Do I really need a lawyer to become a resident in Peru?

immigration

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Over the last couple of months, I’ve received a couple of slightly nasty messages and comments from people who accused me of promoting a service which is not necessary to become a resident in Peru. We’re talking about hiring an immigration lawyer in general and about my friendship with Sergio Vargas from NVC Abogados in particular. Sergio is part of the Digital Nomads Peru team and the lawyer I recommend when someone asks me about how to get their residence visa for Peru.

My story of obtaining a Peru work visa

I first got in touch with Sergio in early 2017 when I decided that I wanted to return to South America. At that time, I wasn’t even sure about the country yet. I had lived in Brazil in the 1990’s and travelled to other countries in the region but for some reason, I had never made it to Peru. That’s kind of a curious fact because I had been fascinated by Peruvian history and culture ever since I was a teenager.

Two years ago, my situation was a bit complicated. I wasn’t a resident of any country, I didn’t earn much and had no official business. I wasn’t unhappy because I had been a  digital nomad since 2014 and although my income was too low for Western Europe, for example, I lived rather comfortably in places like Hungary, Serbia – or Peru.

Many nomads still consider the country where they were born and raised as their home, keep their residence and often register their businesses there. For various reasons, this was never an option for me. I cut ties with Germany for good and will only keep my citizenship for practical reasons.

So when I met Sergio, I was looking for a place where I could become a resident and eventually a citizen without too much struggle. I had looked into Colombia and Paraguay but didn’t know anyone there. As I’m familiar with Latin America, I was totally aware that some things may look easy on paper (or a website) but suddenly bureaucratic hurdles, corrupt or simply incompetent officials and rules you’ve never heard of cross your path. Sergio and his team made it incredibly easy for me to set up my company and obtain a work visa for Peru. They also continue handling all my legal and taxes stuff.

Do I really need a lawyer?

That was our initial question and the answer is easy: No, you don’t.

Just as you don’t need to send your kids to school as you can teach them yourself (not in Germany, by the way, forbidden by law).

Just as you don’t have to buy bread at the bakery as you can bake it yourself.

Just as you don’t have to hire a virtual assistant because you can run your business totally alone (even if that means working for 80 hours a week).

Just as you don’t need to pay a language teacher because there are enough free resources online.

Just as you don’t have to hire a cleaning lady because you can clean your apartment on your own.

Just as you don’t need to hire a business or life coach because they’re crap, anyway and just want your money (like lawyers).

Just as you don’t have to go to a hairdresser but should be okay with a pair of scissors at home.

And just as there’s no need to ever go to a restaurant because it’s much cheaper to cook at home.

Okay, I think you get it, don’t you? It’s a matter of personal choice and preferences but also of whether you value another professional’s work or not.

So why should I hire an immigration lawyer?

The most common visa types for people who are looking for either a temporary or a permanent resident permit in Peru are work and rentista visas.

As a foreigner, you’ll probably feel overwhelmed by all the information and requirements. Apart from that, regulations and laws change and keeping up-to-date with everything is a pain in the ass. Well, and most likely not something you’d want to waste your precious time with.

It’s an immigration lawyer’s job to know all those rules and laws. He’s the professional and you can just lean back and concentrate on the things you’re good at.

I lived in Brazil in the 1990’s and as the mother of two kids who had Brazilian citizenship, I was entitled to a residence permit. Sounds easy but it took me months to actually obtain my visa. There was always something missing and they sent me from one place to the other. Not something, I’d like to go through again.

Some people bring forward the argument that you learn a lot when you do everything yourself. Unless you intend to become an immigration lawyer yourself, I honestly don’t agree. It’s a one-time process and there’s no need to learn how to handle frustration when dealing with Peruvian authorities. There’s no need to waste an hour waiting in line at Banco de la Nación to pay another stupid fee you had forgotten about when you went there last time.

Last not least, you may run into trouble with your visa application. In my case, everything went smoothly. However, it does happen that Migraciones (the Peruvian immigration authorities) decline your application to obtain a visa. If you have a good immigration lawyer by your side, he knows how to handle such a situation and won’t charge you any extra to file a protest.

You’ll also be thankful to have a good lawyer by your side if SUNAT (taxes) or Migraciones (visa-related stuff) suddenly decide to check on you. First of all, your lawyer knows exactly what to do in such a case. It happened to me and we just needed to hand in some documents. Secondly, the chances that you won’t run into further difficulties are much higher when you’re represented by a lawyer you can trust and who knows how to deal with Peruvian authorities.

But I don’t have the money for a lawyer

Funnily, that’s a point I most often hear from people who come from West European countries or North America. Really?  I mean, we’re talking about a one-time investment of US$ 2,500 – 4,000. If you come from a Western country and are not able to save up such an amount within a maximum of a couple of months, you should seriously wonder whether you have the right attitude to become an entrepreneur.

Every business requires investments and hiring an immigration lawyer to have a good and hassle-free start in Peru is a sensible investment, in my opinion.

Funnily, people often don’t even blink when they work with lawyers in the US or the UK and have to pay 500 or 1,000 bucks for a service with isn’t as important for their future life as obtaining a residency permit for the country of their choice.

Sergio from NVC Abogados isn’t the cheapest lawyer in Peru but he has 15 years of experience and simply knows his stuff. As I share the office with him when I’m in Lima and have had numerous conversation with him and his secretary, I know how much work is involved when processing someone’s visa application and that his prices are absolutely justified.

I mean, as a professional yourself, you also want people to appreciate your services or products and pay a fair price, don’t you?

Personally, I don’t work for US$10/hour, either and have already been told that I charge too much. That’s fine. People who think like that are not the type of clients I would want to work with.

 

Well, so now it’s your choice. Good luck with whatever you decide.

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