Chile Immigration and Residency Visas
Many countries in South America and Latin America will offer citizenship, 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.
In recent years, for instance, Panama and Argentina have become notorious for playing this game with foreign investors and their money. Chile does not play such games with its residents. There is no minimal investment required in Chile to apply for residency.
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 so much do they want you or will they let you in, but asking you to prove that you are able to stay (in terms of money) in Chile and are serious about living in Chile in the long-term.
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 visa successfully for hundreds of clients ranging from large families with children, to people opening a business, to people working inside and outside the country, to your traditional retired couple. You do not need to be retired to apply for this visa, although you can be retired.
In many ways the Chilean Retirement and Income Visa is the Swiss Army Knife of immigration visas in Chile. When assessing the best visa for our clients, we normally look first to see if their situation and goals fit the Retirement and Income Visa requirements, 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, no matter what their reason is for being in Chile.
You do need to prove a source of regular recurring income to support yourself and your family members 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 permit (while you wait for approval) or starting a business in Chile. These are done in a separate process, but you can do them together. In fact, for most of our clients this is the path of least resistance for starting a business in Chile. You do not need to even have residency in Chile, or even visit Chile to invest in Chile or own a business. The Investor Visa in Chile is very complex and ties your immigration status to the success or failure of your business.
The Investor Visa in Chile 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 will also typically cost thousands of dollars more in terms of related procedures to starting a business that must be completed before you can apply, and it is accepted.
You have no such problems with the Retirement and Income Visa, if your business venture in Chile should fail. You can 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 is enough to support you. 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, annuities. Just about any source that will prove to be a periodically recurring source of income. Normally proof of that source of income only needs to cover about the 14-month period between when you first apply for temporary residency, the year you are under temporary residency, and the change of status to permanent residency once your year of temporary residency is complete.
Your other resources are also considered. It is not only a recurring source of income. Immigration would for example consider a small social security cheque 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 US$500 to US$1000 per person including yourself and any people you claim as dependents on your application. This is typically sufficient to live a middle class lifestyle in almost every part of Chile. Again, cheaper parts of Chile like in the rural areas of the south will require less to live on. As little as US$300 to US$400 a month may be acceptable in some special situations.
It also does not need to be a monthly income. It could be quarterly, for example in the case of divined payouts.
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 staff at the consulates and embassies do not know the correct procedures.
The consulates, although they can approve visa applications, are in fact a different branch of the Chilean government independent from the department of immigration in Chile. They also have very different requirements that vary from consulate to consulate in their implementation. For example, some consulates will request a FBI background check and an HIV test. The immigration office in Chile does not request such documentation, although they could.
The correct procedure recommended by immigration is to come to Chile under a regular tourist visa, then to change your status by applying for the Retirement or Income Visa to a temporary visa for one year. Once you apply, and are awaiting approval of your temporary visa, you can remain in the country without needing to renew your tourist visa.
Please note, nationals of some developing countries from Africa the Middle East, and Asia are required to apply through the Chilean consulate in their home country.
Once your one-year temporary visa is approved, you must remain in Chile for at least 180 days in a one-year period before you can apply for permanent residency. 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. You can apply for a one-year extension to complete this time, but only once. 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 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 / or legalized. Chile is not a party to the Hague Convention on signatures and legalization. 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 arrive 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, and more commonly immigration may request more documentation while allowing you to remain on your current visa. Again, the number one reason that immigration applications are rejected in Chile is because of improperly or incomplete applications.
Please feel free to contact us with any questions you might have, or to receive assistance and prices regarding having your visa application prepared by our Chilean immigration attorneys.