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Expat Argentina Life

A Guide to Being an Expat in Córdoba, Argentina

In 2013 I first moved to Cordoba, Argentina from San Francisco in the United States to live with my girlfriend at the time (now wife). 

There is so much anticipation and excitement that goes into moving to a foreign city and country that I remember doing as much research as I could to get as prepared as possible. 

Truth is you can never be fully prepared but in this post I’ll share what I’ve learned in my 7 years here living in Córdoba. 

This guide will be written specifically for moving to Cordoba, Argentina however I imagine most things still apply if you’re moving to another city in Argentina, albeit specific office locations and details will vary. 

Here are the different things I’ll cover in this guide: 

If you think this guide is missing anything or you have any questions, leave me a comment down below. 

Visa to Live in Cordoba, Argentina

When you enter Argentina you’ll be doing so on a tourist visa. That gives you 90 days in the country. 

Since this is a guide on living as an expat in Argentina we’re obviously going to need longer than 90 days. So what are your options? 

Option 1 – Leave the country and come back

One of the benefits of this approach is it forces you to take a cool trip every 90 days. 

I went to Uruguay 3 times. I went to Brazil 3 times. I went to Chile. I went to Peru. I went back to the United States.  

And each time I returned to Argentina I was given a new stamp and a fresh 90 days. 

Towards the end of this experience when my passport was full with Argentina entry and exit stamps, the border agents would always give me a hard time. They would give me that suspicious eye and sing – 

Que haces aca? 

Essentially wanting me to confess that I was living there. But each time I put on the heaviest yankee accent I could muster and said – 

Turismouu, visitandou familia. 

On multiple occasions the immigration officer said, ok but this the last time I’m going to let you in. Nobody ever backed up that threat. 

I actually have dual citizenship with Canada and the United States so I switched over to my Canadian passport just to avoid that hassle and had no troubles after that. I’ve heard of plenty of expats getting harassed but I’ve never heard of one being denied entry due to too many stamps. 

Option 2 – Extend the 90 Day Tourist Visa aka una prórroga

If you cannot leave the country you have the option of extending your tourist visa for another 90 days (una prórroga). You can do this once. 

I’ve already written a post Extend Your Visa in Cordoba in 32 Simple Steps which discusses my experience extending my visa here in Cordoba. 

That one has a few comical steps mixed in so I’ll give you the pure facts here: 

  1. Go to the Migraciones Office – Caseros 676. Note: they close pretty early so you’ll want to go first thing in the morning (8am) so you can get everything done in a day. 
  2. When you walk in there’s a large waiting room – likely full of people. Head directly upstairs and look for the door marked “Prórroga”. 
  3. Knock on that door, or wait if someone is in there. 
  4. Explain you want to extend your visa, una prórroga. Complete the paperwork. 
  5. They give you a document to pay the fee at the bank which is on Humberto Primo – 7 blocks away. 
  6. Find the bank, pay the fee. Return with passport style photos, a copy of your passport (including recent stamp page), and proof of payment. 
  7. Return to the Prórroga office and if everything is in order, they’ll issue you a fresh 90 days right on the spot. 

Here’s a tip that applies to all tramites you need to do in Argentina. 

Write down (or ask that they do it) all the steps the person asks you to do. Then ask their name and write that down too. 

This has saved me a few times as I returned to an office with the list of items accomplished and was told I needed a new item. I showed them the list, asked to talk to the same person and all of sudden everything was good. 

I also have a theory that most tramites require 3 visits to complete. One to figure out what documentation you need. Two you return with that documentation and something is always wrong and/or missing. And so you return a third time hopefully with everything in order.

Option 3 – Overstay the Visa

Finally your 3rd option is to just overstay the visa. 

I actually used this option completely unwillingly the first time. 

With just a few days left on my 90 day tourist visa I went to the Migraciones office to do option 2. 

When I arrived there they attempted to lookup my passport in the system and all I saw was a really confused face. 

He called in a colleague but it was just more really confused faces. 

My last border crossing was in Patagonia when I went to the Chilean side to hike Torres Del Paine. Highly recommend!  

It was a pretty bare bones setup at the border crossing but I left and then re-entered Argentina a week later with a fresh 90 days. 

However apparently that entry was never logged in their system so even though I had a fresh, shiny passport stamp that said I entered 87 days ago, they couldn’t give me the 90 day extension. 

Entonces?

I could either plan a trip to leave in the next 3 days or I’d just have to overstay the visa. I was working a full time job at the time so I chose the latter. 

Now before you attempt to leave the country after overstaying your visa, this step is very important

You have to go back to Migraciones to pay a fine (latest I heard it was 6000 pesos – likely way more by the time you read this) and do a tramite called habitacion de salida which gives you the right to leave the country within the next 7 days (so don’t do this step too far in advance). 

With this paperwork in hand, you’ll be able to leave the country by air or bus. 

Getting Residency in Argentina

If you’re living in Argentina long term, doing border runs is fun for the first few years. 

Eventually it gets tiresome and you just want residency status. Especially if you live right smack in the middle of the country as is situated Córdoba.  

The easiest way to get permanent residency here is to get married to an Argentine or to have a child with one. 

I wrote about my experience getting residency in Argentina via marriage

If that is not your situation, the next option to look into is called a Rentista Visa which is an option for those who essentially have enough money to fund their life without working in Argentina. 

To qualify you’ll need to be able to prove you’re bringing in stable income of $x per month. I’m not sure what the value of x is and it doesn’t appear on the Migraciones website, but a trip to their office would be able to get the values. 

I’d estimate something like US $2000/month which with the current status of the dolar blue means you can live like a king. 

If you’re considering Argentina as a retirement choice (good thinking), a foreigner who is participating in the retirement system of another country can apply for the Visa Pensionado

To my knowledge, there has never been an exact number specified for the visa pensionado. Migraciones seems to be flexible on this one from what I’ve heard from older expats. 

Another option is a work visa which is where a local company will request a working visa for you. As I will explain later on in this post under the Working in Cordoba section, I do NOT recommend this approach. 

Then you have a student visa. If you’re enrolled full time in an accredited local university you can apply for the student visa. 

The other thing about living in a 3rd world country is there’s often under the deal tables that can be an option (albeit much more expensive, hard to find, and potentially shady): 

Working in Cordoba, Argentina

If you’re going to live in Argentina you’ll need to support yourself financially. 

The great news is it is extremely cheap to live in Argentina right now, especially if you’re coming from the United States or Europe with dollars or euros. 

Most folks dreaming of living in Argentina post in the expat groups asking if anyone knows any local companies hiring. Wrong!

Let me make one thing clear – you do NOT want a job with a local company. 

The only benefit I can see with that type of job is you will be surrounded by and interacting with Spanish speakers all day. 

So if your goal of living in Argentina is Spanish fluency then this might be an option. 

Otherwise, getting a job with a local company on a tourist visa will be a complete hassle. 

You’d be competing with tons of out of work Argentines who don’t need help getting the work permit, know the culture and speak way better Spanish than you. 

Second point, and perhaps most important – a job with a local company will pay you poorly. 

Let’s say you land a good paying job at 60k Arg pesos per month. At the time of this writing that is USD $460/month. And that’s a good salary, you’ll likely start well under that. 

So what are your options for work in Argentina if you’re not going to work with a local company. 

I think even if you’ve never worked online before, it’s possible to learn a skill and make at least $500/month in a short amount of time. 

Here are a few options: 

  1. Freelance Online

Odds are you have some skill that you could freelance with on Upwork or Fiverr. 

Copywriting, Web Design, Graphic Design, Programming, Photoshop, Music/Audio/Video Editing, Social Media, etc. 

Peruse the skills on Fiverr, it’s endless. 

Don’t have a skill like that. Learn one. 

This isn’t a post on how to build a freelancing career but when I first moved to Argentina I was a freelance web developer

Building up a freelance business that makes $500/month isn’t all that hard and that’s the equivalent of a great paying local job.  

  1. Remote Work

More and more these days companies are adopting a 100% remote work model. Especially given the recent pandemic. 

This is perfect for a United States citizen living in Argentina. Especially since the Argentina time zone sits only 1 or 2 hours ahead of EST. 

Here are a few job boards with remote companies: 

When you apply (or during your interview) you make it perfectly well known that you’re an expat living in Argentina.

This is the route I’m currently going as I work as the Head of Customer Success for a software company based in the United States. 

If you can, try to get hired as a W2 employee using your address (or your parents/friend) back in the States. This allows you to qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE) which makes your first $100k tax free. 

I’m not a tax expert/lawyer so do your own research there but I will say $100k tax free is nice. There’s other qualifications too to receive the credit (main one is you have to be outside the USA for 330 days out of the year). So read up on those details. 

Freelance 1099 contractors still pay income tax on their earrings. Nobody escapes the long arm of Tio Sam. 

  1. Your own online business

Could be its own 5000 word blog post but Argentina, due to its extreme low costs of living is a great place to try starting your own business. 

I currently run 2 online businesses – one coaching lacrosse goalies and another teaching how to create online courses.

Getting Money in Cordoba Argentina

When I first moved to Argentina in 2013, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (CFK) was the president. 

CFK’s policy was to not let the peso and USD be determined by the market rate. They kept the currency artificially controlled. 

As a result the USD/Arg Peso official rate was one thing and the rate that people would buy dollars on the blackmarket was another. 

This blackmarket rate – known as the Dolar Blue – fluctuated from 50% to 100% higher. 

This meant I couldn’t use my credit card to make purchases. Well I could, but a $1000 peso charge would get translated into USD on my credit card at the official rate and I’d be paying 50% more. 

This meant I couldn’t use my debit card to pull money out of the ATM. Well I could, but you know, 50% less money. 

Then in 2015, the Argentine people voted Mauricio Macri into office. 

A complete opposite of CFK, one of Macri’s first economic policies was the removal of currency controls, allowing Argentines to freely buy and sell foreign currencies.

From the exterior it looked like the Argentine peso crashed 50% overnight. However those living here knew it was just the peso returning to the actual value, the market value – the dolar blue value. 

I loved these times. The official rate now mirrored the blackmarket rate. In fact, the dolar blue disappeared. 

I could spend on my credit card and pull money out of the ATM again without getting hosed. 

That lasted exactly 4 years. And in 2019, the Argentine people again elected CFK’s party – Alberto Fernandez with CFK as Vice President (despite pretty intense criminal allegations – but that’s another post). 

Immediately the currency controls were back. So was our amigo – the dolar blue. This time heavier than before. 

So how do you get money as a foreigner living in Argentina?

Couple options I recommend: 

  • Bring (an uncomfortable amount of) cash with you

You can carry USD $10,000 into the country without getting taxed. Truth is you can probably carry more since I always kept the bills in a hidden travel pouch and never once did any customs agent search my pockets. 

But if you were to bring $10k with you. You can easily live on that for an entire year (and more) in Argentina. 

Many get nervous carrying that amount of money or hiding it in their apartment but bringing USD with you and then trading your USD in a cueva at the dolar blue rate is your best option.  

  • Withdraw dollars in Uruguay

Uruguay doesn’t have such ridiculous cash restrictions and at some banks in Uruguay you can pull out USD from the ATM if you have a bank account that contains USD. 

When you make a visa run to Uruguay stop at a bank that will allow you to take out USD and bring those crispy bills back with you into Argentina. 

  • Use Western Union or Xoom

In this option you’ll send yourself (or someone you really trust) a money transfer. 

Both Western Union and Xoom give you an exchange rate that is better than the official but less than the dolar blue. 

For comparison at the time of this writing (July 2020): 

  • 1 USD = 71 Argentina Pesos – Official
  • 1 USD = 113 Argentina Pesos – Western Union
  • 1 USD = 106 Argentina Pesos – Xoom
  • 1 USD = 130 Argentina Pesos – Dolar Blue 

As you can see Western Union and Xoom are much better than the official rate but worse than the dolar blue rate. 

As an American I’m so used to charging nearly everything on my credit card. However living in Argentina I’m back to a pure cash system and pay just about everything in cash. Including marching down to the inmobiliaria with 14k pesos to pay the rent. 

Even after 7 years living in Argentina I don’t have a local bank account here. I still use the 3 methods I describe above. 

Banking and Credit Cards – 

For banking I recommend setting up a checking account with Charles Schwab before you come to Argentina. They have no ATM fees and even better, they reimburse you the money taken from using other banks ATM fees (even internationally). 

This right here is the reason you want a Charles Schwab account:

So if Argentina ever loses the dolar blue or you’re in a pinch and need to pull money out the ATM, you’ll get reimbursed the fee the local bank charges. 

For credit cards, just make sure you have a credit card which charges no international fees. 

I use the Chase Explorer United Mileage Plus and in addition to no international fees, I rack up miles for a free trips back to the USA. 

I only use my credit card these days for purchases in dollars but there may come a time like 2015-2019 when you can use the credit card for everything and not get hosed. 

Both the Charles Schwab and the Chase Explorer link are affiliate links so I get some extra credits if you signup via those links. Much appreciated! 

Finding an Apartment in Cordoba

Next you’ll probably want to find an apartment to live in. 

Renting long term is going to be much cheaper but leases are for 2 years minimum and you’ll need to find at least 2 local guarantors with a property/house to their name or a job with a decent salary they’ve had for a while. 

They’ll essentially put up that house/salary in the contract and if you fail to pay the rent at any point in the 2 years, the owner can legally take what’s owed.

When my wife and I rented long term we used her 2 brothers as the guarantors.  

I’ve heard of a few expats negotiating to pay a large chunk in advance but I don’t think its technically legal so not everyone will accept this setup. 

For these reasons and for the fact that you might not want to buy all your own furniture, your best bet is going to be a furnished temporary rental – alquiler temporario amoblado.

If you’re young and single, you’ll want to be in the Nueva Cordoba neighborhood. It’s where the majority of the students live. It’s safe and super convenient. 

My girlfriend and I lived in Nueva Cordoba for 5 years. The only thing I didn’t love is it does get loud. 

There’s a pretty good chance your apartment will be next to a boliche pumping out tasty dance jams and drunk kids Friday and Saturday night until 5am. 

If you’re anywhere near Patio Olmos there’s a pretty good chance on a random Friday or Saturday thousands of people are marching for a protest or celebrating their favorite futbol team championship win. 

There’s some really nice newer apartments in Nueva Cordoba. The first apartment my wife and I rented had a super nice balcony and a pool and BBQ grills on the roof. 

To the north of Nueva Cordoba, is the Centro. A little more gritty and older buildings but cheaper than Nueva Cordoba. 

Other options inside the city to explore if you’re into a more tranquilo lifestyle are: 

  • Alto Cordoba
  • Barrio Jardin
  • Barrio Cofico

Living inside the city does not require a car. In those barrios nearly everything you need (supermarket, carniceria, verduleria, pharmacy, kiosko, etc.) will be in walking distance. 

Plus taxis are super affordable. There is also a public transit system if you want to go cheaper but I always use taxis. Download the app Cabify and you can order a taxi a la Uber (but you pay cash instead).

The only time I want a car is to make a trip to the surrounding towns in the hills. Buses go to these places but it’s much more convenient to have a car. They have car rentals (Avis) available with your US license and I’ve done that for a bunch of weekends. 

Seven years in and I still don’t own a car here.

Speaking of those surrounding towns in the hills, I do know expats who have setup shop outside the city: Alta Gracia, Carlos Paz, Villa General Belgrano. That’s a great option if you’re seeking an even more laid back lifestyle. 

Here are a few resources to help you find a temporary furnished apartment in Cordoba: 

What my wife and I did is just go to the Inmobiliaria (for example first link above) office and ask to see what they have available for temporary furnished rentals. They then take you on an exploration trip around Nueva Cordoba to see all the apartments. 

We were looking for a 2 bedroom furnished apartment with building security, a balcony, and a pool. We found it but it did take awhile.  

Learning Spanish in Cordoba, Argentina

If you’re not a Spanish speaker, you’re going to need to learn Spanish to survive in Cordoba. 

The majority of the university students will speak a little English, some will speak a lot and you could probably get by with just a little Spanish. 

However in order to take your relationships to a deeper level and really feel comfortable in Cordoba, you will need to learn Spanish. 

Just by being immersed in a Spanish speaking country you’re going to learn. 

I remember standing in front of a kiosko waiting my turn and hearing – Estas atentido? – Never knew what that phrase meant before that. But in the context I knew exactly and then I never forgot.

I recommend you buy a little pocket dictionary and notebook and carry them around with you while you’re out and about in the city. Looking up words right in the context of when I need them made it stick a lot stronger. 

Also when in conversation with a new friend, it’s a hilarious move to pull out your dictionary and look up a word you’re trying to say. 

Other than that, you can get a private tutor, or take classes at a Spanish school. If you’re a total beginner, I’d recommend the school but if you’re intermediate I think the best method of improvement will be with the private tutor. 

Private tutors can be found by posting (or searching) in the Cordoba FB group.

For Spanish school I took classes at the Facultad de Lenguas – http://www.lenguas.unc.edu.ar/espanol-para-extranjeros

Healthcare in Argentina

This section is going to be short because I don’t really use the healthcare system nor did I have insurance for the 1st 5 years. 

They have a free system here in Argentina and if you’re coming from a place like the United States you’ll be shocked at how cheap healthcare is. 

One Thursday night I accidentally slept with the contacts in. Instead of removing them and switching over to my glasses I made the (idiotic) decision to just keep them in as I worked on Friday. 

Then as I was wrapping up my work for Friday I felt an intense irritation like something was in my eye. I took out my contacts and it persisted. 45 minutes later and there was still an unbearable pain like there was a stick in my eye. 

I jumped in a taxi with my wife and we went to the emergency room at the closest hospital. I waited for about 30 minutes before I saw a doctor who looked into my eyes with his microscope and diagnosed me with a scratched cornea. He gave me some drops to immediately calm the pain and a prescription for more drops to use throughout the week. 

The whole thing cost me USD 40. 

Other than that, I’ve been to the doctor a handful of times for various check ups and to get some blood work done for our marriage. 

I go to the dentist here in Cordoba for a cleaning every 6 months without insurance and its costs me about $40 USD. 

We now have health insurance through my wife’s work and many times I just end up paying out of pocket (particular it’s called) because the hassle of doing all the approvals and paperwork isn’t worth the $40 we’d save.

Suffice to say you can use Argentina’s free public healthcare system.  

Now of course I’d be a little nervous if I had a serious medical issue but gracias a dios that hasn’t been the case.

What to Bring When Moving to Argentina

If you’re wondering what to bring with you for your move to Argentina, here are my suggestions. 

Anything dealing with technology. Computers, iPhones, and anything else related to technology is twice as expensive in Argentina. 

So any technology you need for your work or day to day life I would recommend bringing. 

Cash (see money section above). 

Documents – If you’re going to do any of the tramites I mention above (residency for example) you will need: 

FBI Background Check – Many tramites here in Argentina require an FBI background check (or equivalent of your country) to prove you have no criminal past. For example, I needed one when getting residency through marriage. This document also needs to be apostilled to prove its legit. In some tramites the document also needs to be translated by an official translator.  

Birth Certificate – Again this document needs to be apostilled and translated. 

This is where it gets really tricky because these documents only have a shelf-life of 6 months before it isn’t valid for use in Argentine tramites. 

So one option is leaving the completed FBI background check form complete with your fingerprints with your parents or a friend and then having them submit the info once you’re actually in need of the doc. They can apostle it in the US and then mail you the document in Argentina. 

You can also try submitting the request from Argentina. It requires fingerprints which you can get done at a police station. 

If someone has a better option, please let me know. 

When my wife and I got married, that tramite required a birth certificate. 

When I presented my birth certificate that was issued 2 years ago she initially said that wouldn’t work. I understand the 6 month shelf-life of an FBI background check but your birth certificate is your birth certificate. If its printed now, if its printed in 10 years, no details are changing on that. 

She seemed to agree with me and said I could use that document. 

A week later I returned with all my documents in order and we got attended by another lady who refused to accept the birth certificate. 

  • Lady: Who told you you could use this document?
  • Me: Her (pointing)
  • Lady: Ale did you say they could use this expired document?
  • Ale (with an oh shit face) – No, I’ve never seen these guys before in my life.

And so I had to request another Birth Certificate, have it apostille and mailed to Argentina. Then officially translated. Delayed our wedding date by a few weeks. D’oh 

Besides cash, documents, and technology you can really get everything else here in Argentina. 

There’s probably a couple speciality food items you might miss. But you’d be surprised that even in Cordoba you can find a ton of odd items – Philly Cream Cheese, Maple Syrup, etc. 

Anything you think this section is missing? Let me know. 

Useful Resources 

Here are some useful Facebook group and forums where you’ll be able to find additional information that will help your move to Cordoba: 

Argentina Expats Forum – https://www.argentinaexpats.org/forum/

Buenos Aires Expats Forum – https://baexpats.org/ – specific to BA but lots of useful general Argentina questions. 

Expats in Argentina FB Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/403411839838831

Expats in Cordoba FB Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/expatsincordobaargentina/

Conclusion

For this guide I tried to think of everything that I had known prior to moving to Cordoba, Argentina. 

It covers basic things like work, visa, what to bring, the language. 

For me moving abroad was an amazing decision and I hope that anyone who is seriously considering it is helped out by this guide I put together. 

Any questions? Leave me a comment down below. 

6 replies on “A Guide to Being an Expat in Córdoba, Argentina”

So this is mostly useful, but you didn’t explain the process for getting residency, nor mention the fact that it’s almost impossible for any foreigner to move here right now. Yes it’s me, I moved here right before the pandemic.

Thanks! Well yeah I wrote this without Coronavirus in mind. Presumably at some point things will open back up again. I linked to a post where I talked about getting residency through marriage. That’s the only method I’m really familiar with since I went through it.

I haven’t experienced any crime (thankfully). I also live in a nicer neighborhood. Most common thing I’ve seen is motorcycle dudes snatching cell phones out of people hands. Best practices are pretty typical for any Latin American country – don’t wear flashy stuff, if you take your cell phone out pay attention. No clue about bringing a vehicle in a shipping container. Sounds like a headache. I bought a new car here Volkswagon T-Cross and with the dolar blue rate it was probably cheaper than buying a car in the USA.

I’m pretty sure you can. Probably need to get the pet tested and have all the paperwork. The airlines likely have good info on that.

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