Uruguay - Country Commercial Guide
Trade Financing

It covers payment methods and information on, banking systems, foreign exchange controls, and U.S. and correspondent banking.

Last published date: 2021-11-08

U.S. companies interested in offering terms to foreign clients should contact the U.S. Export Import Bank to inquire about programs designed to protect U.S. firms selling abroad. 

Methods of Payment: Uruguay’s large importers are comfortable working with letters of credit, although they usually prefer to work with open accounts or documentary collections.  Local business practices do not generally include cash in advance.  Multinationals, large, and medium-sized firms are still the main letter of credit users.  Other methods of payment such as credit cards or other electronic means are gaining popularity.    

There are no foreign currency restrictions in Uruguay and international transactions can be done in U.S. dollars. Payment for any kind of import can be made terms agreed upon by both parties (i.e., a letter of credit or a sight draft with deferred payment, etc.). 

The international banking departments of major U.S. banks generally finance U.S. exports.  Special programs of the Development Finance Corporation (DFC), U.S. Trade and Development Agency and USAID are not available since Uruguay was classified as a high-income country in July 2013.  Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM Bank) programs are available.

For information about the methods of payment or other trade finance options, please read the  https://www.trade.gov/trade-finance-guide-quick-reference-us-exporters.

Banking Systems: The banking system is generally sound and has good capital, solvency, and liquidity ratios.  Profitability, in the context of low international interest rates and low demand for credit, is a problem.  Uruguay’s public financial sector currently consists of one government-owned commercial bank (Banco de la República) and one government-owned mortgage bank (Banco Hipotecario del Uruguay).  The market has foreign banks, cooperatives, offshore banks, external financial institutions, credit administrators, foreign exchange houses and financial service companies.  For list of institutions and more details please check in https://www.bcu.gub.uy/Servicios-Financieros-SSF/Paginas/Default.aspx The largest bank is the government-owned Banco de la República, which accounts for over 50 percent of total deposits.  Long-term banking credit has traditionally been difficult to for companies obtain and U.S. firms that can provide financing solutions will be more competitive in the market.  In terms of investment, foreign investors can access credit with the same market terms as nationals.

The financial sector in Uruguay is open to foreign participation and a transparent supervisory and regulatory system sustains it.   A severe banking crisis in 2002 put the entire financial system at risk, but good management practices and timely support from the United States and IMF allowed the system to get back on track.  After the crisis, Uruguay reformed its Central Bank’s charter and enhanced its regulatory and supervisory roles.  At present the local banking sector is sound.

Offshore banks are subject to the same laws, regulations, and controls as local banks, with the government requiring licensing through a formal process that includes a background investigation.  U.S. financial firms such as Raymond James operate in Uruguay, mainly within free trade zones.

For more information, please visit: https://www.bcu.gub.uy/Paginas/Default.aspx

Foreign Exchange Controls: The local currency is Uruguayan peso (UYU).  Uruguay does not apply foreign exchange controls.

US Banks & Local Correspondent Banks: Citibank has maintained a presence in Uruguay since 1915 and is the only U.S. bank currently operating in Uruguay.  Citibank sold its private banking operation to the Itaú bank in 2013 and is currently only servicing corporate banking clients.   All local banks have correspondent banking arrangements with major U.S. banks.  All of Uruguay’s banks, including government-owned Banco de la Republica, are in the process of adapting to Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) regulations.  For more information, visit:  https://www.irs.gov/businesses/corporations/foreign-account-tax-compliance-act-fatca.