Got shouted at on first border hop at the Buquebus terminal in BA

americas

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Background: American who met my Argentina girlfriend online justtt before the pandemic, but waited until the borders opened in November 2021 to come here. Have been living here ever since, while working remotely in the US. I extended my tourist visa +90 days at the local tourism office.

Then, at the end of the 90 day extension (180 days total), I took the ferry to Uruguay for a week with the understanding that this was a no-hassle common practice for expats here. Returning to the country on Buquebus ferry, I had the fortune of a bigger guy who basically started shouting at me immediately after he flipped through my passport and told me that I couldn't do what I was doing and that I was at the extremes of a very clear law. I was surprised and was not very well prepared with my answers, although I answered truthfully.

His line of questioning (while yelling at me for 15 minutes and telling me that I could not do this). I was worried but calm and was glad that he was asking questions because it meant progress. I had mentally prepared for rejection at the border and I would have been okay:

- What are you doing here?
-> Tourism, my girlfriend lives here and we are exploring the country together. (I have an apartment, I'm on the lease with her).

- Are you working?
-> I'm working remotely for US businesses.
-> him: But your laptop is here, so you're working here! You need a work visa!
-> I don't believe that remote work qualifies as working here, but I would like to learn more if that is the case.

- How will you spend money? Do you have a credit card?
-> Cash and credit card, yes.

- How much money do you have to spend (he said, "to waste" in english, which caught me off guard, but it's a common "gastar" mistranslation I suppose) ?
-> I have a large savings account so I didn't disclose the number, but I had ~ $3,000 US cash in my bag, which he asked to see.

- When will you leave?
-> Within the next three months, I would like to go home for Summer in the U.S.A in July. (This is true, although I don't have a ticket yet.). I am now reconsidering this if reentry is a nightmare.

- What am I supposed to tell the immigration of your country?
-> I had no idea what he was talking about. He rambled for a while about how strict USA immigration was.

He took my passport for 15 minutes to the back room and eventually a mild-mannered man came out, approved the 90 days, and told me I couldn't do this again (I think he said that, at least). The man suggested the new digital nomad visa or a work visa.

At this point, I was the last passenger in the terminal and was worried for the outcome, but no bribe was requested and no clear threats other than the stern lectures.

My girlfriend and I do plan on going to the U.S. once she has a break in her classes and her US tourism visa clears. It's been very difficult to plan because covid obliterated the schedule. Our plan was for the end of 2022 but it might be early 2023 now. At some point in the future, marriage would be in the cards to help with immigration, but we're not quite ready yet.

My understanding after reading this (incredible) forum is that they are clamping down on the border hopping practice. My understanding, too, is that the practice is completely legal and is not prohibited in the same way as European countries prohibit it (ie. max 180 days per year as tourist). I was surprised by the nasty tone of this conversation and the line of questioning around remote work. I didn't think work visas applied in this scenario.
 

antipodean

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I think it is a fair point he made... if you have ever had to endure "secondary" in your country of origin as a foreigner, even for something as trivial as a finger-print error on the machine, you'd be disappointed that the border hopper/ remote worker didn't at least get to spend a little time in a holding cell or get an interrogation from an armed border guard threatening him with deportation and a lifetime ban from entry... collective-karma is a b***h, and each country has its migration rules :)
 

americas

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For clarity, he seemed to be talking about my country's immigration laws with respect to me. As in, if he let me in, what would he tell them? I'm not sure what his point was, although I agree with yours!

I don't understand the cruelty at the US borders and can't offer insight there; other than that certain groups want cruelty for cruelty's sake and are gleeful when something bad happens to somebody else, which is how your post reads to me.

In contrast with the abuse that some people suffer at borders, I see how my story is whiny, although I'm not whining, I'm telling the story as it happened to share knowledge and to get insight into why that happened to me.

Also, to repeat, my main focus was that I was being asked questions because it meant that the shouting was at least partially bluster; although I was surprised to encounter an issue based on my understanding of the laws which I was following. When I've told this to people here, generally they are also surprised because they all believe immigration laws to be very, very lax.
 

sts7049

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while historically they have been lax, it isn't so much the case anymore and you shouldn't just take internet hearsay or expat group comments to be truth. just bc they didn't historically enforce something doesn't mean it wasn't the rule/law. you need to know what the rules actually are and be prepared for them to be enforced.

if i were you, i would not expect to be allowed in next time trying to do a border run.

as for remote work, what made you believe you could just freely work in arg without any kind of visa?
 

americas

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Any recommendations for an authority who can give definitive answers on these topics? I'm going to reach out to law firms to understand my options better.

I do not plan to do another border run and instead plan to apply for the digital nomad visa or a work visa.

As far as I can tell, the foreign-earned income is a grey area and it is reasonable to see a difference between working for an Argentine company & selling goods in Argentina versus working remotely. Before this, I actually thought that it wasn't a grey area, and that there was a clear distinction between "foreign-source income" and "argentina-source income" because the tax-code makes that distinction. Certainly, had I been coming here to work for MercadoLibre I wouldn't have done so on a tourist visa.

I was honest about this when speaking to a border authority and they granted entry, doesn't that lend some credibility to the existence of a grey area?
 

lunar

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Any recommendations for an authority who can give definitive answers on these topics? I'm going to reach out to law firms to understand my options better.

I am not an authority, but anyway


(This was before the digital nomad visa was introduced).

Why do you even talk about the source of income when you are a tourist? It is irrelevant.

And yeah, the experts will probably tell you that the Argentine Constitution gives you a right to work in Argentina, because the foreigners have equal rights with Argentine citizens in some respects. But it is an immigration officer who makes a decision to let you in.
 
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americas

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Here, taken from the official BA page for digital nomads:


Given the context that these statements are on the "Digital Nomads" page, and that the "Visas" section says that a visa isn't required for stays that do not exceed 90 days -- it seems very clear that they're okay with digital nomads being here without a visa.

Of course, I also see the other sections emphasizing how important visas are... but, it's compelling to me that the Digital Nomad page dedicates an entire section to saying that visas aren't required for digital nomads on short stays. I recognize that I'm pushing it because it's been 2x 90 days, which is why I'm changing at this point!

There is a separate PDF resource on that page, that is called "Guide to services for digital nomads". It has a Visas section which literally makes no mention of visas other than, essentially, "visitors from most countries don't need a Visa if they're here for less than 90 days".

----

Copy and pasted + screenshot, below

Visas and Procedures​


Working remotely from Buenos Aires is a unique experience but it can involve a few tedious procedures! Therefore, it is very important you are well aware of all you need to do before arrival, and once you get here.

Visa procedures are obviously the most important. Take a good look at visa requirements and complete the step by step instructions. Information on visas will be updated in the coming days.

Visas​


Visitors from the vast majority of countries do not require a visa for stays that do not exceed 90 days (citizens of Mercosur countries do not need their passport, they only need their identity document). Check your situation at the National Migration Office

Embassies and consulates​


It is worth consulting immigration requirements with the Argentine embassy or consulate of your country of origin. You can also consult foreign embassies and consulates in Argentina.

1654737110266.png
 
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lunar

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Given the context that these statements are on the "Digital Nomads" page, and that the "Visas" section says that a visa isn't required for stays that do not exceed 90 days -- it seems very clear that they're okay with digital nomads being here without a visa.

This is an advertisement brochure, and you are interpreting it the way you want to.

Let me tell you a story. A friend of mine, who is an Argentine citizen, once invited his parents from a country, for which a visa "is not required". And they had planned to stay here for a long time and brought a lot of stuff, including frying pans, etc. The idea was to enter as tourists and after that apply for a resident visa. They were rejected at the border by the immigration, and returned back home on the same plane.

- Are you working?
-> I'm working remotely for US businesses.
-> him: But your laptop is here, so you're working here! You need a work visa!
-> I don't believe that remote work qualifies as working here, but I would like to learn more if that is the case.

And this is your frying pan, by the way. But people at the border were nice to you at this time.
 
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zensailor

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I believe your initial problem was that you ''reversed'' the extensions.....before Permanent Residency, I would do border runs with no problem....one border run simply sets you up for the next....however (as I was told), when you extend at migraciones, that is your last extension....so....borders first, and migraciones for your last extension.....on several occasions when I was leaving, the ''Migraciones stamp'' attracted more interest and scrutiny than the border runs.... just FYI.....my need for these extensions were pre-pandemic.
 

Cordoba

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Any recommendations for an authority who can give definitive answers on these topics? I'm going to reach out to law firms to understand my options better.

I do not plan to do another border run and instead plan to apply for the digital nomad visa or a work visa.

As far as I can tell, the foreign-earned income is a grey area and it is reasonable to see a difference between working for an Argentine company & selling goods in Argentina versus working remotely. Before this, I actually thought that it wasn't a grey area, and that there was a clear distinction between "foreign-source income" and "argentina-source income" because the tax-code makes that distinction. Certainly, had I been coming here to work for MercadoLibre I wouldn't have done so on a tourist visa.

I was honest about this when speaking to a border authority and they granted entry, doesn't that lend some credibility to the existence of a grey area?

I got a verbal warning for speeding. It doesn't give any credibility to the existence of a grey area.

It is low on the priority list but I don't think there is much grey once they don't see you as a tourist anymore. It is either black or white and everything in the white with a remote employer outside the country isn't pretty for your or your employer.
 
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