Unsung IM Programs Part 5: Argentina’s Rentista and Pensionado Visas

In this installment of our Unsung IM Programs series, we head to South America’s second-largest country to look at two often overlooked independent means visas; the Argentinean Rentista and Pensionado visas.

The Rentista and Pensionado visas are two different visas, but they have similar requirements and structures. The principal difference between them is the type of applicant each targets; the Rentista is a standard independent means visa aimed at attracting remote workers or those with sufficient passive income from abroad. The Pensionado, meanwhile, is geared toward retirees whose pensions or overall income meet the minimum amount set forth by the government.

Other than that minor distinction, the Rentista and Pensionado are fundamentally the same. Thus, we will treat them as such going forward.

Terms and Requirements for Argentina’s Rentista and Pensionado Visas

The eligibility criteria for the Rentista and Pensionado are simple: The applicant must be over 18 years of age, have a clean criminal record, and meet the required income amount, formally set at five times the Argentinean minimum wage of about US$350 a month as of today.

Minimum income requirements
The Argentinean authorities, however, are unlikely to approve any application demonstrating an income lower than US$1,800 a month. While this differs from the government’s regulations, immigration officers exercise some discretion in approving or rejecting applications. Because the Argentine Peso has devalued too rapidly for minimum income requirements to keep up, immigration officers have unofficially raised the bar; even in Argentina, a relatively cheap country, $350 a month would not suffice to maintain much of a lifestyle.

Residence permit duration
The Migration Department initially issues Pensionado/Rentista applicants a one-year residence permit, renewable annually for up to three years. The idea behind capping the extensions to three years makes sense when considering Argentina’s permanent residency and naturalization laws.

Path to PR and citizenship
Curiously, residents of Argentina can apply for citizenship before reaching the permanent residency stage: Naturalization requires two years of continuous residence (one of the fastest naturalization processes worldwide), while qualifying for a permanent residence permit requires three years of residence.

This discrepancy is owed to the separate legislations under which naturalization and permanent residence fall. Each status follows its distinct regulations and processes.

Greater Buenos Aires, the beating heart of Argentina, is home to nearly a third of the country’s population.

Physical presence requirement
The government has not set out a specific physical residence requirement to qualify for permanent residency or citizenship. Still, local experts typically advise that those who aim for naturalization spend at least six months a year in Argentina to qualify.

This amount of time – and their status as tax residents – are usually enough to show genuine links to the country. And since the judge ruling on the citizenship application has significant discretion, proving a solid connection to Argentina is vital for approval.

The idea behind the Rentista and Pensionado visas is to bring people to live in Argentina. Whereas golden visas benefit the economy through the initial investment, independent means visas bring in money through taxation and consumption. To pay taxes and consume in the country, applicants must, naturally, be present much of the time.

Since the routes to Argentinean citizenship and permanent residency are quick, they align perfectly with the primary objective of the Rentista and Pensionado visas, as expedited naturalization (compared to other countries) can act as a catalyst for people to stay, spend money, and pay taxes to achieve the goal of naturalization.

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You cannot renounce Argentine citizenship
Those aiming for Argentine citizenship must beware of another peculiarity of Argentinean nationality law; Unlike the citizens of most other countries, Argentineans cannot legally renounce their citizenship. Once an Argentinean, always an Argentinean.

What are the chief attractions of the Rentista and Pensionado visas?

The attractions of the visas can be split into two categories; the program itself and the appeal of life in Argentina.

The Rentista and Pensionado visas have a straightforward process, there is no investment requirement, the associated fees are negligible, there is no physical residence requirement for renewals, and they lead to citizenship or permanent residency in record time.

The country itself sports a wide array of lifestyle benefits. As the third-richest South American country on a per-capita basis, Argentina’s residents generally enjoy a high standard of living and all modern comforts.

The view from one of Buenos Aires’ many rooftop bars

Home to nearly 50 million people (forming a healthy-looking demographic pyramid with a high ratio of young-to-old), Argentina is an enormous country: Its 2.8 million square kilometers of territory make it the world’s 8th biggest.

Argentina, true-to-scale, superimposed on Europe

The country’s size and North-South distribution means it has all manner of climates and topographies: Andean mountains, tropical rainforest, highland deserts, warm-water beaches, as well as a contiguous stretch of temperate-zone arable land so large it is only surpassed by the US Midwest.

Argentina’s famed farming regions have made it one of the world’s largest exporters of agricultural products. The country also has tremendous oil and gas reserves, which are now under rapid development and which will, before long, make the country one of the world’s largest fuel exporters.

Of course, the country’s location – on the way to nowhere, hemmed in and protected from the outside by mountain ranges, deserts, rivers, and the Atlantic Ocean – has made it a favored bolt-hole for those seeking refuge from the vicissitudes of global geopolitics for centuries, a topic we explored in detail in Why a Bulletproof Mobility Portfolio Should Contain a Western Hemisphere Allocation.

The Andean ski resort town of Bariloche

There’s no getting around the observation that life in Argentina has its drawbacks. Primarily those arising from government policy: Absurdly high rates of inflation, a byzantine and backward bureaucracy, and protectionist trade restrictions. Residents can and do mitigate each of those shortcomings, however, by the shrewd use of alternative currencies, a large informal economy, and income sourced from abroad.

The country is a member of Mercosur, making it a viable springboard to business in most of the Latin-American economies. Citizens of any Mercosur country enjoy the added benefit of the right to settle in any of the association’s member countries, as well as a fast track to PR and citizenship across the region.

Perhaps Argentina’s biggest selling point for remote workers and retirees is the comparatively low cost of living in Argentina. Real estate is cheap and of a high standard. Ribeye steak may be had for some 7 euros per kg.

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