“‘I hereby update you on the status of your permanent residency application with Uruguay’s immigration department (DNM),’ began the letter from my Montevideo attorney,” writes friend Taylor White.
“‘As a result of some abuses,’ he continued, ‘the DNM is now requesting that every applicant have an address in Uruguay (which will be randomly verified by the DNM) and that every applicant show significant time residing in Uruguay.
“‘This is not a change in the laws. The immigration law has always made these stipulations. However, until now, these things have not been formally verified.
“‘In the current climate, those who apply for residency before moving to Uruguay will simply see their files delayed until they meet the two requirements of physical residency.
“‘For those who spend more than 365 days without entering Uruguay, the file will be closed. This is not the same as a rejection. The applicant can reapply anytime and could still be granted residency by meeting all requirements.
“‘As a result of what I’ve just explained, regarding your status,’ my attorney continued, getting to the point, ‘the situation is the following: Your file could be closed anytime, given that you have been out of Uruguay for more than 365 days.
“‘Your file is now waiting for your new police record.
“‘In addition, to have the file progress toward the granting of resident status, it is important that, in the near future, you show an address that can be verified and that you start spending some time at that address…’
“My intention when I started this process,” Taylor explains, “what feels like ages ago, was to establish residency status in Uruguay and then to apply for citizenship.
“When I initially contacted the attorney’s office, I dealt with a really good lawyer who walked me through everything. He helped me to get all the advance documents in order, then I set dates for a trip to Montevideo based on his availability and flew down.
“When I got to Montevideo (how long is that flight anyway…nine hours?), the attorney was on vacation. I dealt with a junior associate. I knew that day that I should reconsider the whole idea. But I’d just made the investment of the trip down and the investment of the time beforehand to get my paperwork in order, so I pushed ahead with the junior associate.
“I signed the application forms, got my health card, and went to the immigration offices for fingerprints as instructed. So far so good.
“As soon as I got back to Panama, I got an e-mail from the lawyer saying that my fingerprints hadn’t been done correctly and that I should fly back down to redo them. As I knew it would take some time for me to get my background check from the States, we mutually agreed I wouldn’t return immediately but would wait until my police record in the States was ready. My attorney confirmed that my file would continue to be processed and that the lack of fingerprints wouldn’t be a problem (as it had been immigration’s mistake).
“That was the theory. The reality was that my file was set aside.
“Months passed. Finally, I realized that the only way to get things moving again would be to fly back down there (really, is it an 18-hour flight?), to redo the fingerprints with immigration, and to verify receipt of my police report from the States.
“Which I did. I confirmed and re-confirmed while in the country that everything, finally, was in order.
“Back in Panama again, I was a little paranoid given my experience to date. I contacted my lawyer regularly to make sure all was well. After the first few weeks, he got irritated with me for checking up with him so often. His boss, the attorney I’d originally communicated with, finally wrote to ask me not to e-mail so often.
“Everything is under control, he assured me. It’s just that immigration is backed up. It’s taking a little longer than usual, that’s all. No problem…
“Months go by. My documents expire. I have to redo them. The attorney blames immigration, who blames Interpol…
“Finally it comes out that my police report from the States never in fact showed up. I’d need to request it again…and then to fly back down to Montevideo…
“At this point, I figured my best bet might be to start over with a new law firm. This one hadn’t worked out so well for me, and I had to redo all the paperwork anyway.
“Then came all the talk about the new Uruguay tax laws…how all residents would be taxed on their worldwide income. Then the new laws were not going to apply to residents, only to citizens…
“But that was my end game–citizenship.
“Back to square one with the Uruguay residency visa, uncertain what the tax implications might be for me as a Uruguay citizen (assuming I ever managed to achieve that status), I’m regrouping.
“My attention has been caught by another jurisdiction: the Dominican Republic.
“I’m now considering a plan to acquire what might qualify as the world’s worst travel document (a Dominican Republic passport). The upside is that there are no requirements to live in the country while applying for the residency visa.
“First step, a temporary residency visa. Next step, about five months later, a permanent residency visa.
“Then, a year later, I could be a white, non-Spanish-speaking Dominican. What could go wrong?…”