Uruguay is an attractive retirement destination for many reasons. It has a wonderful culture, beautiful beaches, a pleasant climate, and an excellent healthcare system. And when it comes to places to live, options include Montevideo, quiet and dignified coastal cities, and countryside abodes.
Of course, moving to another country involves a sizeable amount of planning and due diligence. This research involves digging into the finer details of how to move to Uruguay, as well as the broader implications of living abroad as a US citizen.
Below, we’ll guide you through some of the most important considerations when planning a move to Uruguay. We discuss visa options, medical care requirements and facilities, and of course, taxes.
Let’s get started!
Is Uruguay a good place to live as a retiree?
Yes! When it comes to quality of life versus cost of living, it’s hard to beat Uruguay. Between its safety, rich culture, and excellent infrastructure, it makes for a very comfortable place for Americans to live (and retire) as expats.
Benefits of retiring in Uruguay
Some of the benefits of retiring in Uruguay include:
- Safety: Uruguay is a politically stable country with low rates of violent crime. In fact, according to the Global Peace Index, Uruguay is the safest country in South America1 and the second-safest of all Latin America, just behind Costa Rica2
- Cost of living: Prices in Uruguay are significantly lower than in the US. Numbeo estimates that consumer prices including rent are 36.6% lower in Uruguay than in the US3
- Weather: Uruguay has a subtropical climate located in a temperate zone, so the temperature typically doesn’t swing too wildly in either direction
- Healthcare: Uruguay’s healthcare system has been rated among the best in the world,4 with high-quality care at a reasonable cost available to all thanks to their universal healthcare model
- Beauty: Uruguay boasts rolling green hills, beaches, mountains, colonial architecture, and more
- Culture: Uruguay has a rich and storied culture, with tango, South American-style barbecue (asado), and Carnival celebrations all serving as points of pride
Of course, if you retire in Uruguay, there are pros and cons. Public transportation can be limited outside of city centers. Additionally, choosing a rural location may feel isolating. And, the cost of living in Uruguay is higher than in many countries in South America. That being said, many find that the pros outweigh the cons.
Best places to retire in Uruguay
The Uruguayan culture is calm and laidback, with a rich musical and theatrical heritage. There are plenty of great places to live in Uruguay — however, these three are among the best options for retirees.
Retiring in Montevideo, Uruguay
Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, is a coastal city accessible by ferry from Buenos Aires. It is known for its parks, sandy beaches, and the Rambla, a road that runs along the city’s coastline. The city offers a relaxed ambiance, with locals often seen leisurely fishing, chatting in plazas, or browsing outdoor markets such as the Feria de Tristan Narveja.
Other attractions include the Teatro Solis, the modern Auditorio Nacional Adela Reta, and the historic Ciudad Vieja. The city’s climate is temperate, with mild summers and winters making it ideal for retirement.
Retiring in Punta del Este, Uruguay
Punta del Este is South America’s premier beach resort, boasting a stunning coastline and a high quality of life. The Peninsula, the heart of Punta del Este, offers numerous restaurants, nightclubs, and cultural landmarks like the artisan’s plaza and lighthouse. Its nickname is the “Monaco of the South.”
Nearby Maldonado provides essential services, including bilingual healthcare. Activities abound, from cultural events to water sports. Punta tends to cater to expats seeking upscale living with full-service residential towers. The range of options allows retirees to enjoy the beach lifestyle without breaking the bank.
Retiring in Piriápolis, Uruguay
Piriapolis was established in 1890 by Francisco Piria, a Uruguayan inventor and businessman of Italian descent. It is a quaint beachside town cherished by expats who seek peace and calm. Its unique charm stems from the rolling hills that dot its landscape, distinguishing it from other Uruguayan locales. A notable landmark is a hilltop castle adorned with statues of Greek deities.
Real estate values in Piriapolis tend to be much less inflated than those in Punta del Este due to both a smaller overall population and a lower concentration of expats. With a population of 3,500, Piriapolis is less urbanized than Punta del Este, necessitating occasional trips to nearby towns for certain amenities.
Uruguay retirement visa: How to move to Uruguay as a US citizen
The primary visa for retirees looking to move to Uruguay is the Pensionado visa. The visa permits you to enter the country and apply for permanent residence within six months of moving there.5 Requirements include:
- Proof of retirement
- A monthly passive income e.g., investment or retirement distributions of at least $1,500 USD
- Dependents may require additional income
- A purchase of real estate, public securities, or a combination of the two worth at least $100,000 USD which must be held for at least ten years before selling
- A clean background check6
How long does it take to get a visa to live in Uruguay?
Once you’ve submitted your visa application, the Uruguayan government will take at least 20 working days to respond,7 although some sources report it taking as long as 6-12 months.8
Keep in mind that you’ll also need to allow yourself time before that to gather, notarize, and translate the required documents into Spanish.
These required documents include:
- A completed visa application form
- A valid passport
- Proof of:
- Monthly income
- Retirement status
- Real estate/securities purchase
- A clean criminal background check
- A passport-sized photograph
- A medical report9
You may submit these online or in person at your nearest Uruguayan embassy or consulate (check to see if you need an appointment first).
While Uruguay’s pensionado visa will allow you to enter the country, you must apply to become a permanent resident of Uruguay within six months of your arrival. Doing so will require you to collect a few additional documents (e.g. birth certificate, vaccination record, health card, etc.), pay certain fees, and attend an in-person appointment. Receiving an official decision typically takes between 12 to 18 months. (10)
Healthcare in Uruguay for US expats
As mentioned earlier, Uruguay has an excellent public healthcare system, called the Administracion de los Servicios de Salud del Estado (ASSE), translated to English as the Administration of State Health Services.
All permanent residents and citizens in Uruguay have the right to participate in this system, with expats typically paying about $70 USD per month for it.
Many supplement this healthcare with a Mutualista policy that grants them access to state-of-the-art private hospitals with shorter wait times.11 These plans typically cost around $100 USD per month.12
Some expats also choose international health insurance (e.g. Cigna Global) or nomad insurance providers (e.g. SafetyWing).
How much does it cost to retire in Uruguay?
While Uruguay’s retirement visa requires you to earn at least $1,500 USD per month in passive income — about 43% more than Uruguay’s median monthly income of 36,968 UYU (~$970 USD)13 — your monthly expenses may exceed that.
Some report that it costs about $3,000 USD per month for a couple to live comfortably in Uruguay,14 although of course, expenses can vary a great deal based on someone’s location and lifestyle.
And keep in mind, this is on top of the $100,000 USD you must invest in Uruguayan real estate and/or securities in order to qualify for the visa.
Retiring in Uruguay on Social Security: Considerations
Given that the average monthly Social Security check is about $1,827 USD,15 you could qualify for Uruguay’s retirement visa based on that alone. That said, to live a comfortable lifestyle you will likely want to have additional sources of passive income such as retirement accounts, investments, rental income, etc.
Uruguay has a territorial-based taxation system, which is very beneficial for US retirees.
In a territorial-based taxation system, the Uruguayan government only levies taxes on most types of income if it is sourced (paid) from within Uruguay (at a progressive rate of 10% to 36%).
That being said, they do typically level a flat tax of 12% on passive income from capital gains and investments like interest, rental income, royalties, etc., no matter where in the world it comes from.16
Passive income is defined as income that is not actively earned. It is also referred to as “unearned income,” which is something of a misnomer because income such as retirement distributions certainly feels earned, and yet for the purpose of distinguishing between “earned” income and “passive” income, we can think of passive income as income that is not actively worked for.
The Uruguayan system exempts some types of payments from taxation entirely (such as social security and most retirement account payments), and 12% is a lower tax rate than you’ll pay in many other countries. Other types of Uruguayan taxes you may encounter include:17
- VAT: Usually 22%
- Net wealth tax: 0.1% to 3% on individuals earning more than 5,831,000 UYU (~$153,000 USD) per year18
Do Americans pay tax in Uruguay?
Americans living in Uruguay as retirees are subject to taxes by both the Uruguayan and US governments, but don’t worry — that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be taxed on the same income twice (more on that below).
All US citizens and permanent residents — even those living abroad — are subject to taxation on their worldwide income, as long as they meet the minimum income thresholds. There are tax breaks that can offer relief for expat retirees, however, such as:
The Foreign Tax Credit
The Foreign Tax Credit allows US expats to essentially subtract what they have paid in income taxes to a foreign government from what they owe in income taxes to the US government (though as with all things US-tax related, there’s more to it than just that).
Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE)
The Foreign Earned Income Exclusion allows you to exclude a certain amount of foreign-earned income from taxation ($112,000 for tax year 2022, $120,000 for tax year 2023). There are two tests associated with qualifying for this provision, the Physical Presence Test and the Bona Fide Residence Test.
Note: The FEIE only applies to earned income. So, if you are moving to Uruguay and intend to fully retire i.e., not work, then this provision will likely not factor into your US tax filing strategy. However, if you intend to continue working part-time while easing into retirement, it could be beneficial to consult with an expert in US taxes for Americans abroad so that you can design the most tax-efficient strategy for your activity.
Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR)
If you have $10,000 or more in aggregate in foreign bank accounts at any point in the year, you’ll need to report the contents of those accounts to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) via FinCEN Report 114.
Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA)
If you have over $200,000 in foreign assets by the last day of the tax year, or over $300,000 in foreign assets at any point during the tax year, you might be required to file Form 8938.
- Annual Global Peace Index in Uruguay from 2014 to 2023
- Global Peace Index in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2023, by country
- Cost of Living Comparison Between United States and Uruguay Reverse
- Uruguay’s health system is among the three best health systems in the world
- Aduanas – Decreto N° 119/004
- Beneficio para extranjeros jubilados que obtengan residencia permanente
- How to Enter Uruguay?
- How to Obtain an Uruguay Retirement Visa
- Uruguay Retirement Visa
- Uruguay Residence: the Ultimate Guide for You
- Uruguay Healthcare System & Insurance Options for Expats
- Uruguay Health Insurance
- URUGUAY WAGES: MINIMUM AND AVERAGE
- How to Retire in Uruguay: Costs, Visas and More
- How much Social Security will I get?
- Uruguay – Individual – Taxes on personal income
- Uruguay – Individual – Other taxes
- Uruguay’s Ministry of Economy and Finance sets minimum non-taxable amount of Net Wealth Tax
- Most Expensive Places to Visit in Uruguay