Interested in moving to Chile? This is our simple Chile Immigration Guide, containing all the info you need to get started. From getting a visa to finding work and (eventual) citizenship – it’s all here. Read on!
Chile: Quick Facts
- Chile stretches over ~292,000 sq. miles (756,000 sq. km), and has a population of ~18.1 million people.
- Chile is an extremely narrow country (geographically), and is part of the volcanic zone known as the Pacific Ring of Fire. There are over 1,300 volcanoes found along the country’s mountain ranges.
- More than one-third of the world’s copper is produced in Chile. It is also the number one exporter of salmon.
- For some reason, there have been more UFOs “observed” in the skies of Chile than in any other country in the world.
- Many tours to the mysterious Polynesian Easter Island and Antarctica set out from Chile.
- Chile is the home of the driest desert on earth – the Atacama Desert. It sees less than 0.05 mm of rain each year.
- Currency: Chilean Peso (CLP).
- Spoken languages: Spanish is the official language. Native languages such as Mapudungun and Quechua are spoken only by a limited few.
- Major religions: Around 63% of Chileans belong to the Catholic church, while 15% identify themselves as Protestant or Evangelical Christians.
- Largest cities: Santiago is the largest city in Chile, with a population of nearly 6 million. Concepción and Valparaíso are the next largest cities, each with just under 1 million residents.
Why move to Chile
- Chile is the first (and as of September 2014, the only) South American member of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development). The OECD is an organization comprised mainly of countries with high-income economies that are leaders in economic development and world trade.
- Some organizations have praised Chile as having the most advanced medical care in Latin America. There is a good public healthcare system (available to expats), though you can opt for private insurance if you want. The medical facilities tend to be surprisingly modern, and the medical staff is very well educated. The country also has a good reputation in practicing successful preventative medicine.
- Chile has become one of the easiest places in the world to start a business, which has made it incredibly popular with expanding corporations and entrepreneurs.
- Chile has been hailed as the least corrupt country in South America. This, coupled with its economic stability and low crime rate have classified it as one of the most “advanced” developing countries in the world.
Reasons not to move to Chile
Note: these are common expat complaints, and may not apply to you.
- High-priced food items can make groceries one of the biggest expenses.
- One of the greatest dangers expats face when living in Chile is the high frequency of earthquakes. Though most instances are small, there is a real threat for damage from larger quakes.
- Many of the bigger cities suffer from constant vandalism in the form of graffiti and petty thefts.
- Driving in Chile can be a scary experience for expats from Western countries. It’s not uncommon to see people running stop lights, weaving between lanes, and making illegal turns.
Getting a Visa and Finding Work
Here are some of the more common visas issued to foreigners coming to Chile:
- Tourist visa: individuals traveling to Chile for tourism purposes will be issued a tourist card (Tarjeta de Turismo) upon their arrival. They are permitted to stay in the country for up to 90 days, and must surrender their tourist card upon departure. Citizens of certain countries (Australia, Canada, Mexico, U.S., etc.) entering Chile through the Santiago airport will have to pay a fee for their tourist card. You should check with the closest Chilean Embassy to find out which countries do not have a reciprocal visa agreement with Chile, in case you are required to apply for a visa before your trip.
- Work visa: in order to qualify for a work visa (Visa Sujeto a Contrato), you must be sponsored by a Chilean company. Foreigners can apply for a work visa at their country’s Chilean Embassy, or at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the capital city of Santiago. You must include a letter from your employer and a notarized work contract (in Spanish) with your visa application. In certain cases, applicants will also have to provide proof of their credentials.
- Temporary residency visa: Anyone can apply for this type of visa (Visa Temporario). It is an attractive option, as it permits the holder to work or study in Chile for up to one year. A letter explaining the reasons for your application must be submitted with the rest of the required documents. This visa can be extended for an additional year, but after two years you must apply for permanent residency or leave the country.
Foreigners can also apply for investment and retirement visas when moving to Chile. However, these visas tend to have more paperwork involved, so many people choose to employ the services of an immigration lawyer.
Permanent Residency and Citizenship
Becoming a resident: a residency visa (Permanencia Definitiva) can be applied for upon the expiration of a temporary residency or work visa. If you have lived in the country under a temporary residency visa, then you must have spent at least 180 days per year in the country to apply for permanent residency. If you are applying from a work visa, then you will need to prove that you have lived in the country for an uninterrupted period of at least two years. Students may also apply for permanent residency, as long as they have lived in the country for at least two years (and have completed their studies). A residency visa is valid for five years and can be renewed indefinitely. Residency is only revoked if you leave Chile for more than one year at a time. To apply for residency, you must submit the following documents:
- A certified Chilean police report proving that you have no criminal history in the country
- A medical exam performed by an approved Chilean physician
- A letter stating why you want to live in Chile on a permanent basis
- Proof of income (e.g. bank statements)
- A document issued by the international police showing all your entries and exits from Chile
- Two color photographs that are passport size with your passport number or RUT number
- Notarized copies of all your passport pages and both sides of your Chilean ID card (if you have one)
Becoming a citizen: after living in Chile for five years under a permanent residency visa, you are eligible to apply for Chilean citizenship. If you become a Chilean citizen, you will be issued a Chilean passport. You will not be required to revoke your current citizenship. In order to apply, you must have your own permanent residency visa (rather than being a dependent of a spouse or relative), you must have a clean criminal record, and you must provide proof of sufficient income to support yourself. These are the requirements for citizen applications:
- A completed Solicitud de Carta de Nacionalización form (filled out and signed in person at the government office)
- A letter explaining the reasons you wish to become a naturalized citizen of Chile
- A notarized criminal background check
- A certified log of all your entries to and exits from Chile (issued by the international police)
- Two color photographs,passport size, with your RUT or passport number on them
- A notarized photocopy of your passport
- A notarized photocopy of your Chilean ID card or permanent residency card
It can take up to 1 year for a citizenship application to be processed and approved.
Starting a Business in Chile
Over the past few years Chile has tried to attract entrepreneurs and investors from around the globe. A number of changes in policy have made starting a business in Chile easier than starting a business almost anywhere else. In fact, it is now possible to create a Chilean business online.
When applying for an investment visa tied to a business venture, applicants must provide a business plan, prove that they possess the capital to fund the endeavor, and that it will be transferred into a Chilean bank account. If the person starting the business is residing in Chile, it usually takes around 30 days to complete the process. If a proxy is representing the owners, then the process could take longer. The process of starting a business generally consists of the following steps:
- An investment/entrepreneurial visa must be applied for and approved.
- The business must be registered with the tax authorities (SII), and must get its own taxpayer number (called a RUT).
- Before operations can commence, a municipal license and all applicable permits must be obtained.
Recommended Reading & Resources
- The Expat’s Guide: An Insider’s Guide to Living, Working & Traveling in Chile
- Ministry of Migration – official government website
- Brazil Immigration Guide
- Argentina Immigration Guide
- Colombia Immigration Guide
- Ecuador Immigration Guide
- Uruguay Immigration Guide