We Obtain Permanent Residency in Paraguay
It was five and a half months from the August day we arrived in Paraguay until we received our permanent residency.
Prior to coming to Paraguay we gathered our police checks, birth certificates and marriage certificate, all of which had to be legalised in the foreign office of the UK and then the Paraguay consulate in London. We had one U.S. document that needed to be legalised in America and, because of time constraints, we decided to send this document from Paraguay. We had not taken any advice about this and it turned out to be a mistake.
We knew that we wanted to submit our application for residency in Paraguay. We also wanted to find an apartment and begin making a home. Our application needed to be submitted by November as police checks have to be less than 6 months old when the application is submitted. We were newly retired and just wanted to take our time and have some quiet days exploring our new home.
The first thing that had to be done was to have a big pile of photocopies made of our passports. There is no point doing this before arrival as the immigration stamp is needed in the copies. We also had our photos taken. The photo carnets contain eight photos here, not four like the UK, and you need a lot of photos.
Our UK documents had to be legalised again at the foreign office in Asuncion. Many government offices are only open in the morning in Paraguay. The foreign documents can be legalised in one day, but must be submitted early in the morning as the foreign office is one of the morning-only departments and documents can only be collected up until about 1 p.m. People from countries requiring an entry visa also get this legalised here, but at another entrance. It was free at the time and took one day.
You only leave a photocopy of your passport at the office, not your passport itself. The documents then had to be translated into Spanish along with passports by a registered translator. There are surprisingly few of these advertised. We also had to register at a local police station and at Antecedent, which is another police department, and Interpol. We had the help of a local attorney since our Spanish was limited and at the time we would not have been able to fill in the forms and follow the instructions at the departments without assistance.
Despite our limitations, we found that the officials at the offices were friendly, helpful and willing to share a joke. Taking fingerprints at Interpol is still a messy job. It was nearly lunchtime when we were there and I commented on how it would be difficult to eat my lunch. The police officer suggested that I had soup that day. I have not had this type of banter with a UK policeman in many years. My husband also caused a minor commotion as the good soap had run out, causing all to hunt for a new batch. It all helped make the process relaxed and gave a good indication of how the police and other officials viewed their role in assisting the public.
Unlike many other countries that require applicants to show regular income, it is only necessary to open a savings account at a local bank. At the time, it was necessary to put in $5000 USD but this has been reduced and it is now only necessary to meet the local bank’s minimum requirement although it is recommended to show the higher amount. Once you obtain residency you may take your money from the savings account if you wish.
It can be hard to open a bank account in Paraguay as a cedula is needed. To get around this, savings accounts may be opened with a passport at the national banks. HSBC now has a presence here and Premier clients can manage their accounts here. They have staff fluent in German and English available for foreign clients.
Our mistake in not having the American document legalised before leaving caused a headache. We had assumed that we could send a money order to the Paraguay consulate in Washington, D.C. from Paraguay. Unfortunately, banks in Paraguay do not issue money orders, the consulate does not accept personal cheques / western union and cash cannot be sent by mail or fed ex. In the end we had to send the document from here to be met in Washington by a bank cheque sent from the UK by friends. We have learned to ask in the future rather than make assumptions and also that money orders are not widely available in most of South America.
A medical check is necessary along with blood tests for infectious diseases and yellow fever vaccinations. We chose to take the public route, because we were public health workers all our working lives and wanted to see how the public system worked here. This process took about 4 weeks to complete. It involved a psychological assessment, a dermatological examination and a physical exam. The process takes so long because all results must be gathered before the final medical assessment is done by a doctor and the certificate is issued. Some clinics are only available on a weekly basis and are spread out over central Asuncion. After this is done the certificate is legalised by the health ministry.
A private certificate takes just a few days including the legalisation as everything can be done at one doctor’s office and one of the many laboratories that do blood analysis. The completed certificate must also be legalised by the health ministry. I would recommend using private doctor’s certificates to save a lot of time and running around, especially if you are new to the city and the summer heat.
When we were ready to submit documents, they were all photocopied and authenticated by an escribana. We also had to make a declaration that we would abide by the laws of Paraguay. We submitted our residency documents at the end of October, although the submission could have been completed within weeks had we chosen to use the private medical certificate option, or were more hurried about the process. The original documents and two sets of photocopies and the power of attorney are submitted for residency.
We gave our attorney limited power of attorney when we submitted our documents to Migraciones. This allowed him to check the progress of our documents on a weekly basis and deal with any queries that arose. I would recommend any applicant to use this facility as a good attorney will know the law and avoid needless loss of time. Should you choose to leave the country while your application is being processed, the limited power of attorney will allow your lawyer to collect your carnet for you.
We were granted permanent residency in February approximately 115 days after documents were submitted. A carnet is issued that states permanent residency has been granted. Your original documents are returned to you at this time. It is currently three years from this date that you are eligible to apply for Paraguayan citizenship.
Once we had our carnet, all that was left to do was our cedulas. To prepare for this takes a couple days. We had to get radicacion forms, which are further confirmation of permanent residency. Our Interpol forms had to be legalised, we obtained another police form which was a further check for misdemeanours and renew our antecedentes form which expired after three months. We submitted our application with copies of our original documents and the original translations. Your original foreign police check form is retained by Migraciones. It takes one month for the cedula application to be processed. Assistance in getting the cedula was included in Ariel’s fee. He also did a mid point check on the processing of the cedula to ensure everything was on schedule. Even though a lawyer may collect your carnet and cedula for you, you must make your application for cedula in person.
It is now necessary for the cedula to be obtained within 180 days of being granted residency or residency is rescinded. The cedula is issued one month from the date of application.
We have heard reports of other peoples’ experiences in other South American countries and of delays here so we have been very pleased to gain our residency in such a short time and with no difficulties.
We like Paraguay and plan to continue living here. Although once residency is obtained, you do not have to live here to qualify for citizenship but it is recommended that you visit at least once during the middle of your 3 year qualification period.
Our thanks for this article go to Jean in Paraguay, a contributer who moved with her husband from England to Asuncion, Paraguay. They continue to give us good reports of Paraguay and we hope that we will hear more from them in the future. Jean’s blog is at http://paraguayrelocation.wordpress.com.
Copyright 06/25/2012 Four Flags Journal all rights reserved.