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Expats who are looking to settle or work in Chile must do extensive research and consider the various visas to decide which would suit their purposes best, whether for a temporary stay or permanent residence.
Tourist visas for Chile
Tourist visas allow stays in Chile for 90 days as long as visitors are not undertaking paid work activities. A Tourist Card (Tarjeta de Turismo), issued on arrival, should always be carried. A fine must be paid if visitors overstay the time permitted by their visa or tourist card.
This card can sometimes be renewed at an additional fee for an additional 90 days when it nears its expiration date, and this can be arranged through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Migration (Departamento de Extranjería y Migración). Extending the visa is not a guarantee and is decided on a discretionary basis and shouldn't be relied upon. Expats should also be prepared for long queues and waiting times.
Citizens of many countries, including South Africa, the US, Canada and most of Europe are unlikely to need to apply for a visa for stays in Chile of up to 90 days. These visitors will need their passports on arrival, and they may need to show proof of funds for the duration of their stay and evidence of their scheduled departure date. Expats should note that some nationals, such as Australians, will need to pay a reciprocity fee in cash on arrival in Chile.
Nationals of many South American countries need only their national identity documents to enter Chile. Citizens of countries that are not visa-exempt should contact the Chilean embassy in their home country for visa application requirements.
Visitors who are not from visa-exempt countries will have to apply for a tourist visa, at least 30 days in advance. The required documents for obtaining a visa for Chile vary, but normally include a detailed travel itinerary of flights and accommodation as well as proof of funds to sustain the traveller during their stay. Minors travelling require additional documents.
It can take up to 20 days to process the application, after which the visa must be collected and paid for at the designated Chilean embassy.
Up-to-date information on visas and visa fees can be found on the official Department of Foreign Affairs and Migration websites, Extranjeria in Spanish or Minrel in English, and contacting the nearest Chilean embassy is necessary.
Study visas for Chile
Foreign citizens who wish to study in Chile and are already enrolled in an educational institution must obtain a student resident visa.
Student visas are usually valid for one year, unless the duration of the course is shorter than that, though it can be renewed. Students with scholarships for Chile often get their visa validated for the duration that the scholarship allows.
It is sometimes possible to work on a student visa if the Department of Foreign Affairs and Migration deems that the work is necessary to complete or fund the course.
Obtaining a student visa is usually done outside the country through the official Minrel website and at the nearest Chilean consulate. Those who reside in Chile, specifically in Santiago and Antofagasta, can usually apply via mail.
Foreigners on a student visa may be entitled to bring their spouse or dependent children, although they must apply for a separate visa, including additional documents and proof that all applicants will be financially covered during their stay and will not take up work.
The process can take some time although it does vary. Those hoping to study in Chile must contact the Chilean embassy and plan well in advance.
Residence visas for Chile
Foreigners who wish to stay in Chile for longer than 90 days must normally get a temporary residence permit. This applies to most applicants from visa-free countries.
Temporary Resident Visa
The Visa de Residencia Temporaria is intended for those who wish to travel the country to settle in Chile to seek work or to visit family members. This visa is valid for a year though it may be renewed. After that, expats should consider applying for permanent residence or leaving Chile.
There is an associated dependent visa for family members of the Temporary Resident Visa holder, but dependents on this visa are not allowed to work in Chile.
Getting Permanencia Definitiva allows foreigners to permanently settle in Chile and live and work with full rights of a Chilean citizen. This is normally for foreign citizens who have lived in Chile for some time and have held previous visas and work permits. Expats should review the official Extranjeria and Minrel websites as well as visit the Registro Civil or any ChileAtiende office to start the process and obtain a unique key to continue an online application.
Visa Subject to Contract
The Visa Sujeta a Contrato de Trabajo is a resident visa and type of work permit granted to foreign workers who have been hired from overseas and intend to live and work in Chile. It is usually valid for the length of an expat’s contract.
The dependent visa linked to this is for the immediate family of the contract worker and holders of this type of dependent visa are not allowed to work while they live in Chile.
Working Holiday Visa
This visa is another type of work permit which allows nationals of certain countries to travel and study or work in Chile for a year or less.
*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.
►Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs – minrel.gob.cl
►Departamento de Extranjería y Migración – extranjeria.gob.cl
►Find out more info on work permits for Chile
"In general, visa processes are time-consuming and involve standing in line a lot." Read Annje's experience with getting visas for Chile.
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