Getting a Work Visa
Today's question comes from an Irish reader who moved to Argentina on a work contract and is now in the process of getting his DNI and CUIL. He seemed very confused, so I thought I'd shed some light on his situation.
I moved here 3 months ago with a company (permanent contract) and they got me a 12 month visa and are applying for my DNI (and CUIL I think) right now. It was all done through lawyers (and broken Spanish and English but thats what I gather). I have asked a few times can I apply for residency when I have my DNI, but I never get a straight answer. Do I need to renew this visa after 12 months? Is it tied to my current position? When I have the DNI, am I home free?
If You Have a Work Visa, You Have Residency
You already have residency. If you have a visa, you have residency. What you have is called "temporary residency". In fact, we both have the same visas -- temporary residency visas. The difference is that your visa is sponsored by a firm and mine is based on the "rentista" concept of an individual who can support himself within the country.
Once you get your DNI, nothing will change. The DNI is just an identity document that allows you to show people that you are a legal resident of the country. In fact, after you get your DNI, you'll note that it will have an expiration date -- it will expire on the same day your visa expires. The simple fact of obtaining a DNI does not give you carte blanche to stay in the country as long as you wish. You'll need to continue to renew your visa each year or you won't have legal status.
Restrictions with Your Working Visa
I didn't know whether or not the work visa was tied to a company, so I asked the people over at ARCA to clarify this. The answer is, yes, the visa is tied to your company. In fact, the permit is actually given to the company, giving them permission to bring a worker in from outside the country. If you leave your job or are fired, you're obligated to leave the country. If you want to change jobs, you'll need to leave the country and your new company will need to start the process all over again.
When you get a work visa, the company is actually taking on the responsibility that you will not become an indigent person and become a burden for the government. That's why the working visa is a petition submitted by the company you're working for. Even though you already had your working visa approved, the problem is that it will expire in 9 months. At this point, you will need to renew your visa. Your firm should do this for you if they want to keep you on as a worker.
Getting a Permanent Visa
There is one glimmer of hope, however. When you go to make the third renewal, your visa lawyer can petition for a permanent visa to be granted instead of a working visa and then you'll avoid the whole visa rigamarole from then on out. Its the equivalent of a "green card" that gives you the right to come and go as you please and live in the country indefinitely. I'm in the middle of doing my second renewal this month and I'll be doing my third renewal around this time next year, so I'll let everyone know how the process works a year from now.