Uruguay, the little South American country known for its productive farmland and beautiful beaches, is growing in popularity as a place to live and work.
While Uruguay does not offer work visas as you find in other countries, you will find three straightforward strategies to work legally in the country: The provisional identity card, temporary residence, and permanent residence.
The one that is right for you will likely depend on the length of time you plan to live and work in Uruguay.
If you are a national of one of 65+ countries (which includes people from the UK, most of Europe, North America, Australia, South Africa, Japan, South Korea, and much of Latin America) you are free to enter Uruguay without a visa, regardless if your intention is to come as a tourist, to study, or to work.
If you are from a country that requires a visa (which includes China, India, Russia, and most Middle East countries) you must apply to the relevant Uruguayan consulate. You must show a copy of the job offer, but will then be given a visa in a standard format which will entitle you to enter the country within 90 days.
Once you've entered Uruguay, it's time to move forward with one of the following possibilities.
1 Provisional Identity Card—for jobs lasting up to six months
This is a special form of ID card for temporary workers. It is valid for up to six months. After six months, no extensions are available.
You can apply for a provisional identity card before arriving in Uruguay. Once you have all the necessary documents in order, it usually takes about 10 days for the application to be processed and approved.
The most important requirement is to have a written job offer from a Uruguayan company or from a foreign company with a registered Uruguayan subsidiary. The letter must state the details of the job being offered as well as the start and end date (with a maximum of 180 days' working).
The letter must be signed by the employer and accompanied by a notarial certificate confirming that the company is legally in existence and that the person signing has the appropriate authority to sign.
In addition the employee must bring a certified and legalized/apostilled copy of their birth certificate.
In Uruguay, this type of ID is the closest thing to what could be considered a work visa in other countries. With this document, it is possible for the company to register the employee with the relevant local authorities – social security and labour ministry – and in this way, work completely legally.
If you want to stay for longer than six months, then you can change category to either temporary or permanent resident, as below.
2 Temporary Residence—for a work period from six months to two years
For workers coming to the country for between 6-24 months, it is possible to apply for temporary residence, which can be extended for a further 2 years.
It is a relatively straight forward process which takes around 2 months to complete. There are different requirements for Mercosur nationals (from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Venezuela) and Non-Mercosur nationals (from all other countries).
The difference between the two is that Mercosur nationals do not need to show any proof of income, just their birth certificate and a police record report.
Non-Mercosur applicants must show they have means to support themselves. In the case of somebody coming here with a specific job offer, then the requirement is to show the terms of that job offer, as per the provisional identity card above, together with the notarial certificate.
As an employee, if you wish to ship a container of your personal belongings from your previous home to Uruguay, you can. However, you must pay a customs bond the amount of which is based on the approximate value of those goods and this bond is unreturnable – even when they leave and take all their belongings with them.
The advantage of obtaining temporary residence status is that one gets a full Uruguayan ID card (cedula) and that the process is easy and quick. If you decide you want to stay in Uruguay longer, you can apply for a change of status to permanent resident.
3 Permanent Residence—to work in Uruguay for two or more years
As of two years ago, the procedures for Mercosur and Non-Mercosur nationals were separated. This was because of the delays in getting an appointment at the Immigration Office. So, it was decided to have a different, fast-track procedure for Mercosur nationals using the Foreign Affairs Office, rather than the Immigration Office.
- The process for non-Mercosur applicants (from countries besides Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Venezuela)
For Non-Mercosur applicants, the procedure is first to make an appointment at the Immigration Office which currently takes around four months to get. Then, if there are no objections, an application will be approved in a minimum of 8-12 months.
This is a big improvement over the last few years (mainly because the Mercosur applicants have been moved to the Foreign Office). It used to take at least 2 years and often a lot longer if the documents were not in order.
- The process for Mercosur nationals (from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Venezuela)
However, this "fast-track" procedure for Mercosur nationals has proved so popular it now takes longer for Mercosur applicants to get an appointment date than non-Mercosur applicants, who still apply at the Immigration Office.
It is currently impossible for Mercosur applicants to get a date, as the 2017 diary is full and the 2018 diary has not yet been opened yet. The Foreign Office simply does not have the resources to deal with the large number of applicants (applications have increased from 613 in 2014, 6919 in 2015 and up to 8098 in 2016).
However, once a Mercosur applicant can get a date, the procedure is simpler and easier than that for Non-Mercosur applicants. At present, it takes about six to eight months to deal with an application.
For Mercosur nationals who need to get an ID card and cannot afford to wait indefinitely for an appointment, the best solution available at present is to apply for temporary residence at the Immigration Office, as per the previous section.
Many people are having to do this, which is also leading to increasing backlogs again at the Immigration Office.
The documentary requirements for permanent residence are detailed in many publicly available websites, but you should check that these are updated.
Getting an initial residency application appointment in Uruguay is taking longer due to Uruguay's growing popularity, especially among nationals from Mercosur countries.
With that said, Uruguay remains a country where it is possible for people from many parts of the world to come to live and work with relatively few restrictions and there is no discrimination based on nationality.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.