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.
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?
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.
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.