How to Get Uruguay Citizenship (and Why you May Fail)

Written by Andrew Henderson
i

Dateline: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Central and South America are often noted as the easiest countries to get citizenship, and for good reason.

Programs like Panama’s Friendly Nations Visa program allows for almost any westerner to become an instant permanent resident of the country and apply for naturalization after five years.

Other countries also offer easy immigration programs for anyone with a nominal income or savings; from Nicaragua to Paraguay to even Guatemala, the Americas are a flexible place for getting a second citizenship.

One other country has a history of being an easy country to get citizenship: Uruguay.

Located deep in South America, Uruguay is a relative bastion of economic freedom, especially when compared to regional neighbors like Argentina and Bolivia. Banks in Uruguay are of good quality and while opening a bank account has gotten harder, it is not a bad place to deposit cash.

In fact, Uruguay doesn’t even feel like South America; beach towns like Punta del Este go crazy in the southern hemisphere’s summer months as rich Brazilians and Argentines flood the beaches just as the jet-set elite flood Monaco in European summer.

Benefits of a Uruguayan passport

Due to its close historical ties with Europe, Uruguay not only feels a lot like Europe, it has some of the benefits of a high-class second passport.

In fact, Uruguay and parts of Santiago, Chile are among the few places in South America that feel most “civilized”. Of course, with the feeling of living in Europe comes the downside of a higher cost of living.

For that, the Uruguay passport is a rather good travel document, allowing the customary passport-free access to all of South America and MERCOSUR as well as visa-free access to Europe’s Schengen Area.

For four years at the beginning of the century, Uruguay citizens even enjoyed “visa-free” access to the United States via ESTA. The fact that Uruguay has among the highest incomes per capita in the Americas helped make that possible.

A Uruguayan passport no longer grants such access, but with very high visa approval numbers, Uruguay is once again a “roadmap country” being considered for visa-free access to the US again.

In short, Uruguay has a good passport. Add that to a friendly tax regime and you’ve got a sure-fire winner for your second passport… or so you’d think.

How to get second citizenship in Uruguay

The road to Uruguay citizenship starts the same way the road to other Latin citizenships does: getting second residency and letting the hourglass sift away.

Second residency in Uruguay is relatively straightforward; anyone with a decent monthly income can qualify, although the minimum amounts are higher than in Central American countries due to the higher cost of living.

Once residency is obtained, you are expected to relocate to Uruguay. Uruguay immigration officials are more strict about this than other countries like Panama; they actually want to see you living there.

Married couples are at an advantage when obtaining residency in Uruguay, as “families” are invited to apply for naturalization as soon as three years after residency is obtained. Single residents must wait five years to apply.

That puts the Uruguay residency program on par with Panama, Nicaragua, and many European countries in terms of wait time for single filers, and on par with Paraguay for those who are married or have families. In fact, Uruguay is among the fastest ways to get a second passport.

But no so fast.

Uruguay imposes steep physical presence requirements that countries such as Paraguay do not. My contacts who have Uruguay residency tell me that they were expected to spend at least 9-10 months in the country in their first year.

That means any business trips, trips to see family, or leisure travel must be jammed into two months in the first year. On an ongoing basis, Uruguay Immigration expects you to be physically present in the country for at least six months.

Applying for Uruguay citizenship requires that you show proof that the country is your center of life. This proof can border on the arcane, as judges and immigration officials have requested library cards, receipts from doctor appointments, or proof of country club memberships.

In short, Uruguay is NOT the place to fly in, get a cedula, and come back every once in a while before applying for naturalization.

In fact, it may not be the place to obtain a second citizenship even if you’re willing to live there. There is no doubt that Uruguay has some beautiful cities and is a charming place to live, but recent accounts have suggested that not even those who have obviously made the place their only home can become Uruguay citizens.

I know of two accounts in which families have spent several years in country – foregoing leaving for worry of having their citizenship prospects diminished – only to be turned down by judges and an immigration system that used circular logic on them.

Sadly, Uruguay is not the best country to get a second passport. Yes, the requirements are relatively straightforward and anyone of even modest success can meet them.

The challenge is that Uruguay has started to develop a reputation for not naturalizing foreigners who ask for it based on the guidelines. And if you’re Chinese or Arabic, forget it; you’ll never become Uruguayan.

I frequently tell people that you can’t view any residency program as a guarantee of future citizenship. Countries can change their laws at any time. They can also do what Uruguay appears to have started doing, which is to simply not enforce their law in a way that works against you.

If South America is a place you’d like to live, but you want the comforts of home, obtaining residency in Uruguay may not be a bad idea. It is possible to live there full-time and still pay no tax on worldwide income for your first five years, making it a great flag to plant as your primary residence in many cases.

If you’re seeking a passport, however, you’d be better off in Chile if you’re willing to spend time on the ground, and Panama, Paraguay, or elsewhere if you’re less flexible.

Andrew Henderson
Last updated: Dec 28, 2019 at 4:23AM

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51 Comments

  1. Der Volkswirt

    Thank you for your great article, Mr. Henderson. I have a brief question. You said getting the Uruguayan citizenship is unachievable if someone is Chinese or Arabic, and then what about south korean? south korean is also hard to be an Uruguayan just like the cases of Chineses and Arabics?

    Reply
    • klv

      Yep remember how Turks beat you up because you look Chinese?

      Reply
  2. LTang

    Why can’t people of chinese descent become Uruguayans????

    Reply
    • Chy Cj

      not only chinese. once you are not born in uruguay, you can never become uruguayan. the highest they can give to you is legal citizen. they dont give nationality. but you can get their passport as a legal citizen and always run risk of deportation while trying to travel to uruguay free visa travel countries. its funny

      Reply
      • Cmon guy

        Your statement defies logic. nationality and Citizenship means the same thing. Only in the U.S it has a different meaning due to some offshore territories of the U.S having self-administration. Internationally, Nationality and Citizenship are the same.

        Reply
      • zk

        can i have your.email?

        Reply
  3. John Kunkle

    Hi Andrew,
    I understand the benefits of the Monsecur (sic) Agreement: You can travel to Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay on a Paraguayan passport without issue — kind of like traveling from country to country having an EU passport. I understand that you deposit $5000 in a Paraguayan bank (or buy property) to be able to apply for the pensionado program. I know that Uruguay has strong banking laws. Is Paraguay similar? My understanding is that Paraguay is a military dictatorship. I know that Singapore is effectively a dictatorship under Mr. Lee’s guidance. I’m not a stickler for democracies as probably the best form of government is a benevolent dictatorship like Singapore. However, is the political situation in Paraguay one where the government pretty much leaves you alone if you aren’t doing anything wrong? Also, is it safe for Americans (do the locals view you as a mobile ready teller or are you subject to potential kidnapping)? It’s nice that the investment requirements are minimal and the residency requirements are minimal in Paraguay. Is there a “gringo gulch” in Paraguay and where is the best place to take up residence for Americans in Paraguay?

    Reply
  4. ppazos

    this is not true, Uruguay is a very tolerant country, I would say racism has a very low rate in general, and a really low rate compared to other countries in Latin America.

    Reply
    • joss

      Hello,
      i have a question for you, if you don’t mind.
      I am French with Caribbean decent, thinking of coming for a while in Uruguay, but i heard Black people aren’t well treated, that it is hard for them to find jobs, to go out in clubs, that they are shun from society…?
      I know it is hard for someone who doesn’t experience something to talk about it, but I’m curious to know what is your take on this ..?
      Thanks

      Reply
      • Lucia

        Hi! Im uruguayan, so I hope to give you an accurate description of the situation here. most people in uruguay are from italian/spanish/french heritage (and mixed, but they dont like to admit that). So if you look “different”, whether its really dark skin or obvious nordic features, or even green dyed hair, people are going to stare at you in the street. The black population in Uruguay is really small, and shamefully discriminated in some circles as it is associated with slavery and poverty. However if you are a black foreinger from a “better” country, it is more likely that square people accept you. Sorry if all this sound harsh, but i want to express the way of thinking of some stupid people. Of course not every uruguayan thinks this way, and it is by no means politically correct to be racist. Many people are really kind and open minded, but there are still rascist people (like in any other country sadly) mostly old or really ignorant people. About the job, you will have no problem in the humanistic/arts/culture/design/education/health etc (lets say more liberal areas). It is hard to generalize and give you a miss leaded impression to you… if you have a good education in the area you are looking a job it should be no problem, however i must be honest you might find some very closed minded people in more traditional areas. Being from another country is some how of an advantage, as people tend to feel respect from people coming from europe and usa. Sorry for writing so much, hope it helped you, and hope one day you decide to visit Uruguay, the country and the people living there really needs people coming from all around the world, we are only 3 million, there is plenty of room for everybody!

        Reply
        • master

          hi lucia.i am a kenyan en yearn to live in uruguay.what are the requirements should one meet to be eligible?

          Reply
        • Teodoro

          Hello tonLUCIA.
          i just happened on this comkent section while learning a little more about your country. I became more curious about what you explained about working in Uruguay in the fields of culture..arts..music.I am a classical pianist myself that had my education in my home country Philippines as well as in the USA where I lived until last year for 36 years in NYC. ..but I am back in the Philippines..Even back in the USA i always wondered what it must be like in a country in south america..especially for musicians and artists. Perhaps you can educate me a little more about it? Thank you.

          Sincerely,
          Teodoro.

          Reply
      • Liz

        I was in Uruguay last September checking it out for future residency. One is not want to live somewhere racist although I am white and it would affect me indirectly. I met a black African who had lived there five years. He lived in many parts of Europe and Latin America. He told me it was the least racist place he ever lived and he loves it. All societies are racist to some degree, but Uruguay does very well

        Reply
  5. Doa Sayed

    Chinese or Arab , forget about it, you’ll never become Uruguayan ,,, how sad!!
    thanks

    Reply
    • Chronic

      You have to remember that what you are reading by the author is an opinion based on his limited knowledge (referring to being Chinese or Arabic). If you want to live in Uruguay, permanent residency will probably allow you most of the benefits of living in the country. Some people want citizenship in a country for benefits that the passport itself provides. I know that Uruguay has some Syrian refugees there who got very tired of living here after a few years so you might find out that it is not what you want after all. I like Uruguay but I live in Europe and intend on staying there. I come here in March every year.

      Reply
    • Chy Cj

      i new about that today. their passport is just like a travel documents for non uruguayan. it only indicates that you are a legal citizen.

      Reply
      • Doa Sayed

        How Sad!!!

        Reply
        • Ivan Akinfiev

          Give birth there, your kids will automatically become citizens. Or, better, give birth in Antigua and Barbuda or St Kitts and Nevis, then you can become St Kittian after a year

          Reply
  6. Chronic

    Thanks for your reply. My intention was not to spout off anything as Gospel. I am entitled to state my impression of a place without being told that I have no business doing so. If you want to correct someone, you would do well to learn how to do so without throwing in a nasty comment at the end.
    Yes, I admit my stay was brief at that point but now I am living in Uruguay and stand by what I said last year. I don’t live in any exclusive area. In fact I live a very laid back and low cost lifestyle and have lived and traveled in my countries in my lifetime. All of my friends here are Uruguayan. They were actually the ones last year who had explained to me a lot of what I posted. I have seen people of different cultural origins here, such as ethnic Indians, Jews, etc and they are fully integrated. However, the overall feeling is that the country is very “European.”

    Reply
  7. Chy Cj

    you kids can start school in government school immediately you arrive. its very easy in primary but for secondary, the past school leaving certificate has to be approved.

    Reply
  8. Man Tin Ho

    thank you so much, where the good place to getting citizenship, special Chinese.
    [In fact, I love Uruguay, freedom, democratic, safe (compare with another south america countries and China), LGBT-friendly, good welfare……etc.]

    I don’t care spend time on living one country to get their citizenship.

    Reply
  9. Man Tin Ho

    Paraguay is one of my next best option. However, my friends who travel South America told me that there is a lot of crimes in Paraguay, especially in Ciudad del Este. I’m afraid of it.

    Reply
  10. Chy Cj

    hello, you need to get your permanent residence(residente legal) before going for the citizenship.(ciudadania legal)staying up to 3 years is one of the criterias. paying your task(bps) is another

    Reply
  11. Sovon Mahapatra

    how to get permanent residency. I am from India

    Reply
  12. Kate

    My father was born in Uruguay as were his parents. Can I become a citizen even though I was born in Australia?

    Reply
    • Lolo

      Yes you can if your parents registered you at Uruguayan Embassy / Consulate in Australia.

      Reply
  13. Rollie hannah

    Can I as citizen of USA apply for Uruguayan passport ? How is it done ?

    Reply
  14. Kanyan

    I want to Uruguay for trip how I can apply .what is the formalities ?

    Reply
  15. Belinda Erasmus

    Good Day, I am from South Africa and am looking at immigrating to Uruguay. My concerns however is that I have a husband that is no longer working and which I care for. Furthermore, my son is a student in his last year of law studies. My question is, will his degree be recognised? I myself am a National Purchasing Manager at a National Manufacturing concern in the automotive market. What is my chance for finding employment? Also, is there assistance from someone to help find accommodation? We can hopefully turn our current assets into cash and invest it in the country, but still I will need employment to ensure that we are sustainable. Is there any companies that is prepared to sponsor potential immigrants into Uruguay?

    Reply
    • John Oliv ier

      Hi Belinda,

      I am working in Mpumalanga at Kusile Power Station. I have been to Uruguay twice. I am also interested to move there.

      Reply
      • Antoinette Niemand

        Hi John,

        Have you become any wiser on what the way forward is to start your move to Uruguay from South Africa? Do you think it is best to visit the country first before applying for a visa? I have done quite a bit of research but can’t seem to find a detailed plan (step-by-step) on how to start the process. Any info will be appreciated.

        Regards

        Reply
  16. Daniel P Remy

    I am a dual citizen French and American looking at my retirement years. Europe is in turmoil over Islamization and at my senior years I need a peaceful and safe life. is Uruguay such a place where as a French-American I can live in peace. I have sufficient retirement income to live in Punta del Este, but would prefer Montevideo for cultural and social activities. I am faced with a choice now…France, where I was born OR Uruguay as a place to find fellow Europeans and some joy without worrying about Sharia or terrorism. The answer seems obvious, but I would like your opinion, if you please. Yes, I would become a citizen. Big question is good health care plans I can buy at my senior age. Also true cost of living at the middle to upper income which I have. Thank you. Daniel Pierre REMY

    Reply
  17. Nadeem Samuel

    Hi it’s me nadeem Samuel from Pakistan. Can we get the (family )
    immigration to uruguay.please let me know about it. God bless you .

    Reply
  18. urug@gmail.com

    Hello, i am Uruguayan and i like to clarify about Chy Cj , there is no such a difference between nationality and legal citizen, it is the same thing, you acquire it due being born here, or after some time being legal resident. You have the same rights and obligations in every respect

    Reply
  19. Sherry

    Hi, I’m iranian and i would like to know for the first step of immigration to Uruguay should i have job offer or such things? What is my requirements to apply for first time and do i need to submit any kind of spanish language certificate? Scince i’m not fluent in spanish can i work and live there ? And if i go there with no job offer the employment is easy or i will have hard time finding a job there?

    Reply
  20. Nitin

    Is it true that by deposit 5000$ uruguay gives permanent resident card . . . Unbelievable. . . .

    Reply
    • Eric

      No

      Reply
  21. Liz

    I was in Uruguay last September. After reading about racism on sites like this one I asked a Black African I met there about it. He told me he had no problem getting citizenship and it was the friendliest place in the world he had lived. He told me he had no experienced racism at all, he had lived there 5 years.

    Reply
  22. Rob Goodell

    I was born in the US and have that passport and ample documentation. I understand that Uruguay has a more European vibe than an American, and certainly would welcome that. I was planning to do a trial year in Uruguay doing language immersion, not necessarily hanging with the expats.
    Any advice on which items to bring? Are cars expensive?

    Reply
    • JC Denton

      >Are cars expensive?
      yes
      old xc90 are more expensive than in mainland Argentina and Brazil where it starts from ~10 000 US dollars
      cheapest mercedeses s in 116, 126 and 140 generations are 7 000-9 000 US dollars or so
      and the only persons who are allowed to import used cars are UY citizens who lived not in UY for at least 3 years

      Reply
  23. Helizna

    As the exchange rate with USD is really bad, is it economically viable to move there from South Africa? Dollar is 32 Uruguay peso and 16 Rand.

    Reply
  24. Imad

    Hi all
    I am Imad from Jordan living and working in Saudi Arabia at optical company for eye glasses I am planing for relocate in Uruguay I will do my business at farmland need advice .

    Reply
  25. Haider

    Hi Lucia, just read your comments and agree here, I think that there are some misconceptions and should be clarified for those people who are willing to settle in Uraguay. As I am also planning to settle my family there in Uruguay? I am unable to contact any person, who is from Uruguay and provide better guidance regarding the cons of settlement in Uruguay. If you could help, it will be a great favor for me.

    Reply
  26. HARSH

    Hi, I have been working in an Indian think tank in Delhi as a researcher for the past one year. I have a masters degree in international business and specializes in areas such as export/import, foreign trade policy. I would like to find a similiar job in Uruguay and settle there. I have 3 questions,

    1)Is there any job prospects available for me in Uruguay for the field that I am working on?

    2) Are the government and ministry jobs reserved for citizens of UY only?

    3) is it required to certify proficiency in Spanish before applying for any job in UY

    Reply
  27. shah

    Hi dear sir
    Hope you are fine.

    i am from pakistan and i am married also 2 childs
    my age 35. i want to stay Uruguay or Paraguay and want CITIZENSHIP .

    How i can it??
    And i want to know your fee ???

    thanks for your kind attention
    waiting for your reply soon.
    Best Regards
    Shah

    Reply
  28. Sun haicheng

    My family and I want to get the right to reside in Uruguay, and then want to acquire Uruguayan nationality. I intend to get the right to reside first, and then work and live in Uruguay after a suitable opportunity to have a certain foundation in Spanish. Is it feasible? You mentioned above that it is difficult for Chinese and Arabs to acquire nationality. Why? Is there discrimination or prejudice? I would like to hear more details, thank you. I am from china!

    Reply
  29. Raheel Ahmed

    hI, I am living in china but my nationality is Pakistani. Can I have details for immigration.
    Regards

    Reply
  30. Gilberto Dominguez

    Just in general European mentally is to feel a since of superiority over anyone they can and that will usually be if you are obviously economically not of the same class but it not automatically against any race but that is if you bump up against a specific kind of person. However in general in Uruguay you will find easy acceptance most of the time with most of the people there.

    Racist people unfortunately also find their way into official and other public employment, it almost cannot be avoided but this will not apply to the general population and it certainly is not a part of any official policy. I am Latino with green eyes, part Germany and certain people have discriminated against me in the USA.

    In Asia people want to feel superior to me for some reason but generally I am economically superior to most, so they kind of just leave me alone even if they do not like me much. I am also very highly educated and accomplished. I have 2 PhDs , am a graduate engineer, and have a business degree besides being financially well off compared to the average Asian I run into. People who are friendly and welcoming will just continue to be that way no matter what. It is those that grow up knowing prejudice and bigotry that will care to exercise that bias, I would not worry about it.
    I mean in the USA I have worked for employer who were bigots or prejudiced in some obvious way but that did not keep me from getting deserved promotions when it came to it, although I always knew I would never become a part of the company’s management but who cares , when I was able to I started my own business or worked as a free lancer technician earning 4 times more money so who cares!!

    I will be going to Uruguay as a CEO and with an ownership of close to 1000 acres of land, who’s going to bother me if I will probably be able to fire them?

    I imagine it will be like any place else, evolve above the common masses in one way or another and people will generally not be able to resist accepting you in life no matter where you go in the world.

    You are a star so shine your light and forget about those that dwell in darkness, they make their choice, you make yours, and claim what is our right as a human being , don’t wait for anyone to give it to you.
    There is no place that is perfect.

    If you are an evolving intelligence upon the world then live and do not let anyone stop you.

    Uruguay is a large geographical place in the world with plenty of room for others to bring their own diverse view point and way of being so go for it.

    Uruguay is not the cheapest place to live but it is also not so expensive either, land for example to me is dirt cheap literally.

    You can hardly find an old rundown house in the USA for $100,000.00 but in Uruguay you can buy acres of land with a house on it for that kind of money. Do not go there with the thought you are going there to depend on anyone but to create opportunity for people already there and be able to contribute your own uniqueness and talents, bring your own flavor.

    Be ready to stand up for yourself and win people’s respect. Put people in their place if you have to, just be diplomatic about it. Have confidence in yourself. There is only one world and it belongs to all of us.

    Generally you will find central America like Asia to be significantly lower in total cost of living than the US or Europe are.

    It is typical to find amenities like automobiles to be a little more expensive to purchase but also you may find you don’t even need a car if you live somewhere where they have a good public transportation system or service.

    As far as been black goes Uruguay is not the American South and it is not 1929 , it is 2020, almost. Chances are that if you do not make an issue of certain matters then neither will the locals.

    Just determine for yourself you are going to enjoy Uruguay and do not let petty things get in your way.

    If you have in mind to make Uruguay your home then make it yours and make of it what you want it to be as well.

    Reply
  31. Ashok Kumar

    I am Indian citizen living and working in Uruguay since 2015 with my family.
    I have applied permanent residency in August 30th 2017 and still I am waiting for my approval . I want to know that am I able to get Uruguay Passport in future and what will be benefits for me and my family.

    Reply
  32. Dave

    At least he has been honest, include Indians and Pakistanis too! There is no way they’re giving you all passports because you have 5000 dollars and want an easy gateway to the Schengen Zone.

    Reply

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