When I moved to Buenos Aires in February 1999, I planned to stay permanently. The problem I faced was qualifying for residency. You could get it if you (1) got a job contract, (2) married an Argentine, or (3) had a child in the country. I wasn’t looking for work, wasn’t the mother of an Argentine, so marrying an Argentine was my only option, or so I thought at the time.
Tourists get a 90-day visa upon entering the country. I wanted to keep my status legal, so every 90 days I took an hour boat ride to Colonia, Uruguay, to renew my tourist visa. I did that for 13 years because immigration officials didn’t tell me otherwise. My United States passport needed extra pages added for all the entry and exit stamps.
Things have changed because so many foreigners come to Argentina to stay. There are two options: residency or citizenship. Residency takes three years of temporary status before permanent status is granted. There are various categories, including one for retirees. There are a few documents to file each year. Temporary residency is for one year, and you don’t have to leave the country as I did. You have the coveted DNI which shows your status in Argentina. It’s the national identity document that all Argentines carry.
I decided to petition the court for citizenship. Permanent residency status is not a requirement for citizenship. The court needs the same documents for citizenship as immigration does for residency. I hired a lawyer to handle the process which took 16 months to complete, but anyone can do the process alone because the law allows it. Of course, fluency in the language is helpful.
People always ask me if I’m still a citizen of the United States. I have dual citizenship. I receive social security from the U.S. government and have no reason to renounce my citizenship. I have a bank account in the United States for receiving my social security benefits each month. Then I transfer money to myself and receive a higher rate of exchange in pesos locally from a transfer agency. I know of no other country where I could live on social security.