Work Abroad but earn in USD

Friday, June 30, 2006

Privacy in Argentina

Today I received a question about privacy in Argentina, specifically about the banking system. With the revelation that the US Treasury and the CIA have been spying on international wire transfers recently, I suppose banking privacy is on people's minds.

Reader's Question

I saw your blog about expatriating to Argentina, and really liked it and found it very helpful. It is no secret that many US Citzens are wanting away from a country where the President simply does what is in his best financial and personal interests no matter what the cost to Americans. I am hoping to move outside the US to a more politically acceptable country, where I feel safer, not from terrorists, but from my own government. Is banking heavily controlled, or are there any good privacy laws regarding banking?

Banking Privacy

My belief is that banks here are much less private than the United States. I have a few anecdotical examples, and of course I don't know for sure, but I'll relay what I do know. First off, just to open an account you have to provide a mountain of paperwork. It is next to impossible for foreigners without DNIs to open accounts here.

Second, at the end of the year, every citizen is required to submit a report that includes their bank balances to the government in order to pay the annual asset tax. I don't know whether this information is gathered from the banks and then cross-referenced with the annual tax filing, but I paid my first asset tax this year and I had to submit my bank balances to the government.

Third, to receive or send an international wire transfer, the transaction always must go through the central bank and you must declare the origin of the funds. I have the rentista visa, which obligates me to bring about $1000 USD per month into the country by wire transfer. I have to sign two papers every month just to receive the transfer that declare the origin of the funds to the central bank. In the U.S., none of this is necessary.

National Identity Documents

Argentina also has a national identity card called a "DNI". This document is issued by the "Registro Nacional de las Personas" or the National Registry of Persons. The United States has been debating whether or not to create a national identity card for some time, but nothing has ever been done. In Argentina it has existed for some time and I imagine it doesn't help much for those who are looking for privacy from their government.

Buying Property

In Argentina, foreigners cannot own property without first registering a CDI number with the national government. This, too, cuts down on someone's personal privacy. In the United States an foreign person can buy property without a social security number or tax identification number.

Culture of Privacy

I would say the culture of privacy that some libertarian and civil libertarian types have in the United States definitely does not exist here in Argentina. If it does exist, I certainly haven't been put in touch with people who value their personal privacy. The government in general seems to be more authoritarian here.

There's even an approved list of children's names here. If you want to name your child with a name that's not on the approved list, you have the possibility of a judge denying it. As bad as the United States has become under Bush, if you intend to move to Argentina, you shouldn't expect that the government here is some wonderful improvement. People live here in spite of the government, not because of it. Move here because you like the culture, the people, or even the low cost of living. But don't expect a better government because you won't get it.

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Saturday, June 24, 2006

The World Cup Effect

After more than a month, the blog continues with another post on the World Cup. If you're in Argentina right now, you already know about this, but if not, you may be a little surprised about just how intense the effect of the World Cup is on this country.

If you wanted to plan a bank robbery here in Buenos Aires, the best time to do it would certainly be during a World Cup match. When you left the bank, your getaway car would be easily able to speed away because the streets are totally empty. During a World Cup match, the entire country is indoors next to whatever television they can find. You could literally run naked down the streets during the World Cup and nobody would notice or care.

Work comes to a halt as well. This goes for people in my office as well. Everyone made it clear to me that they would be watching the World Cup rather than working. During the latest match between Argentina and Holland, everyone gathered around our office TV and work stopped for 90 minutes while we all watched the game.

I was even told by a friend yesterday that women's clothing stores are offering a 20-30% discount on clothes purchased during Argentina's World Cup matches. She explained to me that if the stores didn't offer those discounts, their sales would be dead during that period.

Today, Argentina goes up against Mexico. It isn't a work day, but the city will stop nevertheless. ¬°Buena suerte Argentina!

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