Planting your flag in Argentina
A closer look at the constitution and residency rights in Argentina
Welcome Avatar! Today we will be talking about residency and citizenship rights in Argentina, visa runs, and more. If you’re in the game to collect more colored booklets aka passports, Argentina is a great place to do so. Let’s dig in.
As a long term resident in the Southern Cone and Argentina in particular, I thought it would be a good idea to go over some of the residency rights and citizenship routes in Argentina.
For a recap on what to take into account when moving to Argentina (long or short term), read this:
Now, you can find similar constitutional rights in most countries on the American continent, where most of the bill of right’s were created with immigration as the main population method. However, in Argentina what stands out is how these rights work in practice.
Argentina Residency rights in theory and in practice
The idea for this article came about after many militant soldiers of the current government lashed out at my tweet about a politician preaching one thing (assembly lines for computers and high import taxes), while practicing another (buying a Macbook on the first trip out of the country).
The critiques against this Dutch Patagonian Mara for posting that tweet basically all boiled down to this: GTFO of Argentina, with new levels of xenophobia yours truly wouldn’t have thought were possible by a group of people that generally defines itself as tolerant, loving their neighbors, embracing, and in favor of redistribution of wealth (of others), in some cases.
They sure lost all that love for this cartoon Mara very quickly after learning it was not a native Patagonian, but rather a European colonial invading species that could only have one thing in mind: pillage the wealth of the great Argentine nation.
Luckily for me, none of that foreign Mara shaming transcends off the bird app, since the resident rights granted to immigrants in Argentina are excellent, in theory as well as in practice. For that, let’s take a deeper look at the constitution.
Juan Bautista Alberdi: Libertarian and father of the Constitution
Juan Bautista Alberdi is one of the most influential free thinkers of the 19th century and the highest representative of Latin American liberalism (in the true sense of the word, not the Commiefornia woke sense).
He was one of the first liberal pioneers in the Spanish language and had a great influence on economic and legal policy in the history of Argentina. In 1852 he started drafting a treatise for the Argentine Constitution.
Months later he would reissue it with extensions, including a draft Constitution, based on the Argentine Constitution of 1826 and the Constitution of the United States.
According to Alberdi:
The Constitution is, in economic matters, what it is in all branches of public law: the expression of a revolution of freedom, the consecration of the social revolution of America.
And, in effect, the Constitution has enshrined the principle of economic freedom, as it is the political tradition of the revolution of May 1810 against Spanish domination, which made that freedom the main reason for war against the colonial or prohibitive system.1
It feels like Argentina is ripe for another 1810 revolution in economic terms. But that is something I will discuss in a later article. Back to the residency part for now.
"To govern is to populate," Alberdi insisted. "Our type of South American man must be the man formed to defeat the great and overwhelming enemy of our progress: the desert, material backwardness, the brute and primitive nature of our continent."
Faced with an almost depopulated country, his main concern was its population. To this end he favored European immigration.
This line of thought was dominant at the time, and in the second half of the 19th century, vast groups of immigrants started flooding to Argentina.
Between 1880 and 1910, several million immigrants arrived in Argentina. 100 years ago, three out of ten people who lived in Argentina had arrived from other countries. Since most of the immigrants came from southern Europe, they spoke different languages and did not know Spanish.
The country really experienced an immigration boom similar to that of the United States, that went on well into the 1930s. In this sense Argentina has always been open to immigration, and this still holds true to this day.
A good example of this is the fact that Argentina, like Brazil, has remained neutral in the Ukraine war, and welcomes Ukrainians and Russians alike, without adjusting any visa free access for either of these passport holders.
This might end up to bite Argentina in the ass if Europe starts to pressure about closing down this loophole (Argentina and Brazil passports have visa free Schengen access), but so far the EU has mentioned nothing about this.
It’s only a small sample size: it’s roughly 10-15k upper middle class Russians in Argentina (not oligarchs), who have 30k+ USD lying around to do birth tourism and secure an Argentine passport for their baby and possibly for themselves if they stay in Argentina for 1 year+.
Residency references in the constitution
The intro to the Argentine Constitution makes it very clear that the focus is specifically for all those who wish to RESIDE in Argentina (emphasis added throughout):
[…] para todos los hombres del mundo que quieran habitar en el suelo argentino […]2
After this introduction, two sections are the most important in terms of residency rights for foreign citizens (emphasis added throughout):
Article 14.- All the inhabitants of the Nation enjoy the following rights in accordance with the laws that regulate their exercise; namely: to work and exercise all lawful industry; to navigate and trade; to petition the authorities; to enter, stay, transit and leave Argentine territory; to publish their ideas in the press without prior censorship; to use and dispose of your property; to associate for useful purposes; to freely profess their worship; of teaching and learning.3
In practice, this boils down to paying a minor fee after overstaying your visa, and being able to leave and enter without any issues as many times as you want.
Technically the migration officers could refuse your entry since you would need some kind of residency visa, but in practice there are many foreigners who live here and just take the boat for Uruguay every three months and come back, or they don’t even bother with leaving the country and just pay the fine whenever they leave.
Is this recommended? No, in my opinion it is better to get residency since it is not hard and will count towards citizenship. Plus it will give you more rights.
Ideally you could get a tax residency in Paraguay and live in Argentina, you would just have to make sure that you’re not seen as a tax resident here. This is not hard as long as you don’t activate any kind of local invoicing. Read more about the multiple avenues for getting legal residency in Argentina here, including the rentista visa, pensioner visa or an investment visa.
Autist note: a few months ago I appeared on the My Latin Life podcast talking about visa runs in Argentina, and many other aspects about living here. You can listen to that podcast here. Another recommended read on things to take into account when moving to a country like Argentina from a “developed” country, is the following article:
Argentine citizenship and benefits
Technically, all residents have the exact same rights as citizens in Argentina. The only difference is that a resident cannot vote in national elections, only on the municipal (local) level.
The Constitution clearly states that the rights are exactly the same:
Article 20.- In the territory of the Nation, foreigners enjoy all the civil rights of the citizen; they can exercise their industry, trade and profession; own real estate, buy and dispose of it; navigate the rivers and coasts; freely exercise their cult; testate and marry according to the laws.
They are not required to admit citizenship, nor to pay extraordinary compulsory contributions. They obtain nationalization residing two continuous years in the Nation; but the authority can shorten this term in favor of the one who requests it, alleging and proving services to the Republic.4
This last paragraph is the most interesting for sovereign individuals looking for an Argentine passport, since it confirms that you only need 2 years of continuous residency for citizenship, and it could even be less. In the case of having a baby, or having other significant ties to the country, you could even petition citizenship sooner.
The process of citizenship is relatively straightforward: a lawyer has to schedule an appointment with a judge. The judge will grant you citizenship based on your ties with the country. Having a property, family, business, etc, can all count as significant ties. The more you can prove these ties, the better of course, but it is not very common that citizenship is not granted.
The benefits of an Argentine passport cannot be understated: as a Mercosur citizen, you can now reside in any of the Mercosur member states without any further requirements. These are; Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela (full members) and associated member countries Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru and Surinam.
So you can see that for example having an EU passport + a Mercosur passport opens up residency options in many different countries. Brazil is a special Mercosur citizenship case, because where that passport also grants you residency rights in all Portuguese language countries (part of the CPLP), which is an additional 8 countries.
“Muh can’t renounce Argentine citizenship”
Some passport bros will remind you that renouncing the Argentine citizenship is not possible, and that this could potentially be an issue in the future if the country ever decides to implement citizenship-based taxation.
This is a total non-issue. For starters, there are only 2 countries in the world with citizenship taxation: the US of A and Eritrea. Guess who is able to collect tax dollars from its citizens? Only the former.
No Eritrean would ever wire money to Eritrea just because their government demands it and came up with it just because it was running out of cash.
As we all know, the Argentine Central Bank tends to run out of cash more often than not, but switching from a residency based taxation to a citizenship based taxation would require a change in the constitution, which would very likely not get passed or even suggested.
Even if it would pass in the hypothetical case of the idea ever coming up, guess what will happen? The same as when the Argentine government tells its residents they cannot buy dollars: everyone starts buying dollars.
In this case, no one would pay a single peso. Just like Eritrea, Argentina has no way of enforcing this, and Argentines have no issues with not paying tax.
Good luck collecting those colored booklets, and see you in the Jungle, anon!
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Translated from Spanish: “La Constitución es, en materia económica, lo que en todos los ramos del derecho público: la expresión de una revolución de libertad, la consagración de la revolución social de América. Y, en efecto, la Constitución ha consagrado el principio de la libertad económica, por ser tradición política de la revolución de mayo de 1810 contra la dominación española, que hizo de esa libertad el motivo principal de guerra contra el sistema colonial o prohibitivo.”
Translated from Spanish: Artículo 14.- Todos los habitantes de la Nación gozan de los siguientes derechos conforme a las leyes que reglamenten su ejercicio; a saber: de trabajar y ejercer toda industria lícita; de navegar y comerciar; de peticionar a las autoridades; de entrar, permanecer, transitar y salir del territorio argentino; de publicar sus ideas por la prensa sin censura previa; de usar y disponer de su propiedad; de asociarse con fines útiles; de profesar libremente su culto; de enseñar y aprender.
Translated from Spanish: Artículo 20.- Los extranjeros gozan en el territorio de la Nación de todos los derechos civiles del ciudadano; pueden ejercer su industria, comercio y profesión; poseer bienes raíces, comprarlos y enajenarlos; navegar los ríos y costas; ejercer libremente su culto; testar y casarse conforme a las leyes. No están obligados a admitir la ciudadanía, ni a pagar contribuciones forzosas extraordinarias. Obtienen nacionalización residiendo dos años continuos en la Nación; pero la autoridad puede acortar este término a favor del que lo solicite, alegando y probando servicios a la República.