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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Anonymous Argentina Es Una Poronga said...

Uruguay has always traditionally had a MUCH better reputation of possessing a stable & protective banking system. They are also known for protecting depositants account info & data to the hilt.
In fact, Uruguay is know as the "Suiza de America" because of this fact.

I don't exactly know how opening an account works for non-uruguayans. But I DO know that many wealthy argentines have Uruguayan bank accounts, so apparently foreigners ARE allowed to open them. Also, although the security factor may be high, I don't know about the yields.

As for Argentina: my wife lost about $3,000 dollars when the "corralito" crap came along. Even tho it was on deposit w/Citibank and we're Americans.

I know of several argentine retirees who lost almost ALL their savings. Or had them STOLEN actually. Because that's EXACTLY what it was. And the "corralito" was NOT the first time the Argentine government dipped into its citizens savings in order to save its own financial butt.

Argentina has a HISTORY of cheating those foolish enough to entrust money to its banks. Check out the high yields argentina pays if in doubt.

They're ridiculously high because SO IS THE RISK.

6/30/2006 06:31:00 PM  
Blogger johnny said...

For the guy/gal that wrote in: Just leave your money in the states and come to Argentina anyway. Unless you are funding Al Qaeda or the Democrats it should be safe there !:)

6/30/2006 06:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Diego said...

I must disagree that Argentina is an authoritarian country as USA nowadays. In Argentina, a journalist would hardly go in jail for not revealing their sources (in fact, the Argentina constitution protects the secrecy of sources). Yes, you cannot simply invent a name for your kid, however, the list of over 6000 names available fit the vast majority of parents. What is more, a few days ago the minister himself informed that the Ley de Registro Civil will reformed soon and the list in question will be virtually abolished ( In the US, they would hardly tolerate that kinds of protest that take place in Argentina (I am talking about those that don't involve the use of violence from the protesters). It doesn't take much to be arrested in Washington DC (as Cindy Sheenan could tell). Not to mention the ability from the US government to spy your phone conversations... This is not to say that bureaucracy in Argentina (like in many other countries, like France for instance), can sometimes be pretty authoritarian. This is to say that all depends from the perspective you look at it.

6/30/2006 08:04:00 PM  
Blogger elizabeth said...

An example of a difference sense of privacy rights: It was reported in the paper today that the tax minister is asking the airlines for names of Argentines that travel to the World Cup. The tax man is hoping that is it full of tax evaders......

And while I call myself a political exile for sorts (an american hating the Bush years part II), dont come here looking for a more reasonable political system or stable society. Argetnina is an amazing country but I would keep your assets somewhere else. You need an address in Uruguay to set up accounts there. According to a lawyer you can buy an address but as a lawyer he couldnt recommend it.

6/30/2006 08:32:00 PM  
Blogger johnny said...

Well, I will add to my flippant remark above. I certainly would not let concerns about "privacy" in Argentina interfere with a decision to relocate here. I think some of this would depend on how immersed one would be in the system here. If you plan on buying property, having a substantial relationship with local banking(alot of lucre in the bank), establishing a local business, etc,;then I would research areas of concern. If however, you maintain your banking in the USA(easily done), are living off a pension or savings, and have no intent to interject yourself in the local business world, you should make out fine. Also, if you are lucky enough to be able to work here and get paid in dollars, then the advantages pile up in the form of the tax exemption afforded those with expat status.

Sure, Bush and his cronies are an offensive lot, but I would utilize the banking system in the USA, and come on down. Expatriado has extolled the virtues of USAA Savings Bank in this forum, and I opened an account with them before relocating to BA. It has proved to be a very good decision. Suerte !!

7/01/2006 11:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't trust Uruguay either...

Only illegal gambling and prostitution are good over there.

7/01/2006 03:00:00 PM  
Blogger johnny said...


You must be joking. Uruguay does not compare to Argentina for prostitution. BA is TEEMING with working girls. Not that there is anything wrong with that.:)

7/01/2006 06:52:00 PM  
Blogger elizabeth said...


Prostitution is legal here..they have their own union.

7/01/2006 11:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My wife (Argentine) kept her money only in a bank with connections to the USA. She had no faith in the Argentine banks.

BTW, some of us like the way the US of A has been going - "the long national nightmare" ended with the 2000 election!

7/02/2006 12:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, and be sure you don't get "gato por liebre" 'cause there's a lot of working boys, too!.

7/02/2006 02:06:00 AM  
Anonymous pablomai said...

la "Suiza"of south america is bariloche, uruguay is the "cayman islands" of south america.

7/02/2006 07:23:00 AM  
Blogger Faku said...

Bariloche why?
i live in bariloche and my mother works in the national bank of argentina (banco de la nacion argentina)

and there isnt any diference like another citys

7/03/2006 08:47:00 PM  
Anonymous pablomai said...

por el paisaje faku. because of the mountains end lakes.

7/04/2006 08:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi All,

I'm a brit with an Argentinian partner. I stumbled across this site and am now hooked.

With specific regards to this thread I can say that Britain, while being the CCTV capital of the world (more CCTV per square metre than any other country in the world) there has been a raging debate here concerning the proposed introduction of a DNI - type document. Many are opposed, citing loss of privacy and it looks like it will never be introduced.

In relation to bank accounts, my girlfriend managed to get a UK bank account with only a few hiccups, and this despite having a European passport.

Argentina's control over every aspect of its population's lives, to me seems a legacy of its years of military dictatorship but, like the previous poster, I certainly wouldn't let it put you off. I personally would love to move there at some point.

7/07/2006 08:00:00 PM  
Blogger El Padre said...


Your comment about Britain having more surveillance cameras per square meter than any other country may have overlooked that Monaco is a country. Have you been there? It is as loaded with cameras as its residents are loaded with money. It certainly has more cameras per square meter than Britain.

Cameras are a good thing in deterring street crime. Government monitoring of bank accounts, telephone conversations, or emails are a much more serious threat to privacy, in my view.

el padre

7/09/2006 02:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's nex to impossible to open up a foreign bank account in the U.S. now, and very difficult as well for many Americans. Several banks such as Sun Trust have also begun to make policies that are completely off the deep end due to all of the new regulations passed after 9-11 regarding banking. So they're not perfect either. Nor is the Caribbean any longer the wonderful off shore tax haven it used to be. Recently the majority of the Caribbean nations signed agreements with the U.S. to open more information to the U.S. government.

However, that said, I still prefer FDIC insured banks in the U.S. and would never keep anything here in banks except for small amount.

p.s. Diego thanks for the note about the law being updated about names. We're getting read to have a baby here and although the list is very extensive, some of the names we like are not on it.


7/10/2006 08:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The update about the law of names. They WILL NOT amend the name list, only allow people with double surnames to use both. Actually, it's not different here than in France. In France they also have the law governing names. Just as here, it's to protect the child from getting a ridiculous name, from receving the same name as siblings, political names, and names that could cause major problems in the Spanish language. But the list really is huge, and because of all the diplomats, and people who named their child with their name, the list has an extensive number of names from the States, Europe, Asia, etc.


7/10/2006 08:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree on your comment about that "people live here in spite of the government". When you travel to Argentina and talk with people, whether taxistas, friends, people out etc, it will not take many days til you realize that the government ad politicians are a big part of what is the problem in this country (i.e. poverty). With great nature (something you could write more about, Expatriado!), culture, food, people, city life etc, I would consider this the best place on earth if political culture was better than it is. Anyway, I think that if you are well off financially and thus less dependent on govertnment politics, Argentina could still be seen as one of the best places to live for the mentioned reasons!


7/12/2006 07:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

El Padre said...

....Cameras are a good thing in deterring street crime. Government monitoring of bank accounts, telephone conversations, or emails are a much more serious threat to privacy, in my view.

If that were really true, then crime in Britain would be down significantly. Which it's not.

These Orwellian cameras are there to monitor and control citizens.

Check out what street cams did for the 77 attack in Britain:

7/18/2006 10:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Six thousand names should be enough. In the USofA Ashley has become overused, and the different "made up" names some of my patients come up with are no laughing matter. I've had one who named her daughter Ceefilis.

7/26/2006 08:00:00 PM  
Blogger Ted said...

Is "Ashley has become overused" really a good basis for the government to regulate people's behavior? This names list is one of the silliest and worst (at least in principle) things I'm aware of about Argentina, and I know it pretty well.

7/27/2006 12:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Diego seems to forget how the Kirchner government are controlling the media through the government's use of paid ads in newspapers. If you criticize too much you lose advertising! The consequence has been that there is self imposed censorship. Argentina has its charms but anyone who has lived in the US knows that there is a great deal more freedom in day to day life there. The same can be said for Britain though there is a little less libertarian tradition in the UK and more government involvement in one's life.

7/30/2006 08:19:00 PM  
Anonymous back2ba said...

Is it safe to say that if you are making $12,000 US per month living in the States, you should make $12,000 pesos per month living in Argentina to maintain the same standard of living?

8/27/2006 05:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When Americans move abroad, many of them like to blame President Bush and so-called "conservative politics" for their move.

However, I suspect it's just an excuse and deep down they have other reasons: the increasing lawlessness of US society, non-white immigration, violence, poor public schools, the lack of higher culture, economy, etc. The US is becoming a Third World country before their very eyes. For many Americans, moving to another country is the ultimate form of "white flight."

Please, stop blaming President Bush. Be honest with yourself and admit that the US had bigger, deeper problems than George Bush.

For myself, I want to go to Argentina not only for the reasons I just mentioned, but also because of the women. American women, especially career women, are not marriage material. Many of my buddies agree with me and are staying single.

However, I was raised in a stable Catholic family and I've always wanted to marry and start a family. I just can't see that happening in the US with an American career woman.

I know quite a few Argentines, from prep school and college as well as my parents' expat friends, and Argentine women, and Latin American women as a whole, strike me as more feminine, more traditional, yet intelligent and strong, unlike in the US where the family is breaking down.

9/01/2006 05:43:00 PM  
Anonymous El Americano said...

I agree with your comment on American woman. In my experience they're like wax fruit: beautiful to look at but completely flavorless and inedible.

9/02/2006 05:20:00 PM  
Blogger familiaoconnell said...

I am not sure if the above post is for real....

Our family has immigrated here for many reasons. One of my own personal reasons as to why I was enthusiastic about the move was my unhappiness with the our (U.S) response to 9/11 and the subsequent war. You dont speak for me when you say Americans are leaving the US to get away from multiculturalism and all the problems you seem to believe that it brings. One of the reasons we came here was to infuse a bit cultural diversity into our children's life experience. They have learned a new language. Through extensive travel to the interior of Argentina and South America our family has had meaningful experiences with some of these "third world" people.

You are kidding yourself if you think Argentina is antidote to the US and its problems. All the structural societal problems in the States are disfunctional here too..crime is an issue for people, corruption is a mode for doing business and a teacher in a public school makes $300 a month if they are luckly. As to finding a wife... Women are independent, use to working and will divorce (rates are comparable to the US).

With all that said, I wouldnt want to discourage anyone from making a life here, it has been a tremendous experience for my family. But I would argue that coming here for the reasons you mentioned just dont make sense. I have to wonder if you would be happy anywhere....

9/03/2006 02:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd rather be a foreigner in a foreign country, than a foreigner in MY OWN country.

The US is being transformed into a Third World country: violent, poor, fractured, incompetent, crumbling infrastructure, failing schools, etc., not to mention the MILLIONS of third world immigrants who are invading our communities (with the active encouragement of Washington, DC). I know plenty of Americans who are upset about it. "White flight" is a response that happens all the time. Moving abroad is the ultimate form of "white flight."

If you want racial diversity, why don't you stay in the US? You would love it in the US, where white Americans are second-class citizens. As far as I can see, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, southern Brazil are predominantly white and/or mestizo. That suits me just fine.

Argentina may have structural problems, I realise that, but at least there's a high culture, a recognizable civilization, and Argentines are proud of their country as imperfect as it may be. In the US, the only thing that counts is the dollar and Americans are all too willing to sell their own grandmother.

That said, I am also looking at Uruguay and Chile.

9/03/2006 12:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the above poster:

In case you were coming to Argentina to hang with hiding Nazis, I am pretty they are all dead at this point. I thought I would save you the trip.

9/04/2006 07:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks. But still, I'd rather hang with "hiding Nazis" than with filthy Communists in the US and Europe.

9/05/2006 10:56:00 AM  
Anonymous El Americano said...

During the 1930s & 40s, Argentinas military was equipped and supplied by Germany. The uniforms were the same as the German Wehrmacht, the weapons were the same, the vehicles were the same (within argie budget restraints of course) and the same military operational tactics were studied (although in Argentinas case, al pedo como siempre).

In fact, even many German drill instructors were brought in to provide basic training to argie troops.

Peron aptly played the allies off against the axis until the very last moment possible. In fact he formally declared war on Germany only a few days before its collapse.

The Graf Spee crew was interned in Uruguay but eventually all moved to Cordoba afetr the war and bought their families. Others fleeing post-war Germany had heard about the beauty of Argentina (we're talking the 40's of course) and went there seeking a new life. Or at least a new passport.

Throw in the fact that Argenzuelians are very anti-semitic and you have a perfect environment for nazism to thrive.

Fortunately, I guess, nothing thrives in Argentina except MISERIA.

9/05/2006 11:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By leaving the USA, you can't escape being and feeling American so you'll listen to US news (English based CNN) and you'll still feel the same inside your heart no matter where in the world you live. America is your country and I've not known anyone who could careless about what is happening back home.

Without that said, I accept that you can escape a certain lifestyle, but you can't escape feeling American. Since you are essentially escaping a lifestyle, you had better hope that the lifestyle in Argentina meets your expectations or you'll be looking for yet another lifestyle escape.

9/18/2006 05:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your ciomments are absolutely true in all regards. Libertarianism is an unknown quantity in authoritarian Argentina.

11/07/2007 01:16:00 AM  
Anonymous rock hound said...

Read with interest about the Argentine banking system, privacy (lack of), etc. and basic differences between Argentina and the U.S. One rule of thumb never to forget is never but never place money in an Argentine bank. My wife is an Argentine citizen so since our wedding (in the U.S.) I have been spared the bumps and grinds of learning how to live and accomplish what you want to do in Argentina. My wife has smoothed out many of the bumps in the road as well as members of her family (one is an attorney). I have a DNI and a Permanent VISA so am spared many of the admin nighmares many of you write about. Well, back to the advise column: I have been foolish at times that have cost me being street robbed 4 times (BA, Mar del Plata and Mendoza) but that is part of living in any large city. My wife has lost several thousands of dollars over the past 30 years when the Argentine bank she had money depositied in failed. No FDIC look alikes here folks, just pure faith in the establishment. So, what does that mean to us now? Never take anything for granted in Argentina, never assume you or your personal possessions are safe, be prepared to spend a lot of time doing "TRAMITIES" and use a lot of common sense along the route. Most of all, the Argentines are some of the most friendliest people on the planet and most really seek out friendships with north Americans because they want to learn more. We do however need to overcome the distorted reputation that Hollywood and American TV programs have created. I have a question: Is there an english speaking expat social organization in BA and if so would someone please put me in contact with them/it?

1/16/2008 02:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Li'ed said...

I am an American considering moving to Argentina. I Speak Spanish and will be moving with my white father who does not speak a word of spanish.

I love the USovA. But I need to know what it is like to live in another country. and it will give me a good chance to perfect my Castilian. Most people say I sound like an Argentino when I speak but we shall see.

Have taken no steps to my move yet as we just started talking about it. This site is great and inspiring. Considering I am young 24 do you think making friends would be hard?

2/12/2008 03:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I don't want to disappoint you but making friends here is not an easy task. Argentines are very closed and only hang with their own people. The majority of them are not particularly interested in meeting foreigners, especially the younger ones. Also, they can be pretty bigotted and narrow-minded. They think that everyone should be like them. If you're not, they'll think you are not as cool as them and therefore don't deserve their attention. Be prepared for some serious culture shock...

5/09/2008 12:08:00 AM  

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