Work Abroad but earn in USD

Friday, March 17, 2006

What's The World's Most Valuable Passport?

According to a study by Henley & Partners, citizens of Finland, Denmark, and the United States have the world's most valuable passports. They can travel to 130 countries without a visa. The worst passport you can have is from Afghanistan, whose citizens can travel to just 12 countries without obtaining a visa. Wow!

Argentina ranks fairly high on the list, with an Argentine passport giving you the ability to travel to 101 countries visa-free. Argentina beats out most of Latin America, such as Brazil, Uruguay, and Mexico as well as much of Eastern Europe, such as the Czech Republic, Romania, and Slovakia. Only Western European passports and a few OECD countries such as Australia and Canada allow visa-free travel to more countries than Argentina.

This is another reason why I'm going to apply for my Argentine citizenship after I've lived here for 5 years. An Argentine passport actually lets you go to a few places visa-free that you can't go to as a U.S. citizen, such as Brazil. With the number of enemies that the U.S. is making in the world, I wouldn't be surprised if a few more countries decided to retaliate by making U.S. citizens apply for a visa. With only a few exceptions, Argentina has pretty good relationships with the rest of the world. I wouldn't be surprised if I found myself being able to travel to some places as an Argentine citizen easier than as an American citizen.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

New Home Buyers Beware

This post is just a warning for all expats out there that are buying new apartments in Buenos Aires... your experience will be dramatically different than what you're used to back in the U.S. Unlike U.S. builders, the Argentine builders don't even hook-up the electricity before they finish. You have to hire an electrician to come out yourself. The light fixtures are not installed either and your closets won't be installed. The apartment is generally left in an unlivable state without additional work.

At first I thought this just happened to me, but from what I've heard from other buyers, it happens the same with everyone. The builders don't exactly finish the job.

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Friday, March 10, 2006

Getting Your Residency Visa

This reader was originally trying to get a visa as an investor. As he states, the government does not allow people to get visas anymore simply by showing a purchase of property. Instead, investors must show a plan to start a business, employ workers, etc.

Reader's Question

The resident's visa "with buying property" door has been closed - you are now required to show a 3 year business plan which has to be approved! And it could be turned down at any time.

Help me! I need a solution. Can you still operate in Argentina if you have a "Rentista" Visa?

Getting Your Visa

When I first contacted ARCA, they told me that I would be very foolish to apply for the investor visa for exactly the reasons you just pointed out. The visa calls for someone to invest $100,000 pesos of capital in a business here in Argentina. Immediately most people think about buying an apartment and just putting it under a corporate name. Wrong! They've caught on to that. Even if you plan on buying a property as an investment, they still won't consider that a productive business and will deny your application.

Despite the fact that I was starting a real IT business here and would be employing workers, I was still recommended not to apply for this visa. Quite simply, it is an arbitrary process. The authorities can deny you for any reason. If they don't like your business for some reason, they can just say no. This is why I was recommended to apply for the rentista vias.

Unlike the investor visa, the rentista visa has very simple rules. If you can bring in $2500 pesos per month into the country by means of an investment abroad, you get the visa. The investment could be anything -- a business, a stock, a bond, real estate, it doesn't matter. If you can show you have income that's not tied to a salary, you get the visa.

The only downside is that a rentista visa is a temporary visa that has to be renewed. However, on the third renewal, you get your permanent residency. The investor visa lets you get permanent residency right away. Then again, it is a LOT more expensive to apply for. You'll have to pay two lawyers here in Argentina -- ARCA for preparing your visa, and a corporate lawyer to handle all the paperwork for your company. You'll also have to prepare your complete business plan in Spanish, make sure it conforms to the way the government wants it, blah blah blah. At the end of all this, they can still deny you. That's why its just a lot more trouble than its worth to go with this visa. Just get your rentista visa, make sure you renew it, and in three years, it'll be permanent.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Teaching English is NOT a Viable Way For Expats to Earn a Living

I just read a post on another expat blog that I wanted to point out to all the readers here. It talks about the author's experience trying to earn an income by teaching English here. I was shocked at the low salaries they are paying. The fact is, the best English schools were paying $15 pesos per hour (less than U.S. minimum wage!). It would be very difficult to live on that here.

This just goes to highlight the advice given by ApartmentsBA from about a week ago... have a plan before moving here or expect trouble. The author of this blog is now looking to start a business here (a much better idea).

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Social Faux-Pas in Argentina

A reader wrote-in asking for some advice with social customs. I won't be able to provide a complete overview, but I will try to point out a few things.

Reader's Question

Thank you for providing your blog site. I think it will be very valuable to me as I consider an exploring trip to Argentina. My general question is, could you provide an overview of social customs in Argentina? Specifically, what social faux-pas might a North American make when traveling the country. For example, I read somewhere that wearing camo clothing is a major social faux-pas in Argentina...

Things Not To Do

You are right about camouflage clothing. You should NEVER wear something like that here. The fact is, people will assume you are a veteran from the Malvinas War and they'll think you're nuts. The veterans here are committing suicide all the time and if people saw you wearing camo, they'd think something was wrong with you.

While we're on the topic of clothes, try to dress better than you do in the States... especially for you people who live out west. People dress sharp here. Living in a small city in the southwest, people used to comment to me about how I dressed well. Here, I'm usually underdressed compared to most people. I still haven't got around to buying new clothes here yet, but when I do, I'll be buying nicer things than I own now. In fact, this rule applies to Americans whenever they travel. Americans have a reputation for dressing like scrubs when they travel, so try to pack some nice things so that you can fit in and not standout so much.

Men and women greet each other by giving one kiss on the right cheek. Men who don't know each other well greet each other with a handshake. Men who know each other well will greet each other with a kiss on the cheek as well. (I still haven't gotten used to this, but when in Rome...) When you're meeting someone for business for the first time, make sure you have a card to give them.

When you say goodbye, say "ciao" (pronounced "chow"), instead of "adios", which isn't used here.

Don't start talking with people you don't know about the military dictatorship, disappeared people, or the Malvinas war. Talk about fútbol instead. Nobody wants to hear a tourist's opinion about these things. Argentines are proud of their country and many of them understand English, so don't be talking negatively about their country or any of these sensitive issues within earshot either. I lived real close to Recoleta for 5 months or so and several times, when I was out at dinner, I heard some stupid remark made by a loud tourist about the Malvinas or something. The Argentines who understood English just shook their heads, disgusted.

Don't wear a lot of jewelry, brag about how much money you have, or talk like you're superior. Argentines appreciate modesty much more than Americans do.

Anyone else out there... feel free to add whatever you can think of.

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With The Recent Election, Italy Becomes The Most Expat-Friendly Country

Allow me to give a big pat on the back to Italy, which, with its recently-introduced election rules for expatriates, is becoming the most expat-friendly country on the planet.

Italy's next election will include the 3.5 million Italians living abroad. However, this is nothing new. Lots of countries, including the United States, allow their expatriates to vote. However, Italy is going much further and creating 18 seats in congress specifically for expatriates. So, instead of lumping the expatriates in with their previous home districts, expats will be divided into new geographical regions such as "Europe" or "South America" and will be electing representatives who will serve their region.

WOW! This is a fantastic idea! Big kudos go out to Italy for finally devising a system to include expatriate Italians in the political process. We just had a post on how some U.S. expatriates are feeling disconnected from their home country and don't follow what's going on there. I think that would change significantly if there were U.S. congressional districts & 2 senators that represented the interests of U.S. citizens living abroad.

The fact is, it makes no sense whatsoever to lump expats in with their previous districts. The local decisions being made there do not effect us at all. However, having our own representatives that serve the expatriate community would be a great way for expats to feel represented by our government. We'd have someone on our side when we get poor service by our embassy abroad, when the congress tries to change the tax rules for expats, or when our government is going on international adventures in the countries that we live in. Right now we have no real representation because we're split across 400+ districts. But if you could put us all together, we'd have someone who could look out for us. For the sake of all expats, everywhere, let's hope Italy's idea catches on.


Getting A DNI Without A Visa

A reader wanted to know whether it was possible to obtain a DNI without a visa. I'll answer that question today.

Reader's Question

I am an USA citizen purchasing a condo in Buenos Aires in April. I hope to visit once a year for 1 or 2 months. I see the benefit in having a DNI but don't think I qualify for any of the temporary residency visas. I would be visiting with a tourist visa. I have my CDI for the purchase of the condo.

My question is can one get a DNI without the residency?

Getting Your DNI

You cannot get a DNI without getting your residency. The fact is, the DNI is the identity document that is given to all Argentines. If you don't have a residency visa, you don't have the legal right to live in the country. So, you won't be able to get a DNI.

However, just about everyone can qualify for a residency visa in Argentina. If you don't think you qualify for any of the visas, you're probably not thinking hard enough. Most people can reorganize their situation somewhat so that they can qualify for a residency visa. It may take a few months to do so, but it can be done.

In your situation, it would make good sense to get a residency visa and I'll tell you why. If you're going to be in Argentina each year for a few months, what you can do is renew your visa/DNI each time you are here in Argentina. After three years, you'll be given a permanent visa (the Argentine equivalent of a green card) and then, for the rest of your life, you'll be able to come and go as you please here in Argentina without the need to bother with visas, etc. So, your idea to get a DNI is a good one. You just need to reorganize your situation to qualify for one of the visas.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Staying Connected or Letting Go?

There was a really interesting comment made a few days ago about "letting go" and just forgetting about the politics in one's previous country. It was a very interesting take on things and I wanted to take the opposing position.

Reader's Comment

One of my majors in college (I had 2) was Political Science. I use to be really interested in government, the inter workings of it all... Now, I really don't care what happens in the USA with politics. I don't follow it, I don't watch the news about it and you know what? I really don't care. Actually it's refreshing not to know or really care what is going on with the politics in the USA.

Expat Participation in Politics

One of the things I plan to do before the next presidential election is to register at the U.S. Embassy here in Buenos Aires to vote. I do still follow politics in the USA and even though I'm not living there, I still feel a strong connection with the country. Now, granted, I haven't been living here in Argentina as long as the reader who made this post, but I don't think my views will change.

I still find myself reading the New York Times online to keep updated about what's going on in the USA. I'm probably better informed about what's happening in the USA than most of the people living there. I'm curious as to what makes an expat lose interest in his country of birth. Living in the southwest United States, I spoke many times with Mexican professionals who were living in the U.S. and most of them still voted and kept abreast of politics in Mexico.

Crossing the Threshold

The reader has mentioned to me in the past that he probably will never return to the United States. I haven't yet crossed that mental threshold. I'm happy with Argentina for now (and for the immediate future, as I just signed a 2-year lease), but I haven't made the decision never to return to the USA. Who knows, someday in the future I may go back. I wonder whether there is a difference between expats who have made the decision to stay for good versus expats who maybe just want to spend a few years abroad.

Right now, I'm not sure which category I fit into yet. However, I do still feel a strong connection with the USA and I like to be informed about what's going on there. I still get very upset when bad things happen in the U.S. and during Katrina, back in late August, I had CNN running the entire time I was at work. I felt a lot of trauma by what was going on there... the same thing I felt on September 11th.

It was a different kind of trauma than what you feel when a disaster happens in another country. You feel more connected, more hurt by it. I haven't reached the point yet where I can see a disaster happen in the USA and feel the same thing for a disaster that happens in Pakistan. The U.S. still feels "close" to me and I'm still concerned about what happens there, much more so than some other random country.

I wonder how other expats feel about this issue. Do you still feel a closeness with your country of birth or do you feel you're able to ignore it to some extent?

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Top Ten Reasons I Love Living in Buenos Aires

I got a question today from a reader asking why I like Buenos Aires so much. Long-time readers of this blog will, of course, know a few of my reasons already, but I'll go ahead and summarize them here in one easy-to-read post.

Reader's Question

What do you like about living in Buenos Aires? What does the city and culture offer you that you could not find in [the United States]? I’d love to read your comments.

Top Ten Reasons I Love Argentina & Buenos Aires

Well, here is my list, in no particular order:

  1. The (low) cost of living.
    I have a job that allows me to live anywhere on this planet. Give me a laptop and an internet connection and I can work from anywhere. Given that my income doesn't change no matter where I'm living, it only makes sense to live in a place where things cost less. Argentina is one of those places.
  2. The opportunity to go carless.
    Going without a car just isn't possible in the western United States. Here in Buenos Aires, taxis are cheap, busses are everywhere, and the subway isn't half bad. You don't need to own a car if you don't want to. I always hated driving, rush hour, and the expense that goes hand-in-hand with car ownership.
  3. The big city lifestyle.
    Now this one is purely subjective. Living out west, I knew a lot of people who moved there to escape the big city, so it can go both ways. I love the fact that I can go downstairs and find a grocery store, movie rental place, electronics store, shopping mall, 20+ restaurants, plus a whole host of other services within a 5 block radius of my apartment. Where I grew up, everything was always at least a 5-15 minute drive away. Forget about walking anywhere. Now everything is a 5 minute walk away.
  4. The superior gene pool.
    As a newly-single guy, I have to confess that all these beautiful porteña women are certainly easy on the eyes. Everywhere you go there are 9s and 10s running around.
  5. Learning a new language.
    While everyone back in the U.S. (and especially the southwest, where I lived) is screaming and hollering about English-only schools and how they shouldn't be forced to learn a new language, I say humbug! ¡Viva español! Since moving here, I've improved my Spanish quite a bit -- to the point I can speak with someone 1-on-1 now about pretty much anything, so long as they have some patience and are willing to explain unknown words to me. I'd call it pre-conversational. No way would I be learning this fast if I was back stateside.
  6. The nightlife.
    Now, I'm not a huge party animal, but Buenos Aires is the place to be if you are. The fact is, if you want to go out and do something at night, places will be open all night long -- until the sun rises. You can't really run out of things to do here.
  7. The business opportunities.
    Any business-savvy person who comes here will recognize there are business opportunities everywhere. It seems like everywhere I go, I'm always thinking to myself how I could do a lot better than that person or provide a much better service than that guy. The problem isn't with a lack of opportunities here, its with the fact that there are too many. You have to convince yourself to slow down and not try to do everything. Everywhere I turn there are independent American businesspeople starting successful companies here -- real estate, internet, language schools, import/export, and the list goes on and on.
  8. The people.
    In general, I like the people I've met here. Most people are interesting, have a good attitude about life, and can carry a conversation about almost anything. Even the Americans you meet here are more interesting. It seems everyone has their own story to tell and I like to hear them.
  9. The country's natural beauty.
    I've been to much of the southern party of the country plus Igauzu falls in the extreme north. There's no denying that Argentina is a beautiful place. With affordable domestic airfares for residents, you can hop a plane and get out of the city whenever you need a touch of nature.
  10. The food.
    I've traveled to quite a few places, including some places with truly strange food. The fact is, Argentine food is very easy for the American palate because it is very similar to what we eat. If I had to live in China, India, or any of these other far-east countries, I'd probably die of starvation. You can handle their food for a week or two, but after that it just gets old. There is no shortage of great restaurants of Buenos Aires and there's always something good on the menu.

Well, there's the list. The fact is, I limited myself to 10 things because otherwise this post would literally go on forever. There's quite a few things I'm leaving out, but what you read above was a good summary. I'd love to hear from other readers as well. What do you love about Buenos Aires?

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