Work Abroad but earn in USD

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Visas & Annoyances

Today's question comes from a reader who wants to know whether he really needs to get a visa or not, based on his situation. I think this parallels a few other readers as well, so I'll go ahead and address this for today's article.

Reader's Question

I am a self employed consultant living in Miami Beach. I have worked out an arrangement with my clients here that will allow me to live in BA, and do my work for them via the net, get paid US dollars, and hopefully, live forever happy. Do I have to go through the huge visa rigamorole with DNIs etc., or can I get a student visa (or tourist), see how things work, and then apply for the DNI down the road? I am told I could just ferry over to Uruguay every 3 months, get stamped up, and on I go my merry way for another 3 months. Thanks for any advice!

Yes, You Need a Visa

The fact is, if you intend to be here for a long period of time, you need to get a visa. A tourist or business visa (given at the airport when you enter the country) is valid for only 90 days. It may be renewed for another 90 days, letting you stay in the country for a maximum of 180 days per year.

If you attempt the Uruguay method, you may be denied return entry if a consular official looks and actually counts the number of stamps in your passport to determine the number of days you've been in the country. Maybe its not likely, but do you really want to risk it?

Benefits of Having the Visa

Imagine living in the U.S. without a social security number. Everything you try to do would be a hassle. You couldn't get a bank account, you couldn't obtain utilities in your own name, you couldn't prove you had the legal right to reside in the country. Same situation when you're staying in Argentina without a visa and without a DNI.

Before I had my DNI, it was a pain to do everything. Blockbuster didn't even want to let me rent videos here! Ridiculous! Without a DNI it is a hassle to go through daily life, having to explain to everyone this big story about why you don't have a DNI and trying to convince everyone to break their normal procedure and use some other identification to allow you to buy whatever service you are trying to buy.

If you think its a hassle to go through the visa process, just wait until you try to live here without documents. That would be the real hassle. I'd also like to point out that if you don't like to deal with hassles for the visa and DNI, just contact ARCA to do the process for you. It's quite simple. You send them the documents, they get you the visa, guaranteed or your money back. It doesn't get easier than that.

It took me about 2 weeks to get the various documents I needed and one day to fly out to Los Angeles to get the consulate to put the visa stamp in my passport. In your case, you live in Miami and they have a consulate right there in Miami, so you don't even need to travel. It doesn't get easier than that. I think you'd have to be some kind of masochist to actually skip the visa / DNI process and try living here without them. Just think about it this way... you're investing a few hours of your time now to avoid daily hassles once you are here and the risk of being denied re-entry into the country. It's a good investment.

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Monday, September 19, 2005

Medicine in Argentina

Since last Thursday I've been sick with a sinus infection -- something I frequently get during winters. Since I'm going through two winters this year (I left the U.S. last May, just after winter ended) I'm going through two seasons of sinus infections. Joy.

Well, dealing with new medicines here is a quite a bit different. First, the brand names are all totally different. So, if you're looking for Sudafed (a common drug in the U.S. for nasal decongestant), you can't find that here. Instead, you have to rely on the name of the ingredients. The name of the medication in Sudafed is "pseudoephedrine". However, all those names have to be translated first. So, in Spanish the name is "pseudofedrina". So, that's the drug you have to look for.

You have to be careful too about all the ingredients. In addition to the QURA PLUS medicine that I was taking (which has the pseudophedrine for the decongestant), I was using another med for pain and another for my sore throat. Well, it turns out that the QURA PLUS also included something called "paracetamol", which meant nothing to me. I found out later that paracetamol is the same as "acetaminophen" which is also a pain reliever. So, I was doubling up on pain meds, which wasn't necessary.

For anyone living in Barrio Norte, there's an English-speaking pharmacist at a small pharmacy at Santa Fe and Sanchez de Bustamante (on Santa Fe street between Bustamante and the Disco supermarket). Buying meds here is not the easiest thing in the world and since its so different with all the names, its best not to screw around and find someone who speaks English who can make sure you're not going to be taking the wrong things.

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Thursday, September 15, 2005

Safety in Buenos Aires

Today's question comes from an e-mail I received earlier this month. I just got another similar question this week, so I felt it was time to visit this topic.

Reader's Question

I've read through your posts and i didn't see much talk of safety. A lot of people have called buenos aires unsafe for foreigners, how much truth is there in that statement? would you say it's just like any other city or is a short blonde guy from Canada going to be putting himself in some danger?

Crime in Buenos Aires

I can say with some degree of confidence that petty crime is a problem here in Buenos Aires. Most people I know who've lived here have been robbed at least once in their lifetime. Last year my office manager was robbed twice in the same year. I know of one other expat who was robbed here this year as well.

Other than robbery, however, I haven't heard of any violent crimes happening to anyone I know. Buenos Aires is a big city and so big city rules apply here:

  • Don't walk around the streets drunk at night
  • Don't walk around with lots of flashy jewelry
  • Stay on crowded avenues at night
  • Be aware of your surroundings

I can tell you for sure that things are different here than in Canada. I don't know if its true or not, but I remember that scene in Bowling For Columbine where Michael Moore went to Canada and everyone had their doors unlocked. If that's how things really are up in Canada, I can assure you that things are different here. There is much more of a security culture here. Most buildings have security doors and most doors have dead-bolts for added security.

The town I'm from was a lot smaller than Buenos Aires, so it took a little getting used to for me. Perhaps the biggest thing you need to watch out for is that neighborhoods can go from good to bad very quickly. You can be in a good section of town, walk 20 blocks in a certain direction, and then all of a sudden you realize you're in a place you don't want to be. You probably don't want to go "exploring" here without knowing which neighborhoods are safe and which ones aren't.

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Friday, September 09, 2005

Kirchner Reverses and Allows Protests... Sort Of

Anyone whose been here in Buenos Aires for more than a few months has no doubt run into trouble with the piqueteros, the roving bands of unemployed people who block key bridges, streets, subways, and generally cause problems for commuters.

Recently, due to the upcoming elections no doubt, the government decided to take harder line with the piqueteros to try and curry favor with middle class voters, who are fed up with the transit delays on their way to and from work each day. So, what did the government do? They blocked piqueteros from entering the Plaza de Mayo last Friday when they were going to protest for an increase in salaries and unemployment subsidies.

Now, in the face of criticism, the government relents and says they will allow the protests in the Plaza de Mayo once again... sort of. The government said they would require permission from the piqueteros to demonstrate in front of the Government House at Plaza de Mayo. A protest scheduled for today against the planned visit of President George W. Bush, who will attend the Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, will be allowed to go forward.

I find this just a little bit hypocritical and quite ridiculous. They'll allow protests criticizing a foreign government, but not a protest criticizing their own government. They do the same thing in China and Cuba. While no one that I know here likes the piqueteros, it seems to me that blocking protests in front of the Government House is just a way to try and silence your critics. Any democracy that purports to allow free speech and the right to assemble has to allow protests outside government offices. After all, that's where the people who make the policies are working. They are the ones that need to be reached.

A better response by the government would be to stop the piqueteros from blocking roads, bridges, and subways -- which does nothing but enrage middle class commuters anyway -- and allow the piqueteros to protest outside government offices. To be honest, I'm not sure why the piqueteros don't adopt this strategy themselves. They would get a lot more sympathy and support from the middle class, whose taxes pay their unemployment subsidies, if they didn't constantly agitate them with road blocks.

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Getting Married in Argentina

Today's reader question concerns international marriage. This is a legal question, so I will preface my response with the disclaimer that I am not a lawyer and that my response here is not intended to be legal advice. I am only writing about what I know through my conversations with people here.

Reader's Question

I have been dating an argentine woman for the past couple of years and am considering getting married in Buenos Aires. I plan to live in Argentina for half the year at this time. Can a prenuptual agreement serve for both USA and Argentina countries?

Am I automaticly legaly married in both countries or just Argentina? I dont have to deal with DNI and all the requied paperwork to become a dual citizen do I?

About Argentine Marriage

First of all, prenuptial agreements do not exist in Argentina. When I first heard this, I thought it was pretty strange. Likewise, the Argentines I was speaking to thought it was strange that we had such a thing in the U.S. However, the rules about marriage and divorce in Argentina are clearly spelled out in the civil law.

When you are married in Argentina, from that point forward, the husband and wife share all assets. If you were to divorce, all assets would be divided 50/50. However, any property you had before getting married is yours alone. So, if you can document that you owned some property, a company, or some investment before you married, it will be yours after a divorce.

In a conversation a while ago, I was told about a famous actress here (I believe it was Susana Giménez) who was married several times. In one of her recent divorces, it turns out that she made her husband sign a pre-nuptual agreement. The court ruled that the agreement was not valid and disregarded it, dividing her money with her husband.

The Dangers of International Marriage

There are a number of international treaties on marriage, adoption, child custody, divorce, etc. Anyone contemplating an international marriage should speak with a lawyer to see what laws exist between the countries of each partner -- if any. Forget the prenup issue for a moment and think about other even more important issues, such as child custody.

I was watching a 60 Minutes episode a year or two ago about an American woman who had married a Saudi man. They fell in love, married, and had children in the U.S. When the kids were just entering their teens, they moved back to Saudi Arabia. Eventually they divorced. The mother had no way to retrieve her kids. Even though she had a child custody order from a court in the U.S., it was not going to be enforced in Saudi Arabia, where the men have all the rights.

The woman snuck in to Saudi Arabia, took back her kids, and quickly fled to the U.S. Embassy. She was then thrown out by the officials at the embassy who didn't want to get involved. Eventually she repeated the procedure when her husband's family went on vacation to some other country and got just one of her kids back.

The point is, there are a lot more issues than just prenups to worry about when you get married to someone who may have a different legal system than you do. You must find out how the marriage and divorce laws will work.

Implications for Business Partnerships

The reason I know all this about Argentine marriage is that I entered into a partnership with someone from Argentina. In the U.S., you can have your partner's spouse sign a "post-nuptial agreement" so that in the event they divorce, your partner's share is not divided up with his or her spouse. This is important because you don't want your business to be taking on unwanted disgruntled ex-spouses as partners merely due to the changing marital status of the partners in the business.

In Argentina this is not possible. So, if you take on an Argentine partner in a business, you are potentially taking on their spouse as well. What's the solution for this? Your Argentine partner must prove that the money he or she used to invest in the business came from the assets he or she had before marrying.

In this scenario, the ownership of the business will be exclusive to one spouse and not include the other. Profits generated by the business, however, will be shared between the couple. So, if the business generates $1 million and the couple divorces, those profits would be split. This, however, is not your concern as a partner in the business. The underlying ownership in the business would not be split you could continue forward without fear that the disgruntled spouse would be making a claim on future profits of the business nor could he or she try to influence the operation of the company.

Dual Citizenship

Getting married to a national of one country does not automatically make you a dual citizen of the other. I know this for a fact for the U.S. and I'm pretty sure it is the case in Argentina as well. Typically you must live in the country for a number of years before you can be nationalized. That means the choice of where you and your Argentine wife live will probably determine who gets the dual citizenship.

In Argentina, you should contact ARCA, so that they can process your DNI and get your Argentina residency permit after you marry. In the U.S., I don't have a referral, but there are plenty of law firms out there that will process a residency visa for your wife.

Good luck and best wishes!

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