How Will the 2017 Chilean Immigration Law Reform Affect You?

In 2017, a proposed law reform aimed to change requirements to obtain residency in Chile. This law reform was not passed, and the standards to obtain residency are outlined on the Department of Migration website.

Whether you’re an expat living in Chile, a businessman working in the city of Santiago or a keen student wanting to study in Latin America, information about visa requirements.

On the 21st of August 2017, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet signed the draft of this reform. This was last introduced by the former president Sebastián Piñera in 2013. This reform was not passed, so Chile’s residency requirements remain as they were before this reform was proposed.

immigration ChileWhat are the Different Categories of Foreigners in Chile?

These are essential as each category has its own policies. The draft law has changed these categories and their titles. If you are a tourist or you will be staying for a short period of time in Chile, you will need the Permiso de Permanencia Transitoria. With this permit, you will be able to stay in Chile up to 90 days. Keep in mind that in some countries Chile requires foreigners to apply for a tourist visa.

If you are a long-term student, a worker seeking for a work visa or you’re looking for a temporary visa, you will have to apply for a Residencia Temporal.

For those who want to reside in Chile for good, you are required to have a Permiso de Residencia Definitiva, currently called Permanencia Definitiva.

Last but not least, this new reform has introduced a new category for diplomats and others employees of the sort, which is called the Residencia Oficial.

The most significant details to be aware of:

When applying for a visa or a permanent residency, you should do so 20 days before the expiration of your current permit to stay in Chile. Currently, you can apply even on the last day. You also will have to leave Chile before the visa expires whereas before you could stay up to 60 days if it was expired.

  • The temporary visa grants working rights to the titular and the dependent. However, the parents of the titular can’t be the dependents.
  • After 5 years of permanent residency, you can apply for citizenship. However, the period is shortened for those who have a Chilean spouse and/or children.
  • Interrupted residence time is 183 days.

We are now going to have a close look at these various visas to see what they offer you. We are going to proceed from the shortest visa to the longest. We will then answer the three most common questions asked when referring to visa applications in Latin America. 

The Different Status in Chile:

I.The Permission to Stay (Permiso de Permanencia Transitoria):

Immigration chile

This permit is issued for 90 days. You can pay to extend it for an extra 90 days according to article 39. This permit is for those who want to spend a short time in Chile, without the intention of settling.  You do not have the right to work unless you apply for a separate permit for irregular work. Examples of these are members of an artistic troupe, athletes, lectures or consultants. (art. 41)

II. The Temporary Residency (Residencia Temporal):

This is a long-term visa for foreigners who want to live in Chile for a limited time. (art 60). It is issued for a maximum of 2 years, and it can be extended for another 2 years. If you’re a temporary worker, the permit can be issued for up to 5 years in total in increments of 1 year each.

You can apply for this visa in the Chilean consulates abroad. If your visa is approved, you will have a maximum period of 90 days to enter Chile. If this is not respected, your visa will be canceled.

This visa enables for you and your dependents to engage in paid activities (art 65).

Dependents include spouse/cohabitant; children under 18 years old (whether they’re yours or your spouse’s), children with disabilities regardless of their age, children under 24 years of age who are studying in State-recognized institutions. Parents are not included in this category.

III. Permanent Residence (Residencia Definitiva)

You can apply for your permanent residence after having stayed in Chile at least 24 months on the temporary residency. Once again, there is an exception for the following, who can apply for permanent residency after only one year:

  1. Close relatives of Chilean citizens or holders of permanent residence.
  2. Members of official mission to Chile
  3. Retirees or renters
  4. Investors and/or founders of Chilean companies

If the applicant does not have enough funds to support himself and his family, does not have reliable work, has been out of Chile for a long time or has violated legislation, then the term for approval of permanent residency can be extended for up to 48 months. (art. 70)

You will lose your permanent residency if you are out of Chile for more than 2 years (art. 74).

IV. Official Residency (Residencia Oficial)

This will only concern you if you are a diplomat or a worker of a similar status. The families of diplomats are also eligible for the official residence. This is issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chile and expires 30 days after completion of the mission in the country.

It is important to note that the holders of this visa are not allowed to engage in paid activities, except if it relates to the work of their mission. After one year of official residency, you will be asked to apply for a different type of status.  

V. Citizenship (Ciudadanía)


You can apply for citizenship after 3 years of permanent residency (art 75). This period is reduced to 2 years for those with a Chilean spouse and/or children. Once again, residency time is considered uninterrupted if the foreigner was absent from the country for no more than 120 days during the year, instead of the previous 183 days.

Chile Immigration

If you are the spouse of a Chilean national with a marriage registered in Chile or if you are a direct/2nd degree relative of a Chilean citizen, you can apply for citizenship after 2 years of residency for a  permanent visa.

If you have committed a medium gravity crime, your application for Chilean citizenship may be pushed by 5 years. If it’s a serious crime your application will be postponed to 10 years.

Within 30 days of obtaining your citizenship, you will be asked to apply for a Chilean identity card (cédula de identidad, article 35). This card will help you prove your residency in Chile.

When should I submit my application?

If you want to change categories of residency, you have to submit the relevant documentation no later than 20 days before your current residence permit expires. If this is not respected, then you will be asked to pay a fine of approximately USD$ 1.300. (art 97) This is why we advise you to leave at least a month to apply for a different category of residency.

If you are on a ‘permission to stay’ visa, in other words on a tourist visa, you need to apply for your temporary residency at the latest 20 days before your 90 day period expires. If you already have your temporary residency and you want to renew it or apply for permanent residency, once again you must do so at the latest 20 days before your current visa expires.

What if I exit Chile with an Expired Visa?

Immigration Chile

It is a legal obligation for foreigners to leave Chile before their residency permit expires. It is very important to keep this in mind as the fines are very hefty. For overstays of 1 to 180 days, the fine will oscillate between 1300 USD and  25000 USD peer to article 100. If you overstay more than 180 days, you will face a fine of 25000 USD to 51500 USD (Article 111).If your visa has been expired for more than 180 days, you may be expulsed from Chile in the worse case scenario.  

What if I’m Caught Working without Permission?

If you have a paid work in Chile and your residency permit doesn’t allow it, then you will also be heavily fined. Fines oscillate between 5000 USD  and 26000 USD. The employer who hired you will also be asked to pay a fine of 130 USD to 250 USD per illegal worker. In the worse case scenario, you may be deported from Chile, according to article 108.

What If I Have to Work in Chile and I Need a Visa? 

If you’re a professional and you’re thinking of going on a business trip, or you’re thinking of opening a company in Chile, you may need some help to go through your visa application. This will enable you to focus on the heart of your business. At Biz Latin Hub, our legal department can take care of your visa application in no time, as they are aware of the complexities of the application process. Our existing clients cover a large spectrum of business sectors, and we are able to use that experience at a group level to provide tailor-made solutions for your immigration needs. If you want more information on the new immigration reform and its effects, contact Karl Matson at here or visit our multi-lingual website at bizlatinhub.com

Watch this video to learn more about our visa and immigration services:

Legal and Immigration Services - Latin America - Biz Latin Hub

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