Uruguay is the second smallest nation by land mass in South America, just behind Suriname and is situated on the southeastern coast of South America, with a humid subtropical climate. While there are four distinct seasons, the overall ranges in temperature are fairly tame and the climate is generally quite temperate. Aside from the mild weather, there is a distinct lack of natural disasters.
Almost half of the population of Uruguay lives in Montevideo, the capital, with about 1.8 million people. The total population of Uruguay is about 3.5 million people making it the tenth smallest country in South America, just in front of Suriname, French Guiana and the Falkland Islands being the smallest.
Map of Uruguay
The people are friendly, the food is delicious, and you can even enjoy some legal recreational marijuana if that is your thing. Uruguay was the first country in the world to legalize marijuana, way back in 2013.
Uruguay was also ranked #1 in Latin America by the World Justice Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the rule of law. According to World Justice, Uruguay scored highly on fundamental rights, restrictions on government power, and the absence of government corruption.
The Heritage Institution also ranked Uruguay as the 34th economically freest country in the world, narrowly behind the United States and ahead of Japan, Belgium, and Spain.
What’s really great about Uruguay is the fact that lesbians and gay rights are among the most advanced in both Latin America and in fact, the world.
- Same-sex sexual activity has been legal with an equal age of consent since 1934.
- Anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people have been in place since 2004.
- Civil unions for same-sex couples have been allowed since 2008 and same-sex marriages since 2013, in accordance with the nation's same-sex marriage law passed in early 2013.
- Additionally, same-sex couples have been allowed to jointly adopt since 2009 and gays, lesbians and bisexuals are allowed to serve openly in the military.
Americas Quarterly named Uruguay the most LGBT-friendly country in Latin America, calling the nation "a model for social inclusion in Latin America" in 2016. It also hosted the first international LGBT rights conference in the region in July 2016, with hundreds of diplomats, politicians and activists from around the world addressing LGBT issues. A large majority of Uruguayans support same-sex marriage.
If you’re looking to live in Uruguay, whether as a permanent resident or a temporary resident, keep reading.
Cobblestone streets in Uruguay
The first step in applying for Uruguayan residency is to enter Uruguay on a tourist visa. After you have done that, you need to head on over to the Direccion Nacional de Migracion which is the government agency responsible for residency approval. Of course, you are going to have to have some documentation, here are the requirements:
- Your birth certificate. You will need to get it apostilled (basically a seal of approval to make sure it is legit) in your home country, and if you are from a place where Spanish is not the national language, then you will have to get it translated by a licensed translator in Uruguay.
- Apostilled marriage certificate, if applicable. Again the translation requirement applies.
- Up-to-date proof of clean criminal record, including your home country and any other country where you have resided in the last five years. Like the other documents, this one must also be apostilled and translated.
- Proof of income totalling at least $1,500 USD a month being paid into an Uruguayan bank account, or more if you have a family with you. This can be from a pension, income from rental properties, work income, etc.
- Your passport
- A photo of yourself
- Proof of vaccination for measles, mumps, rubella, and tetanus.
- A health card, which you can get at a hospital, clinic, or government facility.
- Clean bill of health, issued by the Health Department of Uruguay
Related content: The Basics Of How To Get A Second Passport Or A Second Residency
It is important to note that permanent residency is restricted to people who actively intend to live in Uruguay. To that ends, when applying for permanent residency, immigration officials will want to see that you have spent a significant amount of time in Uruguay since you entered. Once you have permanent residency you are free to come and go as you please, however, if you are gone from Uruguay for more than three years your residency will be revoked.
An alternative to permanent residency is temporary residency. Temporary residence allows you to stay in Uruguay for two years, which can be renewed once for a total of four years of residency.
- Health card issued by the Ministry of Public health (this can also be obtained at a private clinic for a fee)
- Proof of MMR and tetanus vaccinations
- Documentation that corresponds to the type of temporary residency application you are making. For a student that would be proof of enrollment in a university or college, as well as a demonstration (bank statement or other proof) of financial means, whereas if you are applying on the basis of employment then you would need a letter of employment, including monthly pay to demonstrate financial solvency.
- Proof of no criminal record.
Independence Square, Montevideo, Uruguay
path to citizenship
Legal citizenship can be applied for if you are over eighteen and have three years of residency if you have family in Uruguay, or five years of residency if you do not. In addition to the residency requirement, you must either be professionally employed in “some science, art, or industry” or own some capital (shares in a business) or property.
In order to apply for citizenship, you must appear before the Electoral court. They will want to see proof of your right to reside in Uruguay, that your ability to speak Spanish is good, documentation concerning your nationality, age and identity, as well as proof of residence. And they will want to also test less tangible things like your belief in democratic ideals, your good behaviour while in Uruguay so far, and ties you might have to Uruguay. Applying for citizenship is free.
tax implications of Uruguayan residency
If you spend more than half the year in Uruguay, you may become a tax resident there. Uruguay has a territorial tax system, so you do not have to pay any tax there on income earned overseas. Only income sourced from within the country is taxed, so this can be a tremendous advantage when it comes to tax planning if you have a lot of foreign-sourced income. Uruguay has tight bank secrecy laws and a number of free trade zones that entrepreneurs can take advantage of.
Uruguay does have a progressive income tax that caps out at 31% so it is not by any means a completely tax-free country. If you start a business, then you must also pay contributions based on your employees’ salaries towards social security and other programs at a rate of 12.625%. And there is a flat capital gains tax of 12%. There is also a general VAT of 22%, with a reduced rate of 10% for more essential items like food, medical supplies, and services from hotels.
Uruguay also has a wealth tax, but it is only applicable to your holdings in Uruguay. So any property that you own in Uruguay will be subject to this tax, although there is an exemption of 4,937,000 pesos or around $123,000 USD for a single individual or $246,000 for a couple. And if the property in question is your principal residence, then the tax is only levied at 50% of the property’s value.
Churrasco BBQ in Uruguay
why move to Uruguay
There are many reasons why people move to Uruguay. One of the most compelling reasons is its stable political system, as it’s known as one of the least corrupt countries in Latin America.
Even though Spanish is the official language, and you will have to be able to read and write it to get citizenship, as mentioned above, English is widely spoken throughout the country, especially by the younger generations.
Uruguay has no official religion and guarantees religious freedom to all of its citizens. Anyone can own property in Uruguay. There are no restrictions that only allow citizens to purchase in a specific area. And as mentioned, food is abundant everywhere. Uruguayans produce enough food to feed their country 10x’s over.