille
  • Official marriage certificate with apostille
  • Vaccination card (international) incl. necessary vaccionations (see carné de salud)

Once in Uruguay, all documents need to be translated into Spanish by a Uruguayan state-certified translator for your specific language. Again, there are quite some German official translators to be found in Uruguay. Russian as well, but it was quite some task to find an official translator for the Moldovan language, which (more or less, in fact) is the same as Romanian. But also that is possible.

Next to the translations, I needed two documents from my employer:

  • An official document, written and signed by an escribano, which states that company X employs me, including my name, address, salary, marital status, and so on.
  • A second official document by the escribano, stating that above mentioned company X actually officially exists.

Both documents needed a timbre (official stamp) which can be easily obtained at the RedPagos offices, as long as one knows that they are possible to obtain there. This is where things went loco, but more on that during step 2. At last, a few other documents needed to be obtained on the spot:

  • Two (passport) photos of yourself
  • Two photocopies of your identity document (passport)
  • Two photocopies of the Uruguayan entry-visa in your passport
  • Constancia de domicilio
  • Carné de Salud (Residencia)

The constancia de domicilio is a document stating that you live at a specific address in Uruguay. This document can be obtained at the local police office. In Maldonado, I obtained it within 5 minutes (after the officer misspelled my surname and thought that the nationality field in the passport tells him my first name... no, my name is not Deutsch). It's fun, though, and the folks in the office were very friendly. And it was the cheapest document in the whole progress, as they charged about 24$ (~1 USD) if I remember correctly. Officially, one needs to show any official document stating that you own or rent the property you live in, but somehow nobody was interested in it.

The carné de salud is a health certificate one can obtain within 24 hours in Maldonado. For this, I went to the laboratorio BIO Este. It's quite expensive (about 1100$), and one should not forget to mention that you need the document for residencia. Don't forget to bring (two?) passport photos! Also, they asked for a copy (better two) of your vaccionation card. Somehow, they accepted Maria's card which was completely in Russian, after I translated the necessary vaccionations into their more readable latin name. Thus, don't panic if your card is not international and approved by a dozen officials. You need to be sober to go there, but the progress doesn't take you more than one hour. Later, one receives two plastic cards which function as your personal health card, of which one has the title residencia, which you need to give to the official at Migraciones.

This should be the preparation step. Now, it's up to you to walk into Migraciones. Our choice as naturally the office in Maldonado.

Red tape

Now, we went into Migraciones and waited until the official was willing to talk with us. Office hours are somewhat strange (12.30-17.30h, but already at 17:00 they told us that there were about to close so we shold come back next day), thus be prepared. All you do, in fact, is ask for an appointment, and most likely you will get one in about a week time.

Once our documents were checked, a big surprise. Some Spanish words on the official escribano document (you remember, issued thanks to my employment) which I cannot recall were not on it's correct position, and the official lady took out a small piece of paper and checked whatever words needed to be changed in order to fit her administrative needs. One might expect an official escribano to apply and issue the official documents needed correctly, but hey, it's Uruguay, and most likely he was more busy drinking yerba than actually caring about official documents.

A strict NO from the official worker at Migraciones followed, thus back to the escribano, trying to explain whatever wording needs to be changed, waiting for about a week or two to finally picking up the new document. This time just to discover that my surname was misspelled all over the documents. So, for what reason I gave the escribano a copy of my passport to crib my surname correctly? Whatever, no risk no fun, I thought, and went back to Migraciones. This time, the official found the word she was so eagerly looking for in the document, and luckily for me, in her euphoria she forgot to read through the rest of it and oversaw my misspelled name. Also, she was interested in my parents names and birthdates, and somehow mixed up the countries of Alemania and Albania, so one document I had to sign stated that I was from Albania. Well, same continent, yes, but not that close. So, be aware and read through all documents twice before signing them. Don't even trust in any possible professionalism on their side.

Finally, after giving all(!) my fingerprints - using a metal plate and a lot of ink - on a dirty piece of paper, all I received in the end was another small piece of paper, this time stating in big letters my (correctly spelled) name, after being corrected two times, as well as the words: Residencia en tramite. Yeah! And now what?


Now, I was officially in progress of residence and are allowed to stay up to one year in the country, until the Migraciones office calls me (maybe in 5 to 8 months, they let me know) again. But, to round things up, one still needs the document I came for in the first place, the cédula. For this, one needs to go to the DNIC (Dirección Nacional Identificación Civil).

So, in my enthousiasm, I took my passport, the residencia en tramite piece of paper, and went to the DNIC, just to discover that I need to take some magic number and wait in line. The next free number was available in a few weeks, so I left disappointed. Thanks to my colleagues I found out that I can go to Abitab, pay about 200$ and receive a numero / an appointment at DNIC about three weeks later. Remember, once obtaining the residencia en tramite scrap of paper, one has about 4 weeks time to do the paperwork at DNIC. At least they told me so, but hey, it's Uruguay, one again, so don't panic.

In the meantime, I sent my wife to Montevideo, because later on, one needs some sort of Uruguayan birth certificate, which can be only done at the Registro Civil (seccion extranjeros!) in Montevideo. To obtain this mystical birth certificate, she needed to submit to the Registro my officially translated, apostilled birth certificate. Be aware that you will never get it back, so in case you still have your age-old certificate, at the beginning (see step 1) get a duplicate of your birth certificate and let it sign, stamp and double-sign by whatever authorities needed to be sufficient for the Registro Civil. Same story for the marriage certificate, by the way. Also, don't forget to make copies of these documents, especially the translation. We didn't, which was a mistake.

Once done that, Maria got told that she can call the Registro Civil in about 4 weeks to ask them to send me the certificate. She got another small piece of paper attached to a copy of the birth certificate, which seemed to be enough for the DNIC. At least, that's what the official in Montevideo told her. Thus, I went to the DNIC for the long-awaited appointment, just to discover that the ladies eagerly wanted, next to the copy of the birth certificate, of course, also its translation. I tried to convince them that I only had one copy and that the Registro Civil already put it in their pockets, but again, a strict NO!, and I had to leave once more disappointed.

At least, the official translator for German, Frau Woelke, who offered a fast, reliable and excellent translation service (thumbs up!), was so nice to send me by e-mail a copy of the birth certificate translation, which was sufficient for the ladies at DNIC the next time I visited them. At least, the appointment was not cancelled, and I could walk in at any moment (about a week later) and do the process nearly immediately.

Now, finally, the cédula. Well, not yet. The DNIC officials took a photo of me, took again all(!) fingerprints possible on their beloved ink metal plate thingy, just to let me know that I could obtain the cédula after 7 days. A week later, thus, I went to the office, and for unknown reasons I went through the same process again. Something went wrong, they probably lost my cédula on the way, but I was relaxed (Uruguayo style) and let it wash over me. Thus, again, one week to wait, just to discover that the following week, again, something was wrong, no explanation given, and I need to do the fingerprint and photo story for a third time. This time, I switched to German mode and angrily complained about the incompetence and mess they produce, which seemed to be a novelty to those Uruguayan officials. Well now, some head of the office joined us, documents were filled in again with Miss Oversight checking everything carefully, and finally, about a week later, my wife was able to pick up the cédula for me without much of a hassle.

Final words

To round things up, immigrating/residency/obtaining a work permit to/in Uruguay is quite easy, as long as one keeps calm and try to figure out what exactly is needed each time one visits the offices. Ask several times, and one time more, if all documents are correct, more is needed, and then again, and what's next, because they won't tell you otherwise. A basic level of Spanish is mandatory, otherwise, the whole immigration process can be hazardous.

My advice is to not necessarily use one of those expensive immigration helpers but do it yourself, as all information in fact can be obtained for free online* or through different forums and websites. There are also plenty of friendly folks to help you out there, as e.g. in the +Uruguay Expat Life community. And, it's much more fun, improves your own knowledge of how things work in the new country of your choice. Last but not least, one has a mouth to talk with, and without the will to learn at least a basic repertoire of the local language - Spanish - one should seriously considering staying where one lives or move to a place where the official language coincides with your own native tongue.

*Website DNM Uruguay

Tags: english, südamerika, uruguay