After battling with piles of paperwork, one expat lives to tell the tale of dealing with ‘tramites’ in Argentina
I am currently working on obtaining permanent residency in Argentina, which seems to be an endless stream of tramites, fingerprints, background checks and standing in line. Tramites, which means paperwork and which is required to accomplish anything important in Argentina, is something I have learned to despise while living in this South American nation.
We gringos know a bit about paperwork, and most of us have come to terms with the fact that it's sometimes necessary to stand in line to get what you need. However, Argentines have taken the idea to a whole new level.
When it comes to tramites, it can feel like there is no end in sight. Even when you’ve submitted your seemingly final document, you are likely not actually done. When government says you need “these five things”, you actually need 11 things. Sometimes you only find out after waiting for your tramites to be processed that you need more documents. Furthermore, often only upon inquiring about the status of your paperwork are you notified that your application cannot be processed because you must turn in more paperwork.
Another fascinating, if not frustrating, aspect regarding tramites is that few government agencies actually know what any of the other agencies do. When you ask about your next step, they will almost always tell you, with unwavering certainty, that you need to go to 'such and such' government office to get a 'stamp', and then to the bank to pay to a fee.
Something most expats will likely find bizarre is that in order to pay these government agency fees, it isn't just a matter of writing a personal check or paying with your debit card online. In some cases you will need to navigate to a specific website, decipher which 'coupons' apply to your situation, print them off and go to the national bank to pay them.
Further complicating matters is the fact that in my experience, many times government agencies give you directives that are completely wrong. As an expat, I tend to follow every instruction like a sheep to the slaughter, which leads to a lot of wasted time and a lot of frustration. On the other hand though, Argentines are accustomed to such shenanigans, and seem to have a built-in filter for heeding government employee advice with a grain of salt. Thus, it’s helpful to get a local to help you navigate the system.
Making it more difficult is the fact that government agencies either close early or close during siesta. Consequently, getting everything, or even half of your errands done, in one day is impossible.
Thus, expats planning to apply for their permanent residency, or accomplish anything that demands tramites in Argentina need to realise that processes like these take days, weeks, months and even years. It's just a matter of jumping through all of the ridiculous hoops and navigating public employees who are never in a hurry, and are many times ill-informed.
The process of applying for permanent residency
The process of obtaining permanent residency in Argentina is not as simple as one would hope.
It can take months or even years to fully complete the task. The first step is to educate yourself in regards to your eligibility and the documents you will need.
Once you have decided the best route to take in order to become a resident, you will need to bring all of the documents that you have collected to an immigration office for submission. If you have completed the application process properly, they will issue a document to you which bestows you certain rights while they decide whether or not to grant your residency request.
You will be asked to renew this document every six months until your request is either granted or denied. During this time you are allowed to stay and work in the country.
It’s possible that you may receive your permanent residency in a few months, but it isn’t likely. The wait will likely be several months, if not a few years.
Requirements for permanent residency application
The following individuals are eligible to apply for permanent residency in Argentina:
1. Spouse of an Argentine native or naturalised citizen
2. Parent of a child born in Argentina or a naturalised citizen of less than 18 years of age
3. Child of a native Argentine citizen or naturalised citizen
4. Spouse of a permanent resident
5. Parent of a permanent resident
8. Entrepreneur/Business Person
10. Owner of Foreign Company
11. Contracted Personnel from a company in Argentina
12. An Immigrant with Capital (investment required)
Documents for permanent residency application
Here are the documents that you MUST provide in order to apply for permanent residency:
- Your birth certificate from your state of birth, not a hospital copy. The certificate must be apostilled, and then translated and "stamped" by a college of translators in Argentina.
- FBI, or the equivalent national body, record check (for applicants 16 years of age or older). Apostilled and submitted within 6 months from the time it was issued. It must be translated in the same manner as the birth certificate. A state or province criminal check will not be accepted.
- Passport. Photo copy all pages, including blank pages. If the passport is the "old" type, you must get it translated. Don’t forget get to bring the actual passport when submitting documents.
- Argentina criminal record check, called an “Antecedentes Penales” (for applicants 16 years of age or older). You will need to go to the federal police and get fingerprinted, and then you will need to download some payment coupons from the immigration web site. Take these coupons to the Banco Nacional and pay the corresponding fee. Send your packet, including the coupons, to the address provided on your forms.
- If you are filing under ‘family status’ because you are either married to an Argentine or have a child (unmarried and under 18 years of age) who was born in Argentina, you will need the child’s/spouse's national identity document (DNI) and copies of all pages. They may tell you to bring only the copies, but they will likely ask to see the original documents.
- If you are filing because you have a child born in Argentina, you will need to provide the child's original birth certificate AND a copy. If you are filing because you are married, bring your original marriage certificate and a copy.
- Photos. Passport photos will not work because they are too large. A DNI photo is much smaller, and requires a slight turn of the head. Find a photo shop in Argentina and have them do the photos for you. Ask specifically for DNI photos. They only asked me for one photo, but the website indicates that you should bring two. Better to err on the safe side and bring two.
- When you have submitted your paperwork and it appears that it is in order, they will hand you some payment coupons. Take these to the Banco Nacional and pay your 600 ARS fee. Bring the coupons back to the office immediately, and give them to the immigrations officer.
- Certificate of domicile or an invoice of any public service with your name. If you don’t have utilities in your name, the certificate is easily obtained by visiting the police station nearest your residence.
Once all your tramites are in order and submitted, you will then receive a CERTIFICADO DE RESIDENCIA PRECARIA. With this certificate you are granted the following rights:
- You can legally be paid for work
- You can legally obtain housing with the document
- You can study legally
- You can leave and reenter the country with the document.
The CERTIFICADO DE RESIDENCIA PRECARIA is not a DNI, and does not give you the right to receive a DNI. It simply provides you with the above rights while the government processes your request for permanent residency. The certificate is good for exactly six months, at which time you will be required to visit your nearest immigrations officer for a renewal. It may be that your local Gendarmaria (military base) has an officer on staff.
Argentina immigration has a website where you can attempt to check the status of your tramites. However, it appears that they don’t bother using it.
Tips for getting and applying for permanent residency in Argentina
►Relax. Put your mind in a completely different place. Things move slower here and NOTHING will get done in the time that you think it will. Living in Argentina feels like walking in molasses at times. If you lower your expectations and relax, life will be much easier.
►Get help. Even if you don’t seek the help of a professional, at least enlist the help of a friend. Trying to navigate the system on your own can be a daunting task, especially if you are not completely fluent in Argentine Spanish.
►Be prepared. If you are missing just one document it can stall your application process. Waiting a few months for a new document to arrive can lead to other documents expiring during that time. Don’t wait until you are inside Argentina to get documents from your home country. By the time you receive them they may have expired.
►Follow through. When you think you have submitted everything and you have nothing to do but wait….make a phone call and ask about the status of your application. It’s not uncommon to find out too late that “you” forgot something. Even though they didn’t bother to contact you regard a missing document, it may be cause to restart the entire process. Be diligent and don’t leave it to the government workers to notify you for any reason.