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The Holy Grail for Expats in Argentina: The DNI

Our earlier blog this week offered out some tips on finding work in Argentina. The first hurdle to jump in terms of living in Buenos Aires, or Argentina in general. But i´m afraid that´s not the end of it.One of the final steps in becoming a true expatriate living in Argentina is getting a DNI.

What is this three letter acronym you ask?  The DNI, or Documento nacional de indentidad in Spanish, is a form of ID that all Argentines receive upon birth.  Foreigners can also obtain this, but it can be a long, arduous process.

The big question that most of us ask is: How does a foreigner get a DNI?  A couple of years ago they were given out like candy to anyone who wanted to pay a small fee and fill out a form.  Since so many people took advantage of this and it was pretty hectic, there is now a long process.  Currently there are multiple routes one can go about getting a DNI.   I wanted to share with everyone one of the ways, which is probably the most common and easiest – working in Argentina.

Once you have a work visa in Argentina and have had temporary residency for one year, you can start the process of applying for a DNI.  I am not going to go into the work visa discussion, as that is a whole separate blog entry, but I will lay out the steps to follow to successfully obtain your DNI and validating yourself as a true resident of Argentina.

Step 1: Pedir a turno

The first step to getting a DNI is to ask for an appointment (pedir un turno, in Spanish) at the immigration office in downtown Buenos Aires.  Keep in the mind that the closest available appointment might be months away from when you make it, so do this as earlier as possible.  I asked for an appointment in July and was given a time and day in November to show up (4 months later).

Step 2: Gather the Necessities

Here is a list of the thing you need to take with you:*

  • Valid Passport

o   This one is easy.

  • Work Visa

o   A whole other blog entry about getting this.

  • Verification of Residence

o   You have to go to your local police station and ask for a Certificado de domicilio.  They will make you fill out a form, pay 10 pesos and then a police officer will come to your house within 72 hours to confirm that you live there.  Simple enough.

  • 30 pesos

*As any seasoned expatriate knows, this list is subject to change because of the crazy bureaucracy in this country.

Step 3: Start the Trámite

When the time comes, head to the Argentina Immigration Office with all your necessary documents to start the trámite, a common word used for errand or paperwork.  You will turn in all your documents, get your picture taken and they will give you a slip of paper confirming that the trámite has been started.  This can take a few hours, so bring some music or a book.

Step 4: Wait 60 Days

They say you will get a notice to your house that your DNI is ready after 60 days.  Mine came after just 2 weeks, so I guess the 60 day thing is not so set in stone.  You will have to call the local post office and arrange a time for them to deliver your DNI, where you will sign for it.

Step 5: Celebrate!

You are now an official holder of your very own DNI, able to take of all the benefits that this document provides!  Here are just a few:

Benefit #1 – Buying with a Card Is Easier

When using a debit or credit card in Argentina, most stores and shops will ask you for your “documento” referring to some form of national ID to verify who you are.  Unfortunately, most foreigners have to use their passports, which can get confusing for the cashier and be a hassle to carry around with you.  If you have a DNI, however, the process is simple and you don’t stand out from your fellow Argentine shoppers.

Benefit #2 – Cheaper Stuff

From plane tickets with the national airline (Aerolineas Argentinas) to entrance to national parks (like Iguazú National Park), things are cheaper if you have a DNI (airline tickets are in pesos rather than dollars).

Benefit #3 – Respect

Whipping out your DNI if front of other foreigners makes them drool and stare in awe.  Argentines will be surprised that you have such a document and will automatically know that can handle yourself crazy city.