Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Expat Report: Month 3 - Adjusting To Life In Argentina

Three months ago, I made one of the toughest decisions of my life and relocated to Argentina with my spouse. Although we both knew that things would be different, the months that followed since we landed have been a huge learning experience for both of us.  

Adjusting To The Changes 
We now use kilos to weigh fruit, vegetables, cold cuts, meat, and pastries, instead of pounds. We think in pesos when making purchases instead of U.S. dollars. We use Celsius instead of Fahrenheit when determining the weather. We’ve had to adjust to the seasonal changes too. When we arrived in June, we were in the middle of the Argentine winter. Now we are only a week away from the Argentine spring.  
We’ve learned to appreciate the simple things. The stress level in Argentina (at least for an expat) is minimal. Argentinians are very laid back, whether they´re dealing with business or pleasure.
Keeping Busy 
My spouse is in the process of becoming an Argentine resident and the immigration process is grueling, but we will overcome this obstacle eventually. In the meantime, he has been keeping busy in the kitchen doing what he loves best, which includes baking cakes, pastries and many other treats. As for myself, I’ve been keeping busy by offering private English courses to one of my cousins, and to her boss, who's a medical doctor at the "Hospital Nacional De Clinicas," which is a public (free) hospital. 
Long Term Goals 
My goal for the next three months is to land myself a more permanent job. Teaching English is great, but it’s not what I came to do in Argentina. I would also like to apply for an Argie driver’s license. I have my New York License, but it’s irrelevant here if you're an Argentine resident, or citizen. I’d also like to get a better grasp at the Castilian grammar before I attempt to translate my novels. While I'm at it, maybe I can take a break and make some friends here. 
 Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How to Deal with the Immigration Nightmare in Argentina

I never expected it to be easy, but I didn't know it would be this difficult to make my spouse a legal resident in Argentina. 

Apostilles
Argentine immigration won’t accept any document (birth certificate, marriage license, death certificate) unless it has an apostille. An apostille is a document that legalizes all forms of certificates and licenses from your home country so that they may be recognized in foreign countries. 

Get everything apostilled before you come to Argentina. If you don't, then getting your documents apostilled will be far more difficult and more expensive to do by mail. 

Notarize
Have your documents notarized as well. If you’re in the United States, the best place to get this done is at city hall. You can get your apostilles done there as well.

Background Check  You need to provide a background check from your home country. If you’re from the U.S., you can get this done through the FBI. You will need to provide them with a fingerprint card, which you can get the U.S. embassy to mail to you. You can also print out the form from the FBI website. The embassy WILL NOT perform background checks.  

Why The FBI Rejected Your Background Check  A lot of expats already living in Argentina have gotten their background check paperwork rejected by the FBI because the bureau is unable to read the fingerprints from the fingerprint card. To prevent this, make sure that you go to the federal police in whatever Argentine province you're in to get your fingerprints done. The fingerprinting process must be flawless. Any smearing will cause your background check application to get rejected. You may also want to get your fingerprints digitally printed on your fingerprint card. This process is more precise and stands a better chance of being accepted by the FBI. Once you’ve received your background check, have it notarized and apostilled. This has to get done in the States! 

Translate!  Your next step is going to be to bring all of the apostilled and notarized documents back to Argentina and have them translated by a legitimate translation company.

Time Table
You want to make sure that all of your documents are notarized, apostilled, translated and legalized before your immigration appointment in Argentina. All required documents must be presented together or they won’t process your residency application.

Avoid Immigration Lawyers
I've spoken with several locals about this and they've warned me to stay away from lawyers. In most cases, they'll charge you too much to do something that you can do yourself. Unless you commit a crime, you won't get deported in Argentina, and you can save yourself some money, and avoid getting conned by just doing it yourself.

Visa 
You can request one additional tourist visa a week before your original visa is about to expire. Visas are called prorroga in Argentina. You will be charged 300 Argentine pesos for the visa renewal. But with the country's economic flux, the cost is bound to rise, so check with Argentina's immigration offices.  You can always leave Argentina and reenter the country in order to get a new tourist visa. When you reenter, you will be asked a series of questions such as: 
  • What is your purpose for entering Argentina?
  • Why have you been making frequent visits to Argentina?
  • What do you do for a living?
  • Where will you be staying?
  • Do you have any friends or family here? 

I hope this information helps you to avoid some headaches and save you some money. Below are some links that might prove useful.

https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/fingerprints_biometrics/guidelines-for-preparation-of-fingerprint-cards-and-association-criminal-history-information

http://www.migraciones.gov.ar/accesible/

http://argentina.usembassy.gov/