The Uruguayan government has enacted a new immigration law—effective later in October—that will offer expedited 30-business-day processing of permanent residence permits and accompanying work authorization to MERCOSUR nationals. It is expected to issue implementing regulations and specify application requirements within the next several weeks. Residence permit applications, which will be less burdensome, can be filed with the Uruguayan Ministry of Foreign Affairs or at a Uruguayan consulate abroad.

MERCOSUR, which is a Spanish-language acronym for Southern Common Market, is a Latin American trade bloc composed of the member states Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela. Under the new law, those who were born in a member state and carry a valid passport from that country are eligible for the expedited processing.

It is expected that MERCOSUR nationals will be able to apply for permanent residence immediately upon arrival in Uruguay. This is a drastic acceleration compared to the current law, which requires MERCOSUR applicants to reside in Uruguay for two years while holding a MERCOSUR temporary residence permit. Moreover, applicants will no longer need to reapply for travel permits or renew their local identification card (cédula) annually. This beginning of relaxed border controls within the MERCOSUR bloc is reminiscent of a younger European Union, which later gave birth to the Schengen Area.

Also included in the change are the legal or de facto spouse, sibling, parent or grandchild of a Uruguayan citizen born abroad, making it easier for certain immediate relatives to be together in Uruguay.

* Not admitted to the practice of law.