About the show

Each episode on the investment Immigration Podcast by Uglobal.com, host Salman Siddiqui sits down with leading professionals, attorneys, thought leaders and government officials to discuss the latest developments impacting citizenship and residency by investment. Whether you´re someone who takes part in cross border transactions, works in the investment immigration community or are personally interested in participating in citizenship or residency investment, tune each week to the Investment Immigration podcast to stay up to date on what´s happening in the investment immigration world.

About the host

Salman Siddiqui is the host of Uglobal’s Investment Immigration Podcast series. Siddiqui is a versatile storyteller and embodies the spirit of a true global citizen. His own immigration journey took him to many places around the world, including the UK, Cyprus, Turkey, and Qatar. He has written dozens of in-depth articles and features on global investment immigration programs for the Uglobal Immigration Magazine and website. He is a journalist and creative content editor by training. He earned his master’s in arts degree from SOAS, University of London. He is currently based in Berlin, Germany.

Salman Siddiqui

Episode Transcript

Dragana Andreyev: There is a world safety index. It ranks from zero to 100; 100 being the most dangerous places in the world; Zero being very safe. Paraguay is at 50. Uruguay is at 35. France is at 66. Yet we never talk about France and go like “oh, shall we invest in French businesses? Is it safe enough?”

Salman Siddiqui: Welcome to the Investment Immigration Podcast by you Uglobal.com, with weekly in-depth interviews with the world's leading investment immigration professionals.

Welcome to another episode of the Investment Immigration podcast, brought to you by Uglobal. I'm your host, Salman, and today we are going to talk about Paraguay and Uruguay. These two Latin American countries that most people don't talk about when we discuss citizenship and residency programs for investors and entrepreneurs. And today we are going to focus on why is that? Firstly, why are people not aware about these options? And is it because the residency and citizenship is just not attractive enough? Is that true? Because there's a perception that maybe, why would I want to go to Uruguay? What would be the benefit for me as a wealthy investor? So we're going to try to find out what makes those countries attractive to investors, and the pull factor for them there. So to discuss all of this, I have a very special guest in my podcast. Her name is Dragana Andreyev. She's the marketing manager for NTL Trust. Welcome to the show, Dragana.

Dragana Andreyev: Thank you so much. It's very nice to be here.

Salman Siddiqui: So the Western media's perception of Latin America is not usually very, let's just say welcoming. So how can potential investors get a more nuanced view of those countries? What do you suggest, like, should they first try out shorter term residency options such as Uruguay digital nomad visa or tourist visa, to get a feel of things firsthand? What do you recommend to your clients?

Dragana Andreyev: Well, if you want to test the waters, basically for any citizenship or residency programs, there is an opportunity to take a tourist visa and go and see for yourself, right? When it comes to actual representation in media from of the world, there is a lot of grouping together all countries of Latin America and dubbing it as Latin America. That which also is very uncomfortable prejudice because we never talk about Europe as Europe this or Asia this. Even European countries and even EU countries are not all the same when it comes to economic power. When it comes to Paraguay and Uruguay in particular, they are on the higher end of safety and political safety index in the whole of Latin America. So every investor does a due research before making any kind of investment or relocation decisions. And this is something that you can do from your own home and not necessarily from the ground. However, if you feel the need that you can go and test, this is something that is always open to you as a possibility.

Salman Siddiqui: The reason why I'm asking is I have a feeling that maybe it's also a lack of awareness about what kind of opportunities are there. Do you think there's not enough people who even know that such options exist there?

Dragana Andreyev: Yes, absolutely. If you talk to a regular person who does not do investment or is not in this line of business and you ask them about Golden Visa or you ask them about investment opportunities, they will know something about Greece or Portugal because the European programs are there for a long time. And this is something that stayed in the mind of people. Not a lot of people actually know about Paraguay and Uruguay. The upcoming trend now that now they’re starting to know. So this is one of the reasons we're doing this interview now, because we're trying to get ahead of the trend and kind of bring attention to the things that are happening that are changing in residency and citizenship by investment industry.

Salman Siddiqui: Now, picking up on that, the first question that anyone would want to know is, okay, now I've heard of Paraguay and Uruguay, but then what's there for me there? So that's why I want to ask you, is it worth it for foreign investors to put in the time and effort to gain residency there? What kind of benefits do they get from there? If you could explain that a little more.

Dragana Andreyev: Yeah. Of course. So the biggest advantage of these two programs have different advantages. We will see down the line that the actual advantage of each of both programs is the flexibility. Both programs are very straightforward and very fast.

In Paraguay, you can get the temporary residence in less than 90 days. In Uruguay, it's around ten days for the temporary residence in Uruguay, you can build a life and it's more of a plan A than plan B in Paraguay. You do not need to be physically present if you do not want to or not wish to. So these are residency programs in case you want to down the line, change them into citizenship programs. That is also a possibility.

While these specific programs for Latin America are starting now to be trendy is because we entered post-Covid, really a time where the changes are quite quick, we're seeing the world today really changing from month to month. Situations can be very unclear and if you need a quick solution where you really need to move yourself or to remove yourself from a certain situation, you have this programs in your pocket, and then down the line you can decide what is going to be the type of your business investment.

There is a lot of opportunities in both countries. The market is very competitive. It's a liberal economy or where basically treats foreign investments same as national investment. So down the line in a few years, if you feel like this is the place where you want to stay, your business is going well; you can change the residency position. If you decide you want something more different and permanent with NTL Trust, you can go and find very safe buyback options in the Caribbean, if this is what you want to decide. This is a very low risk option and very quick solution; both these factors are in today's world a necessity.

Salman Siddiqui: When we are talking about Uruguay and Paraguay, should an investor think more of it as a destination for permanent residency, or is that a place where you get more advantages if you aim for citizenship, which would of course require then a longer period of time, isn't it?

Dragana Andreyev: Definitely. You have options. Uruguay will require you to be on the ground most of your residency. So if you are aiming for relocation and you're claiming plan A or for retirement, we'll talk more about it. A lot of wealthy individuals from South America and North America are aiming for that. You have an option to relocate and you're basically allowed to develop your business from day one. Paraguay is a great option if you just need a residency and all the tax benefits and basically trade benefits of another country, but you're not still sure that you want to relocate.

Salman Siddiqui: Now let's talk a little bit about the lifestyle advantages of these two countries. So what specific lifestyle advantages do Paraguay and Uruguay offer that make them appealing as investment migration destinations, especially for potential investors from the US and Europe? Like what's in it there for them?

Dragana Andreyev: Absolutely. After Covid and in the 2020s, we have all globally changed our shift for more sustainable environments and the natural resources are becoming one of the top interests for every investor and for every industry.

So this is the number one opportunity that you have in Paraguay and Uruguay; self-sustainability. Paraguay is the greatest exporter of electricity in the world. Huge amounts of fresh water, drinkable tap water, new major fruit producer. They are the fifth biggest producer of beef in the world. And if you think about it, it's quite a small country comparing to some other South American countries, and they have great nature, with great tourist infrastructure. These are urban environments that have excellent infrastructure. They have great expat lifestyle. Uruguay is famous destination because it's not landlocked; it is a great destination for tourists. It's a great tourist hub. Montevideo is, and it's a great place where you can mingle with other people. You can network, you can build permanent investment and trade relationships, and you can enjoy.

If tomorrow, let's say if you are into doomsday prepping tomorrow, something really goes bad. You can live there and be safe with your family for very long amount of years.

Salman Siddiqui: I would also like you to elaborate on the stability and safety factor in these two countries, because for people who don't know anything about South American countries, especially Uruguay and Paraguay, they don't know how safe or stable they are compared to other countries in South America. So how do you convince your clients about that particular issue?

Dragana Andreyev: Predominantly with facts; let’s look at this one fact: there is a world safety index. It ranks from Zero to 100; 100 being the most dangerous places in the world; Zero being very safe. Paraguay is at 50. Uruguay is at 35. France is at 66. Yet we never talk about France and go like “oh, shall we invest in French businesses? Is it safe enough?” So when it comes to actual physical safety, Uruguay is incredibly safe and liberal. Paraguay is quite safe as well. And when it comes to economic safe investment safety, as I mentioned previously, Uruguay treats foreign investment exactly as national investment. There is a very little crime. There is a very competitive young workforce. So if you're thinking of opening a big business or a big investment you will have the workforce that will be very active to engage in your projects. You will have most investments without prior authorization.

The process is quite straightforward. Both countries are trying to adopt increasingly international outlooks. Uruguay a little more than Paraguay because its culture is a little more liberal. But if you're into traditional values, then Paraguay is a country for you and there are no sudden confiscations. There are no changes in investment rules. There is quite robust set of employment laws. There is a strict protection of intellectual property. So all the things that matter to an investor and which is stability and the proven track record, that there are no volatile changes. Paraguay and Uruguay both provide.

Salman Siddiqui: Let's now also talk about something which you mentioned about the options. You mentioned that it's a place for investors and how it offers great options to them. So let's talk about what options entrepreneurs really have in these countries. Can one, for example, set up a company as a foreign investor in Paraguay and Uruguay and gain residency through that? Is that even an option there?

Dragana Andreyev: Yes of course. So basically, if you decide to go on the route for Paraguay residency, you can go with the traditional route where you just apply first for the temporary residence and then for the permanent residence. This route does not require you to do anything else.

However, if you decide to enter this process with business in mind, there is a route which is a fund that helps you set up a business which is also not very traditional way as other programs are doing it. You need to spend or invest $70,000 over the course of ten years of that period. You basically need to allocate that amount, which when you decide to divide these numbers, is basically $7000 a year, which is then not a lot. And this path will lead you to a residency.

That’s just one of the options. Now citizenships are, as I said, both options for Paraguay and Uruguay. Uruguay is maybe straightforward in some cases. In Uruguay, entrepreneurs are free to establish their company as soon as they get temporary residence. And that's ten days after the application. So until trusted agents that are on the ground can help you with basics of opening tax residency, bank accounts, setting up a company and everything that goes. So keep in mind all of this cannot happen in one day, which sometimes clients expect. This is something worth mentioning in time in development of dealing with one documentation after the other, authorization after the other, you're very free to set up your business and start.

Salman Siddiqui: And speaking of the processing times, let's talk about how the process of obtaining residency in Uruguay and Paraguay works from gathering documents to actually receiving a residency card. Is it a very long process, like a year long? Or is it a shorter time frame like 90 days?

Dragana Andreyev: No, it is quite straightforward process and it's pretty clear. So for Paraguay, as we said, you do not need to be present. Basically you need to complete the list of your documents, which should start with contacting your agent, and they will give you the list of the things you need to do. Usually it's the standard procedure including birth certificate and marriage certificate. You will have to do a medical checkup, criminal record, background check, and when you get all the documents translated to Spanish, your agent will help you make the appointment and submit documents.

To submit the documents, you need to be in Paraguay and you need to show up personally for your appointment. Now this will take from you 3 to 5 business days until you pass through this first initial step. After that, you can stay. You can leave in 90 days.

You should be able to get your temporary residence card, and you will need to show up the second time after the expiration of temporary residence card, which is after 24 months.

Then temporary residence card naturally gets turned into ten year residency and you need to be there for that change to go and submit again. Now, if you're not in the country after the 90 days, our agent will pick up the documents for you and mail it to you if you are even better.

Dragana Andreyev: So this is pretty straightforward. You need to be basically be in the country for ten days for first application and next five for the changing into permanent residency and for everything else. Our agents are here to help and to guide you through.

The Uruguay one is also pretty simple; the same thing you will need birth certificate, marriage certificate, criminal record, income, and medical checkup.

The process is shorter. After ten days you will get the residency. But since Uruguay is requiring you to live there, your permanent residency will be processed in the two years in which you are already living in the country. But since you're already living, you're not under so much pressure to get it, or at certain times, or to plan your visit because it's the process when you're already investing your time and your life and living in Uruguay, just basically what is more of a solution for you at the moment as an investor? Do you want to live there or not? Then you can choose which program is maybe a more attractive.

In both cases these are pretty low numbers. These are pretty straightforward processes. And then you can run with that. In less than a few months you will be completely sorted.

Salman Siddiqui: Is the processing time also same for married couples with for example children or does it take more time for them?

Dragana Andreyev: Process is the same for everybody. The interesting thing is that Uruguay for citizenship offers a special route for married couples and gives them a priority. So if after three years in Uruguay you decide to apply for citizenship, you can be fast-tracked as a married couple and you can apply for citizenship.

Salman Siddiqui: Speaking of citizenship, I want to understand from you is getting a citizenship for an investor from the US or Europe? Is it something that they should be looking for? What I want to really understand from you that how does a passport from Paraguay or Uruguay really compare with other countries, and what sort of advantages do they get?

Dragana Andreyev: As I said, if you want to get a citizenship, if it's possible if that's your final goal, then it's better to look into maybe Caribbean programs because the citizenship track is much more straightforward.

But if you're still unsure what you want to do, this is why the residency programs are quite good. If you're thinking, why are citizenship programs popular? Amongst other things, it's the increased mobility. But if we take a look in these cases, Paraguay and Uruguay, a national ID card already gives you the benefit of increased mobility because with Paraguay national ID, you can enter Brazil and Argentina without need of a passport. So that's already giving you a better connectivity in the region. If this is something you're also interested in, let's.

Salman Siddiqui: Also talk about some trends. From which countries do the applicants usually come from when they are applying for Paraguay and Uruguay? I've heard about the trend of wealthy individuals from Argentina and Brazil mostly choosing to take up residence in Uruguay. But are you seeing more Americans who are now going for these programs? So if you could share some trends with us.

Dragana Andreyev: Yeah, definitely. Brazilian and Argentinian are the majority of the people who were seeking residency or refuge in Paraguay and Uruguay. You know that Uruguay is called the Switzerland of Latin America. So these are the countries that are known in the region as abundant and sustainable and have very reliable economic growth.

Paraguay made economic growth in last year for 5% during Covid times. So this is something those in business understand and follow quite regularly.

But yes, you're right, there is an increase of requests from North American citizens, especially US citizens, because they're currently passing through. It seems a long term change. The elections are next year. There will be a lot of uncertainties.

In the last few years, there has been a bit of a change of mindset, as we can say when it comes to US citizens, and there are also searching for plan B or searching for a situation where they can escape or just kind of have that safety net in case some laws are passed that might be detrimental for their business or livelihood, or they have just basically a safety against any kind of volatile changes. And I think we're all kind of feeling that volatile changes are looming above all of us.

Salman Siddiqui: There's also another trend, which is people who will want to escape the dreaded winters, especially in the European part of the world. And I think countries like Paraguay and Uruguay give that in terms of options. For those looking for, say, a second home during the winter time, what kind of destinations are Paraguay and Uruguay, in your opinion?

Dragana Andreyev: Yes, absolutely. Great, because they both have a very mild climate. And you see the structure of both programs is very welcoming to retirees. So if you can prove an income, that is really not anything that is for a developed country, you can have a very nice, very safe, very secure lifestyle in a natural place that is also very well connected. Tourist hubs already opened their doors for great living situations. Both Paraguay and Uruguay have great healthcare. This is what a lot of our clients are really prone to ask if they are making the relocation. They're mostly interested in education, health care and political economic stability. So both countries offer one and the other.

Salman Siddiqui: I think another concern that a lot of people, especially if we're talking about retirees, wealthy retirees, would be the language barrier. How big of that is a factor in deciding, is that a big hindrance? Or they can get by, for example, with English there?

Dragana Andreyev: If you think about it, the South American continent is going to be geographically close to people who want to, let's say, move or relocate from North America, because this is going to be the closest continent. North Americans’ first language is English, but the second language in all school systems is Spanish. Everybody can at least get by with some Spanish.

In both countries, Spanish is the main language in the process of naturalization. Let's say if you really want to stay and go in the Citizenship Act, you will be expected to show the level of Spanish. This is something worth mentioning because both cities are quite international and especially in Montevideo in Uruguay. It is not necessarily to speak Spanish because you will be surrounded by people from all around the world, and English is something that is commonly used. So if you're relocating from any other part, then it would be the similar as if you're moving to Portugal for Golden Visa or Malta. You will also have probably equal or a little more problems with using English. So I don't think it's any kind of an obstacle.

Salman Siddiqui: You also mentioned about how people talk about Portugal and Malta. But then of course, if we are going to talk about those options in Europe, then there are a lot more expensive the investment immigration, the investment threshold there is in hundreds of thousands of dollars. But I think compared to that, Paraguay and Uruguay, even if they don't offer a formal program, they offer you residences for much cheaper route, isn't it?

Dragana Andreyev: Yeah, that's correct. And I think that is only half of the attractiveness of Paraguay and Uruguay. First, European programs are a lot more expensive. The process is not so straightforward. It takes much longer time. And from a practical point of view, we have seen also quite a lot of changes recently, especially this year in Europe.

After Brexit, the borders are kind of going up. There is closing borders to certain countries in case of granting visas. So clients are with full right afraid of going for European programs because their longevity is currently in question. And we don't know if there's going to be changes. They're not going to be changes. Paraguay and Uruguay are just on the rise, and they do not have any political instability of neighboring countries. So there is very small chance Brazil will decide tomorrow to pull up a border and say, no, you cannot come in. So on top of the economic reasoning, there is just a little bit of uncertainty when it comes to European programs, and they seem to be going out of the trend for the time being. We will see how is that going to pan out in the next 5 to 10 years.

Salman Siddiqui: And we are coming close to the end of our show. So I would like to also ask you, why do you think Paraguay and Uruguay are still the underrated choices for residency and investment, and how does one change that? And what kind of future are you seeing for the programs there?

Dragana Andreyev: I would say are they're underrated, maybe. But are they unknown? 100%. They're just not put on the map enough. And this is what we're trying to do right now is to redefine what is Latin America and to work on breaking stereotypes, because our clients are people from all over the world, and nobody that is our client would like their country to be the one that's prejudiced against. Right? We are in the time where we need to also make the difference and make the change between the divided world in developed and underdeveloped or west or east. These are very 19th century divisions and the world is rapidly changing. These terms don't mean what they used to mean 150 years ago. And the programs like this, and even the instability we are facing are completely witness of that.

Paraguay and Uruguay are just not on the map. And we're using this opportunity with these two programs. First, to redefine the stereotypes, to redefine the facts that are there about South America, especially about these two countries, and to put them on a map and to offer to our clients something different that they do not maybe know exists. They would think more or maybe would consider more. They just don't know about it. And not necessarily our clients, but also general investors, entrepreneurs, digital nomads, people who are into crypto and a multitude of people who are doing business who would be interested in these programs, are just not well informed enough.

This is what we're doing right now, trying to pioneer into this growing trend and to lead by good example.

Salman Siddiqui: And you're absolutely right. I think the problem is just not on people's map. It's just not on the radar. If they hear more about it, they'll definitely be interested. So we have come to the end of our podcast show. But before I let you go, I'll give you an opportunity to make your pitch again for Paraguay and Uruguay. And there was also something that you wanted to add there about some event you're doing to promote this destination. So please go ahead. You have 30 seconds to make your pitch.

Dragana Andreyev: Thank you so much. So NTL Trust is doing a webinar on Paraguay Uruguay on December 8th at 4:00 pm. You can sign up by visiting our website. This is going to be a great opportunity to hear in detail from our ground experts everything about the process. There's going to be extensive Q&A, so you can ask any kind of questions you have, and you're going to hear from our lawyers and our experts, and you can get all the specific questions that you had in mind or get informed, and we can connect you with our agents directly, and you can start your process immediately if you need our assistance beforehand. Also contact us and we are here in this month until the webinar to serve you the best we can.

Salman Siddiqui: Thank you so much for being part of our show, Dragana, I really enjoyed talking to you and learning so much about the opportunities in Paraguay and Uruguay, and in the end will just give a shout out to our listeners that please stay tuned to our show. We'll be bringing you more guests from around the world to talk about more investment immigration opportunities. So please stay tuned and thank you.

Dragana Andreyev: So much. It was a pleasure.

Salman Siddiqui: You've been listening to the Investment Immigration Podcast by Uglobal.com. Join us again soon for more in-depth conversations exploring investment immigration opportunities from around the world.

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