Work Abroad but earn in USD

Monday, February 13, 2006

Living 'DNI'-less

Life can be tricky in Argentina without a DNI. I've said it over and over again on many different posts. When you're here without a DNI, people just assume there's something wrong with you. Everything becomes a hassle and an explanation. Everyone wants to know why you don't have a DNI. The fact is, if you don't have a DNI, Argentines assume you don't have the right to be here. Now, one particular reader has tried to contradict me on this issue, so I want to share that comment as well as another comment I just got today.

First Reader's Comment

I know Expatriado is a big fan of the DNI, however,we did rent a house, buy a car, open a bank account and get health insurance without a DNI. We did get them as we intended to stay here awhile, but the only real tangible advantage is the discount for travel in Argentina.

Second Reader's Comment

I've been here almost 2 years now, and EVERYTHING YOU HAVE SAID ABOUT LIVING HERE WITHOUT A DNI IS TRUE TO THE LETTER. The problem is, I found this out the hard way (actually living it and now trying to go through the process of obtaining one after the fact, so to speak).

I'm here legally now for 2 years. When I started the [residency] process, I assumed it also involved my getting DNI, but when I finished, and asked about the DNI, I was informed that that was a TOTALLY DIFFERENT PROCESS THAT I HAD TO GO THROUGH WHICH WOULD NOT BE MADE ANY EASIER JUST BECAUSE I HAVE MY TEMPORARY RESIDENCY NOW.

What You Can Do

Your best bet is to contact ARCA and ask them to intervene on your behalf. They can check on your status with Migrations and then request the DNI for you if your visa is valid. However, if you have a temporary residency permit, check that it isn't expired. You never mentioned whether you made sure to renew it each year. The expiration date is printed there in your visa page on your passport. The temporary residencies are for one year and need to be renewed every year until you file a petition for permanent residency.

If you haven't renewed your residency, you may be overstaying your visa and might not have legal status. This is something you should look into right away. Countries don't like it when people overstay their visas and they can use that as a reason to deny you a renewal. So, you should check on your DNI and visa situation right away.

You are right about the DNI situation -- it is totally different than your residency. I recommend ARCA a lot on this blog and some readers give me a hard time about it since they charge more than other visa lawyers out there. But the fact is -- if the other lawyers don't get your DNI, don't get your CUIL, and don't renew your visa for you each year, you're not getting good service.

Every year, a month or two before my visa is up, I get a friendly phone call from ARCA asking me to stop by their office and drop off my passport. A week later they have my new visa for me. It's like clockwork. I'm convinced that the one thing every long-term expat needs is a good visa / immigration attorney to keep you legal and keep you on the government's good side. Remember, we are all guests in Argentina and they can ask us to leave at any time. So, it is important that we make sure to have our immigration situation squared away.

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Blogger mattyboy said...

I'm here a year now without a DNI. I do wish I had one and I will soon try to get one, but I don't find locals ask why I don't have one as it's obvious - I'm a foreigner. Normally when they ask "documento" I just say my passport number and that's that.

I would like to know how one of your readers opened a bank account without a DNI, I thought that was impossible.


2/13/2006 04:02:00 PM  
Blogger said...

I was just able to get my insurance and rent a house without a DNI. I also know several people who have opened bank accounts without a DNI. I do agree that having a DNI will make some things easier but don't agree that it is necessary for everything.

2/13/2006 07:32:00 PM  
Blogger ABA said...

There are a lot of positives for having a DNI number but it's not essential. With good contacts, there is a way around anything here. Within two weeks of moving here I opened a bank account (u$s and peso account), got an ATM card, credit card with local banks all with NO DNI. I bought medical insurance, started companies, rented property, bought property, etc. (It's almost impossible to open a bank account without a DNI but it is possible if you have strong contacts and significant funds).

Still, it's better having a DNI. I agree with what El Expatriado said. ARCA might cost more but they have a solid reputation and they get the job done. I was with another immigration attorney for 1 year and they didn't get my DNI. I've talked to a lot of people that didn't get it. It's not as easy as people think.

Anyway, I can relate to both sides of living and not living with a DNI. Good luck.

2/13/2006 09:06:00 PM  
Blogger familiaoconnell said...

I wrote the post about my experience sin DNI. We did do everything without a DNI as we began our visa process after our arrival. You can open an bank account with a CDI which is a fun adventure in red tape but you dont need a visa to do it. As I wrote in the same post..We did eventually get our DNI's..(you do need them for a driver's license but that is a whole other debate as to if a Argentine DL is necessary) but as are hoping to get permenent residency here and we wanted our paperwork in order. As to ARCA, I know people that love them, they are very capable. However, if you speak spanish there are good lawyers here that can handle visas and DNI's for much less money.

As to when people ask for my document # on cc receipts or anything, I always give them my Social Security number (its the only one I have memorized) and its never been a problem.

2/13/2006 09:39:00 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Yeah, life is a lot easier with a DNI. For example, it's very difficult, if not impossible, to get a contract for a mobile phone without one so you're limited to ridiculously expensive pay as you go. A DNI also makes opening a bank account a very simple procedure. It makes paying your taxes easier. It makes your taxes cheaper as well!

Opening a bank account without a DNI is a pretty easy process but a bit of a hassle. You go to the police Comisaria that corresponds to your hotel or wherever you're living. Each barrio has one. Ask anyone in your building or in the shops nearby which comisaria corresponds to your barrio. It may well not be the one closest to where you're staying by the way. You then pay a small fee (around 15pesos i think last time i organised this for someone) and ask for a "constancia de domicilio". The next day, a policeman will call round, confirm you're living there (in a hotel, apaprtment, wherever you are. And don't worry, they're not there to check your immigration status!) and will leave you with a signed and stamped form stating that that is your legal domicile in Argentina. I should point out that AFIP may well accept an apartment rental contract in place of the constancia but many foreigners don't have one. Short term rental leases may or may not be permissible. To save having to queue up at AFIP only to be told your documents aren't in order i'd get the constancia. I should also point out that you don't have to be physically present when the police come around. Your flatmate, hotel owner or concierge can confirm to the policeman that you're living there.

OK, so you have your constancia. Go to the AFIP office that corresponds to your domicile (again it may not be the one closest to where you are), take at least 3 photocopies of the constancia and your passport and a good book to read as you'll most likely have to wait for at least an hour. Ask for a CDI number. If they ask you why you need one just say it's for 'escritura'.

With your CDI number you can, in theory, open a bank account. The problem is that my bank, Banco Frances, won't accept a police 'constancia' anymore as proof of domicile (they did when i first arrived a couple of years ago). You need a rental contract. If you really, really need to open an account then get a short term rental for a week or so and take the contract along to the bank. You should now be able to open an account. You'll get a debit card and be charged 6 to 10 pesos a month for the pleasure of giving the bank your money. Account maintenance or some such rubbish. They'd never get away with it in England but that's Argentina for you...

Anyway, to cut a long story short; life is by no means impossible without a DNI but it is certainly harder.

Also, I've heard very good things about ARCA as well but they charge an absolute fortune. At least double what decent immigration lawyers charge. I guess you're paying for peace of mind, which is a very valuable commodity here in Argentina. I know a very good immigration lawyer who speaks fluent English and charges somewhat less than ARCA. The thing is, it takes a long time to make good, trustworthy contacts in Argentina (it's taken me almost 2 years to sift through the bad ones and have a list of people i can count on) so if you're looking for a reputable firm of immigration specialists to work with before you arrive in Argentina when you know no one then i think you could do a lot worse that ARCA, a firm that has been recommended by a number of foreigners on various expat websites.

2/14/2006 08:38:00 PM  
Blogger rickulivi said...

Getting a DNI is another story. I tried to get it and was told to show up EARLY at an address in downtown. I was told that only 150 appointments are made per day, and they give out the numbers at 8 am or so. I got there at 7 am and they had already passed out all the numbers for the day, so I had to return on another day. However, I was informed that once you get your appointment, the actual processing time may take about 30 days. Since I was not going to be around due to travel, I did not apply for my DNI.
I thought about using ARCA, but I read in their website that they only accompany you to the office; in other words, apparently they cannot actually obtain the DNI for you; only you can. So, be prepared to get there very early so you can get a number, and then wait patiently for yours to be called. Good luck with your DNI!

2/16/2006 12:07:00 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

Very true rickulivi...i spent 3 hours waiting in the rain (at the old office next to a skanky park in san telmo) from 7am. I got to the front of the queue only to find out i'd been queueing just to get a ticket to come back 3 weeks later to queue for another 2 hours to hand in my documents to then wait 3 months for them to hand-write my DNI and then wait for 2 and a half hours for them to give it to me. It's a crazy system but a decent book, an Ipod, a sandwich and a thermos of tea make things a lot more manageable.

My Chilean girlfriend is about to go through the process of obtaining legal residency in the next couple of weeks and wants me to go with her...i obviously said 'no'! She's going to be more confused by the whole system than i was. At least i come from england (where things work)-i was fully expecting things to be this difficult and ridiculous. She, until i woke her up to reality, just assumed that things here would run as smoothly as they do in Chile...!

2/16/2006 10:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can call to get an appointment to submit the paperwork for your DNI. I believe this was once not the case. But now there's no need to wait in line to get an appointment to come back. The number is 0800 666 676, as found on this page:

It's true that it can be tough to get through and the first available appointment was a few months off. But once I showed up at the office on the appointed day, I was only there for an hour and half or so. It wasn't too bad.

And maybe I'm misunderstanding, rickulivi, but you don't have to be here in town when your DNI is ready. I'm assuming you're coming back eventually, right? Just pick it up when you're back. I doubt it would only take 30 days anyway, and they'll hold it for you for a while after it's ready. After a certain point, they transfer it to another location and hold it there. (They give you the details on this when you apply).


2/17/2006 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger ABA said...

Real Buenos Aires,

You are wrong that it's easy to open a bank account with just your CDI number. Many local banks now won't open up a bank account without a DNI number. I know a few people that tried at Banco Frances even with a CDI number and they wouldn't allow it.

That is the thing about Argentina. One day, one person might let you and the next one might not let you.

It's amazing the amount of red tape and paperwork and just a mess that the system is here. Everything is relative. Things usually always cost more with trained professionals that have a good reputation and get things done. I know when I lived in the USA, my law firm I used was one of the best in the USA. I certainly paid more per hour than a rinky dink law firm. But you know what, when I needed things to get done they got done.

You can take the same principle with most professionals. Doctors, lawyers, accountants, consultants. The best usually has a premium on it.

I can tell you that I know a lot of foreigners that spent a lot of time and money on lawyers that didn't get the job done. I have no reason to recommend ARCA. I don't make any money from them, I really don't know them that well but I did meet Lorena a while back with their office and was impressed and I've talked to others like El Expatriado that used them.

If you couldn't tell, guys like him are straight shooters. I'm the same way. No reason to make anything up. It's just the way it is.

Good luck all.

2/17/2006 07:55:00 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Well, ApBA, you're right about the fact that one person will tell you one thing and someone else another, but wrong about the bank account opening. It is easy but, as i said, it's a hassle to get the documentation. Lots of hoops. I sent a friend along to open a bank account just the other day to my branch of Banco Frances with his CDI, british passport and long term rental contract, no DNI. He walked out with a shiny new bank account. I've also helped other people open accounts there (with me present as the bank staff know me there now and because the people didn't speak much Spanish) with no problems.

Maybe it depends on the branch you use but i've honestly had no problems with banco frances other than when they first informed me that they wouldn't accept the 'constancia de domilio' anymore. I just think many bank staff are ignorant of the rules. Or they think that opening a bank account for a foreigner will be too much effort. If you get refused ask to see the manager and you'll be fixed up in no time.

The fact is, (as you obviously know!) there are a lot of foreigners buying property in argentina. With the government getting stricter every day with money coming in 'in grey' the easiest way to get money legally into the country is through a local bank. A transfer takes about 2 days to arrive and then a day to clear the government's dollar-peso-dollar exchange scam. If you go to the central office of banco frances (san martin and bartolome mitre or rivadavia i think) they can talk people through the process of legally sending money to argentina. They're very helpful-i asked a load of questions when i went to sign for my bank transfer when i bought my 2nd property and received sensible and honest responses all round.

For the most part, I deal directly with my bank's 2 'ejecutivos' who i now trust will give me the right info, but for peace of mind i'd suggest having a chat with the head honchos downtown.

2/18/2006 12:02:00 AM  
Blogger ABA said...

Hi Real,

I only meant you were wrong about the "easy" comment. Ha, ha. As you know, nothing is so easy here. Yes, I think you are correct that it depends on which branch you go to, which person you deal with. The fact is a lot of locals are lazy and if they don't feel like the work on any particular day they will just say they can't do it.

You are also correct when you said it helps once they know you, you do business with them. Any referrals you send they will treat them different. The biggest problem I've seen is turnover in some branches is very high.

Always helps to deal with people at the top as you suggested. I haven't dealt with Banco Frances before but maybe after your posts I'll give them a try. I deal with several banks here in town and found that compared to the system we have in place in the USA/UK they are all REALLY horrible here. (Of course that is like comparing apples to oranges).

Best of luck.


2/18/2006 02:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is is fair to say that there are short cuts to take and regulations to break here in Argentina.....but in the long things by the book or it will come back to bite you when an authority decides to take action. I was under the impression that the Central Bank of Argentina stipulates that a DNI is required to LEGALLY open accounts and accept money from overseas. Local banks can either adhere to this is or not but who will take the hit if things go pear shaped. When dealing with large sums of money and doing things outside the Central Bank's rules and regulations could spell disaster in my book.

2/18/2006 06:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a question

Does have an Argentinian permanent residency permit grant one the right to work in other countries of the Merosur area. I am currently waiting on my Dni which I will have in like 4 months or so.


2/18/2006 06:43:00 PM  
Blogger rickulivi said...

My comments address "the fact that one person will tell you one thing and someone else another" in Argentina. Very true, but I have found that to be the case in the States too. First, the BA case.
Two years ago I tried opening a bank account with a photocopy of an old libreta de enrolamiento. Several banks would not accept it. I went to see my escribano who recommended this banker to me, and neither would he open an account for me. But I don't give up easily. I walked into a branch of Banco Frances, and bingo, I walk out with an account! Go figure . . .
About the same time I was trying to buy an apartment on Avda. Alvear and most, if not all, the real estate agencies were telling me that nothing was available. Since I don't usually take no for an answer, I walked the avenue from one end to the other and talked to every "portero" I could find, and voila, I found a terrific apartment which I bought. In sum, there is a lot of misinformation in BA, but so is there here in the good old USA. A few years ago I applied for a large loan at Bank of America, and I was turned down. Disappointed, I went home that evening and opened my mail. I found a letter from Bank of America offering me a loan as large as the one that they had turned me down the same day. I got the loan but also got quite confused. Who do you believe? So, it seems that you also have institutions in the US that give you the exact opposite answers.
I think the best way to deal with NOs is not to give up, whether in the USA or in Argentina.

2/19/2006 07:20:00 PM  
Blogger Kamani said...

We are in the process of completing piles of paperwork for our family of four. What we thought was an advantage is no longer so -- although born in the U.S., my husband lived in B.A. with his parents for several years and was able to get a DNI under his parent's Argentine citizenship. Fast forward 30 years, and that rinky dink DNI has expired and we're getting the same run around as though we're applying for a new one.

What's frustating is that all the Argentines are insanely confident although every single one of them will have completely different instructions.

Despite all of the complications, we have been told that our US bank account can be used as leverage to open an account (with the same bank of course) in B.A. It also doesn't hurt that our family friend manages the Recoleta branch. We also have family that works at the Banco Frances in Martinez who would open our account without a DNI. We looked at a few homes in Nordelta and if you pay cash, a DNI is not necessary. We also met with Medicus and again, totally possible sin DNI.

So bottomline, as apartsba said, with strong contacts and significant funds, anything can be possible. And as mattyboy said, for some of us, it's completely obvious that we're foreigners and I don't plan on wearing my DNI around my neck just so the portenas will accept me. It's all formality.

2/20/2006 11:47:00 PM  
Blogger Zander said...

In Bariloche Telefonica will not let you get phone service without a DNI. If you have no phone service then you cannot get DSL. So, I pay an Argentine to have the phone and DSL in her name. Does anyone know of any other way?

8/24/2006 08:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guys, I can feel your pain. I am an Argentine living in the USA. When I was in Buenos Aires I opened an account in the Banco Franc├ęs. Although I have a DNI the process took longer than usual because I was using my sister's address. It seemed like a big thing, somehow. That, combined with the fact that now I have a slight accent and that my DNI is breaking apart and has a picture of me when I was 18. Ultimately, they gave me the account as there were was no specific reason for a denial. But I am sure they searched the book for one! :) Good luck to all...

PS: by the way, my wife has no papers and I can tell you it is not easy to be undocumented in the USA either, but I am sure you all know that! :)

1/12/2007 06:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's often just a matter of luck and attitude. I found the CDI to be incredibly easy - it took me less than 15 minutes at the local AFIP office - and half of that was me filling out the two copies of the form. Opening a bank account (savings only, not checking, which does, supposedly, require a DNI) only required my passport and the CDI at an HSBC branch and took about the same amount of time.

3/01/2007 10:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the Argentina poster who lives in the US: Let's not confuse the issues here. There is a big difference between not having legal papers to be in the U.S. and not being able to get a DNI in Argentina despite having legal status. Nice attempt at consolation, but I think you're comparing apples to bananas there.

6/13/2007 02:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello All,
Both of my parents are Argentinean and I was born in the U.S. I visit Argentina several times a year and I wanted to get a D.N.I. Can anyone guide me to how I could do this or what I needed?

8/19/2007 11:58:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I can, I was just reading how to do it for my son.

You are eligible for Argentine citizenship. Contact you local Argentine consulate and they can direct you on how to get your citizenship.

As a minimum you will need the birth certificates of your Argentine parent(s), and/or their DNIs. And your birth certificate, probably translated into Spanish.

Once you have citizenship taken care of, then you can apply for your DNI, which you can do through the consulate too. The have a list of documents you will need to send them.

9/25/2007 10:04:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Does anyone have any advice as to the first step I should take in order to obtain CDI? I am an American, working in the middle east, considering relocating to BA. I currently live in Argentina for just under 6 months out of the year (I come and go on the 90 visas issued on arrival, as I only stay 40 days at a time). It has been explained to me that it is possible to buy real estate with only CDI, any wisdom there?

9/26/2007 03:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Message for Emily B: Here is how to get your DNI

1/05/2008 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger Darlene said...

Hello!!! I guess this forum is a bit old..but I hope somebody can tell me if they know other local agencies that can help me push the procedure of my DNI application..I submitted my documents like 2 1/2 years now and still no news.. although my husband and I are currently abroad..It's still different once you get your Dni.. life in Argentina will be much easier..

2/01/2008 06:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is the DNI inthe married name or birth name for women?

1/14/2009 04:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi.. I just moved to Buenos Aires and am in the process of getting a DNI. I have been told it will take me over 2 year to get it. I really need to get a Drivers Licence but I have been told that without the DNI it is impossible. Does the CDI do the trick?? How long can someone drive with a foreign DL???

I really need some advise...


2/14/2009 12:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi...I came to Argie 14 years ago and lived here for 2 and a half years with no DNI. Tough but managed. I was told the easiest way to get residency and, hence, a DNI was to get married so I did! Luckily we're still married! I wouldn't recommend it for evryone! With the marriage licence with a notary managed to get an appointment in the bowels of imigraciones. Then spent the next few years with a residencia precaria. The terminology just sends a shiver down my spine. I eventually got my residencia permanente but still no DNI. I, too, did the queue at 3am to get a number but finally managed to bribe someone 4pesos to let me in the queue. Six months later I went back to get my DNI to be told a document was missig. Another 3 months and I finally had the Holy Grail.
Don't know how difficult it is to get a driving licence without a DNI but my wife was able to get her registro here without taking a test because she had an English temporary licence. In England she'd failed her test horribly for trying to drive the wrong way down a dual carriageway. Those English drivers need to be toughened up!
Reading these stories brings back somne horrible but also amusing memories!
Good luck and mucha paciencia!!

7/09/2009 06:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hello...we are planning to move to argentina this year. I found the posts in this webpage very informative, thanks to all. Can somebody give me an idea on how much ARCA charges for the visa service? I have ecuadorian residency, but i am a german citizen, any info on the mercosur situation, does that only apply to CITIZENS of mercosur member countries or as well people who have a residency of one of the mercosur member countries?

Any info is highly appreciated

3/21/2010 02:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Everyone!! I recently got married to my Argentine girlfriend and already have all the paperwork I need to get my permanent residency. Does anyone know how long it takes after you receive your permanent residency to get your D.N.I.? Thanks to all in advance.!!

9/04/2010 11:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Anonymous (9-04-2010)

First of all, like what majority said in this forum, most of the time it's just a matter of luck.

I am Filipina married to an Argentine. As soon as we got married on 2004, I got my residency permit from the Argentine Embassy in Philippines so when I entered Argentina the very first time, I handed one envelope (with all my documents prepared by the embassy) to the Immigration Officer (airport) and the other envelope to Registro Civil. This procedure helped me to skip from the waiting and all and immediately got my DNI (extranjero), which actually took some time due to some document errors etc.. but anyway the receipt that the Registro Civil gave me served as a proof that I am already a Resident of argentina. By the way my hubby and I are working abroad and we go to argentina like once a year for a month period which caused delays too. As soon as I got my DNI (extranjero) I immediately processed my Ciudadania (Citizenship) and like 6 months after submitting all the requirements, I got my Argentine nationality and the next day processed my passport. All this procedure took me like 3 years. From getting the DNI extranjero to finally getting Argentine nationality.
By the way, what is your Nationality and in which city are you living in argentina?

9/05/2010 08:29:00 PM  

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