A) Things to do before leaving your home country,
B) Because I am a citizen of the USA, much of what I say applies to US residents,
C) Because I am a legal resident of Uruguay, much of what I say applies to Uruguay.
The country you choose and the time frame you have will affect some of these suggestions, too.
1) Apply for and then protect your passport.
2) Send for two certified birth certificates. (You can search the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website and find your state’s Department of Vital Statistics. Web address: w.cdc.gov/nchs/w2w.htm).
3) You have to show proof of income. For retirees: I had the first letter from Social Security about my eligibility and income amount. Bank statements with the direct deposit are essential. You might request a letter from Social Security just for assurance that the proof of income will be sufficient. Lots of other income documentation is applicable, too.
4) Go to the local police station and request your Good Conduct/Criminal History /No Arrest Report. The municipal officers will take your fingerprints and get your regional information. They can also give you the address of the CJIS (Criminal Justice Information Services), a division of the FBI. A city or state criminal history record is not sufficient for a residency request. This report has to come from the CJIS (see below).
FBI RECORDS CHECK: The Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) centralizes criminal justice information and provides accurate and timely information and services to local, state, federal, and international law enforcement agencies, the private sector, academia, and other government agencies. The subject of an identification record may obtain a copy thereof by submitting a written request to the CJIS. The request must be accompanied by satisfactory proof of identity (consisting of name, date and place of birth, and a set of roll-inked fingerprint impressions) and a certified check or money order for the $18 processing fee. The FBI will not provide copies of arrest records to individuals other than the subject of the record. Requests should be directed to FBI CJIS Division, Attn: SCU, Mod. D-2, 1000 Custer Hollow Rd., Clarksburg, West Virginia 26306. If there is no criminal record, a report reflecting this fact is provided. See FBI Identification Record Request. (This is from the US Department of State website)
5) If you do not have time to wait for that report (It can take up to two months to get back to you) you can have your fingerprints taken at Interpol in Montevideo, Uruguay. Interpol has a legal residency staff that works with you on this.
6) Bring a blank $18.00 money order for the fingerprint report. That is the fee for the CJIS information.
7) Get six (6) passport sized photos. Do not wear glasses in this photo. Again, if you don’t have time to get these there are shops that make these for you in the country. It just saves time to have them with you.
8) Make contact by email or phone and send one of the certified birth certificates to the country’s embassy or consulate based in your district to be “legalized” (stamped and signed by the ambassador or counsel authority) and sent back to you. It is a lot of trouble if you don’t get this done prior to leaving. It takes at least a month to get this back. Because I was in Uruguay, it took 3 1/2 months for my legalized birth certificate to be returned to me from the consulate in California. Cost $42 US Dollars.
9) Apply for and protect the visa to get into the country you choose (IF required-so far Uruguay does not require a visa). Again, this process takes time. You may have to go in person to the embassy or consulate.
10) Get six (6) copies of your certified birth certificate.
Get six (6) copies of your proof of income.
Get six (6) copies of the main name page of your passport.
Get six (6) copies of your marriage certificate or divorce papers, whichever applies.
Get six (6) copies of your CJIS Good Conduct/Criminal History report.
Get six (6) copies of your Social Security card.
Get six (6) copies of your driver’s license.
Sometimes you need three (3) photo ID’s, so have six (6) copies of a third picture ID card of some kind.
(These requirements apply to Latin America, but could be relevant to Europe, Asia, Australia, etc.)
11) Book the Che Lagarto hostel for two weeks (or more depending on your time frame) through w.hostelworld.com or other hostel booking companies. This hostel is centrally located with easy access to the Immigrations office in Montevideo.
11a) Bring a letter of good standing from your bank. You can open an account in the Uruguayan Government bank with 3000 pesos or approximately $160.00 USD. If you want to earn interest you deposit 5000 pesos or approximately $255. The exchange rate changes daily. Interest in this bank is 6%.
12) To arrive in Montevideo, Uruguay [or Buenos Aires, Argentina] you can fly, come by cruise ship**, by bus, by driving your own vehicle, or a combination of several of these options.
Miami, Florida to Montevideo is a nine (9) hour flight. Long haul=over 7 hours!
Airlines might include a long layover in Buenos Aires, Argentina or require an overnight stay before taking off again to Montevideo. You can catch a ferry, hydrofoil, or catamaran from the Buenos Aires port to Uruguay. That trip by water takes about two (2) hours. Cost approx. $40.
Cruise ships come down the coast of Brazil to Uruguay. **Two weeks “off board” maybe isn’t possible.
Costs for flights vary widely but expect $1500.00 to 2000.00 USD from Miami to Montevideo depending on the season. The seasons are reversed so summer and higher flight costs are December, January, and February.
Look online at w.worldtravelguide.net/Uruguay/travel-by for more details.
The different modes of travel and comfort level: air is fastest but the difficulty level in US airports is elevated; unless you follow my suggestions and travel extremely light.
Cruise is expensive because it is unknown if a line will allow you off for two weeks in a port and pick you back up. Check out those important details at w.directlinecruises.com.
Bus travel is relatively cheaper, but you will go through multiple border checks and bus stations.
Getting a bus ticket that allows you to lie down is the best option for this method of travel.
Driving your own vehicle is expensive and the borders can be a real pain. Many unofficial border “helpers” are highly aggressive coming through Central and South America.
13) If you fly into Montevideo, change $500 USD (or more) into Uruguayan pesos at the airport exchange booth.
14) When you arrive at Carrasco International Airport (MVD) in Montevideo, talk with the information desk clerks about catching a city bus that goes to the Che Lagarto Hostel at 713 Plaza Independencia. Cost for bus ride: $1.25 USD. Cost for taxi: $20. Traveling extremely light makes getting on a bus a cinch!
15) Register at the Che Lagarto and get a room assignment. I liked this hostel because I made friends with all the staff, front desk, housekeepers, laundry girls, repairman. I’m a patient person so any delays I just ignored. The comments range from Horrible, I will never return to Best hostel for the money. It is certainly not perfect, but is in a super location. The bus stops right at the door. They give you breakfast. It is noisy, loud music, but I just went into my (three bunk bed) room and covered up my head. If you can’t tolerate that type of setting the Radisson Victoria Plaza Hotel is at 759 Plaza Independencia for $156 a night. Che’s most expensive bed is $27. That is for a private room with bath. Tres Cruces Hotel may be another option. It is near the main bus depot.
16) Check out the hostel, go upstairs, get a map of the city, ask about the breakfast, and their events schedule.
17) After you get settled, have the staff help you locate and highlight the Immigrations Office on the city map (Office hours: 9 to noon Monday through Thursday) at 1579 Misiones Street in the old city (Ciudad Viejo). It is approximately 7 blocks away from the door of Che Lagarto.
18) You must have a Spanish-speaking helper with you unless you are fluent in the language. Go there and take a number to receive the initial paperwork and get addresses and general information, give them the income statements, certified birth certificate, etc., to create your file. Cost approximately $60.
19) Have Che Lagarto staff help you place a call to Interpol (office hours: Monday through Thursday 8 AM to 11:00 AM. Address: Middle of the block on Maldonado and Paraguay Streets). There is an Interpol flag flying over their door, so it is relatively easy to identify the office.
20) Get an appointment over the phone or go to the office to book an appointment. You’ll need your city map or a taxi. INTERPOL Phone: 152-4603.
At this session, you will need all your official documents. They require three photo ID articles: your passport, driver’s license, and one more card or document with your picture on it.
Have your blank $18 money order, too.
If you don’t have the money order you pay a high price ($28) for one in English. You can get that at Gales Exchange 1046 Avenida 18th de Julio (the main street in this section of Montevideo).
Show ID and fill out the forms (full name as it appears on your passport) for the Interpol Legal Residency staff.
They will take your fingerprints, have you soap your hands to dissolve the ink, wash them, and return to the office.
All the documents and money order will go into a big envelope. It may be addressed to the CJIS (Criminal Justice Information Services), a division of the FBI.
21) You will be directed to a private courier (DHL-1320 Rio Grande Street, or Federal Express-under the walkway near Che Lagarto Hostel), or to the nearest Post Office. The post office is cheapest but may require more time. The envelope has to be sent Certified Mail. The receipt must have a tracking number and an official stamp. DHL and Fed Express both cost around $50 USD. The Post Office is about half that cost.
22) You have to find a photocopy shop to get a copy of the tracking number and receipt for Interpol.
23) Write your full name on the top of the copy and take it back to Interpol.
The CJIS will send the Good Conduct/Criminal History report back to Interpol. They do not send your fingerprints, just the report. This takes approximately 2 months.
24) Record the date, so you or your agent can start calling Interpol when two months are up.
25) Designate an authorized representative to check in periodically with Interpol (after 2 months) to see if the information has been received. This agent has to have a notarized letter from you giving them (him or her) authority to represent you.
Interpol immediately sends the report to Uruguay’s Immigrations. You or your agent gets the date (this is important) that they sent the report off. At Immigrations, this date identifies you as the one concerned.
26) Montevideo has a number of notary publics or attorneys who will translate and legalize all your required paperwork. At one of the offices you are given a directory of names and addresses from which you choose a notary. This service costs about $120 USD.
27) In your packet of information from Uruguayan Migrations is an address for the clinic for your medical exam. It is highly recommended that you have your Spanish-speaking helper with you. The forms are in Spanish. You go to this clinic and fill out the special, extremely detailed legal residency medical examination form. The process starts by you receiving an appointment and getting a urine specimen container. You return when the appointment rolls around, give them the specimen. Your height, weight, blood sample, blood pressure are taken. Your teeth and eyes are checked thoroughly. A doctor interviews you and has you lie down on an examination table. The probe of your abdomen is next. Results come back in about a week. Older people (like me-age 71) are passing this exam every day. Cost is approximately $30 for the health card.
28) Write a short letter authorizing your agent, your representative, to go once a month to the Immigrations office. They (Immigrations) require a monthly check-in. Get that letter translated and notarized (stamped) by a notary public, get copies for the Immigrations office, your agent and your files.
Judith Colleen Thompson is available to consult with you on each step. It seems overwhelming but with help and an assistant who speaks Spanish it is doable one step at a time.
All of this detail takes approximately ten business days. After you leave, your agent will check in every month at Migrations. While you are here, the evenings and two weekends are perfect for seeing this beautiful city and/or surrounding towns. Everything closes on weekdays when there is a national holiday so check the calendar before you book your trip or Che Lagarta Hostel.
If you haven’t traveled before it is highly recommended that you hire a companion/helper. A person who knows the transportation system, money, language and customs, contact people, etc. is a huge asset.
My Best to You.