Chile Immigration and Residency Visas
By Charles Spencer and Zandra Valenzuela
Summary: One of the best visa options for investors in Chile, is not an investor visa, but what is called a "retirement and periodic income".
One of the best visa options for investors in Chile, is not an investor visa, but what is called a “retirement and periodic income” Visa. It allows you to work, live, start a business, and basically do everything you might wish to do in Chile without connecting your immigration status to the success or failure of your business in Chile. Of all visas offered by countries in Latin America and South America, this is one of the easiest for the expat or investor to obtain. We provide a brief overview of the issues involved in foreigners obtaining this type of visa.
In many countries in South America and Latin America, they will offer citizenships, residency, or passports in exchange for a minimal “investment” in the country. Those minimal investment numbers don't include the official bribes, or warnings that the political winds might shift and your residency status and investment might go with them. Chile is easily one of the most corruption free and stable countries in the Americas, and also one of the most amicable to foreigners looking to relocate or retire. The fundamental approach of Chile in general to immigration is not do they want you or will they let you in, but are you able to stay in Chile and are you serious about living in Chile.
Before we get in to the requirements for the Chilean Retirement and Income visa, I want to take a moment to dispel some misunderstandings about whom the Retirement and Income visa in Chile is designed for, and what it allows you to do.
We have obtained this sort of visa for clients ranging from young families with children relocating, to people opening tourism business, to your traditional retired couples. In many ways the Retirement and Income visa is the swiss army knife of immigration visas in Chile. When assessing the best visa for our clients, we look first to see if their situation and goals fit the Retirement and Income visa, and then we look to other sorts of visas if they do not qualify. In fact, it is very rare that our clients need to apply for any other sort of visa such as the more complex “Investor Visa”.
One of the first things that people considering this type of visa think is that you have to be old or retired to qualify. You do not need to be retired. You do not need to be old. You do need to prove a source of regular recurring income to support yourself and your family members living in Chile. Additional assets also help. We will discuss this more detail in a moment.
The second reason we find that people will overlook this visa is because they want to work or start a business in Chile. The retirement and income visa does not exclude you from requesting a work visa or starting a business in Chile. These are done in a separate process, but you can do it. In fact, for most of our clients this is the path of least resistance for starting a business in Chile. The investor visa in Chile is complex and ties your immigration status to the success or failure of your business.
The investor visa is easy to obtain, and very difficult to keep. Immigration will audit your business in the second year to determine if it is a viable business and will examine in detail your business plan. An investor visa is also typically thousands of dollars more expensive in terms of procedures that must be completed.
You have no such problems with the Retirement and Income visa, if your business venture in Chile should fail. You just start another business or do nothing, secure in the fact that your immigration status or residency in the country is not tied to your business venture.
Qualifying for the Chilean Retirement and Income Visa
The key requirement is a basic recurring income that will support you in the future. Among just a few of the sources that Chilean Immigration will accept are pensions, social security, rent from real estate, long-term contracts, interest income or Annuities. Any source that will periodically recur in the future.
Your other resources are also considered. It is not only a recurring source of income. Immigration would for example consider a small social security Check you receive every month, in addition to a large savings account, stock portfolio, or property you own in Chile as proof that you have sufficient assets. Some of the secondary assets that Chilean immigration will consider are savings, stocks, property in Chile or other countries, investment in a business in Chile, and so on.
Chilean immigration for the most part will not tell us or anyone else exactly what the magic number is in terms of monthly income or other assets that is required to qualify. All they will say is that it must be sufficient to live on in the area you are intending to reside. So, for example it is much more expensive to live in Las Condes in Santiago than a small town in Southern Chile. A good rule of thumb across Chile is that you should be able to show $1,000 US per person including yourself and any people you claim as dependents on your application. This is sufficient to live a middle class life style in almost every part of Chile.
Chile Immigration Procedures and Documents
We must first warn you; however, do not try to apply for this visa at your nearest Chilean consulate outside of Chile. The only immigration applications we have ever seen consistently rejected have been done through the consulate while people are outside the country, in spite of what the consulate may tell you. If you avoid this basic mistake, immigration officials have told us they nearly accept 100% of the applications as long as the application is correctly completed and the supporting documents are provided. Most of the rejections occur outside the country, because the staffs at the consulates and embassies do not know the correct procedures.
The correct procedure is to come to Chile under a regular tourist visa, then to change your status by applying for the Retirement or Income visa. Once you apply, and are awaiting approval of your temporary visa you can remain in the country without needing to renew your tourist visa.
Once your one year temporary visa is approved, you must remain in Chile for at least one year. By that they mean, you must complete 365 days of physical presence in Chile within a two year period. Each day you are out of the country, is discounted from your temporary residency time. The longest you can be out of the country is 180 days consecutively. If you fail to meet this requirement, you must start the application procedure all over again and your temporary residency time. So, it is best to plan to remain in Chile once you begin the application procedure. Once you complete that one year temporary residency requirement, you can then apply for a permanent residency status change.
All key documents submitted as supporting evidence to immigration must be notarized and legalized. Chile is not a party to the Hague convention. Thus, this means that there is a lengthy authentication process for such things as birth certificates, contracts, bank statements, pension statements, and so on that you might wish to submit to immigration. It can vary from country to country and consulate to Chilean consulate, but for the most part this involves notarizing an official copy in your home country, and having that notarization certified by a standard legalization process at the nearest Chilean consulate. Once the documents arrives in Chile, they must again be certified at the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Santiago. It is best to check these procedures before leaving home, as some documents are much easier to obtain in person while you are still in your home country.
One final word about immigration in Chile. The corruption free environment of Chile is in part traded for extensive bureaucratic checks and balances. Be patient. That said, if your application is rejected for some reason, no one is going to kick in your door in the middle of the night and throw you out of the country. You can in most cases reapply. Again, the number one reason that immigration applications are rejected in Chile is because of improperly completed applications.
About the Author
Charles Spencer and Zandra Valenzuela are the founder of Spencer Global consulting, a law firm providing investment, real estate, and relocation services in Chile, South America. Zandra Valenzuela is an attorney at law and professor of international public law in Chile. Charles Spencer is originally from the United States, and operates a series of informational web sites for English speaking expats in Chile, South America.
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First Published: Dec 30, 2008