Moving to Chile: A Guide for Expats and Digital Nomads
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- With its relatively low costs and high quality of life, Chile has emerged as a popular choice for expats.
- Applying for one of the many Chilean visas and finding jobs calls for thorough research and careful planning.
- Deel’s step-by-step guide shows you how to effortlessly navigate the Chilean visa process and settle into your new home.
Bordering Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, and the Pacific Ocean, Chile is an underestimated but fascinating destination for expats and digital nomads, who are increasingly attracted by the country's cost of living, the peaceful and relaxed lifestyle it offers, and the stunning landscapes it offers, running all along the Andes mountains.
Chile has also simplified the process of obtaining permanent residency for foreigners. It offers various visa programs designed to suit different individual needs and preferences.
While moving to Chile is often a rewarding experience, it does require careful planning and preparation. There can be obstacles to navigate and potential issues to avoid. Thorough preparation is crucial. Our guide provides you with the necessary steps for a successful start in Chile.
Step 1: Prepare your documents
Before moving to Chile, you must determine your eligibility to stay in the country and apply for an appropriate visa. Here’s what you need to consider.
Regardless of nationality, all individuals planning to work in Chile must obtain a Chile work visa. While some foreign nationals are exempt from obtaining a tourist visa for short-term purposes (up to 90 days), anyone intending to stay for work or any purpose exceeding 90 days must apply for a visa before arriving in Chile.
The Chilean government offers a variety of visas to allow foreigners to enter the country:
- Temporary resident visa: This visa is valid for one year and is renewable once for the same period. It can be obtained for reasons of family reunification, employment, study, or investment
- Work contract visa: This visa is granted to individuals with a contract from a Chilean employer. The visa is valid for the contract's duration
- Student visa: This is granted to foreigners entering Chile exclusively to attend regular courses at recognized educational institutions
- Investor visa: This type of visa is granted to entrepreneurs who wish to start a business in Chile
- Retiree visa: Also known as a retirement visa, this is granted to those who can demonstrate a steady income and are willing to spend their retirement years in Chile
Apart from meeting all visa requirements, foreigners need a sponsor for work in Chile unless they are married to a Chilean citizen. The sponsor could be a prospective employer or a permanent resident of Chile.
Essential document checklist
Having your paperwork ready for the visa application process can help you avoid unnecessary delays. Depending on your visa type, these documents may include:
✅ Passport (plus copies): Your passport should have a minimum of six months of validity beyond your intended stay and at least two empty pages
✅ Passport-sized photos: The standard dimensions are 35mm by 45mm, and the photo must be no less than six months old
✅ Visa application form: You can download, fill, and sign the application form based on your specific visa type's requirements
✅ Proof of outbound travel: This can be a copy of your boarding pass from your airline or other means of transport
✅ Health insurance: Proof that you have health coverage for your stay
✅ Accommodation details: Information on where you'll be staying during your visa's duration
✅ Proof of employment: If you're applying for a work visa, you will need your job offer letter or signed employment contract
✅ Criminal record check: Could be required depending on the type of visa
✅ Educational certificates (where applicable)
✅ Financial records: This is to show that you can support yourself financially during your stay in Chile and not depend on public funds
✅ Marriage and birth certificates: required if you are relocating with your family for dependent visa applications
Importance of authenticating and translating documents
Chilean authorities require you to legalize certain documents. You might have to get your local Chilean consulate or embassy to authenticate paperwork if your country isn't under the Apostille Convention.
You will need to translate documents like birth and marriage certificates into Spanish. It's recommended to use a professional service that can verify the accuracy of the translation.
Step 2: Manage your finances
Chile is known among expats for its relatively affordable cost of living. If you budget well, you could save money while enjoying a good quality of life. Let’s look at what you need to consider:
Cost of living in Chile
Here’s a list of the costs you can expect when living in Chile:
- Renting: A one-bedroom apartment costs around 500,000 CLP ($650) in big cities like Santiago and drops to 350,000 CLP ($450) in smaller cities and towns
- Buying property: Real estate is generally cheaper compared to other countries in South America but has high initial setup costs
- Food and drink: Groceries are generally affordable, and there’s a wide range of local products for those on a tight budget. Local restaurants are also inexpensive, costing as little as 8,000 CLP ($10) for a meal for two
- Transport: Gas costs and tolls are comparable to most South American countries. To save even more, you can use public transport for around 800 CLP ($1) one-way
- Utilities: Chile has stable electricity rates, although prices may vary depending on your location
When budgeting for your life in Chile, consider how much tax you’ll have to pay. Chile has a progressive taxation system, meaning your tax rate will depend on your income bracket. Taxes are subject to change but generally range between 0% and 40%.
Expats may qualify for Chile's Non-Permanente residency (NPR) program. If you haven't been a resident in the country for the past five years, you can pay a flat rate of 20% on foreign income for up to five years.
Aside from income tax, you must also pay property tax, known as Impuesto Territorial. This tax is usually a small percentage of the property value.
It’s also important to check if Chile has a tax treaty with your home country to avoid double taxation and stay updated on any changes in tax regulations.
Banking and currency exchange
There are several local and international banks in Chile where you can open a bank account. You will need to visit a branch and bring proof of identity, address, and employment.
You must also obtain a tax identification number called a RUT (Rol Único Tributario). Visit the nearest tax office to register for this number before opening a bank account.
Chile uses the Chilean peso (CLP) as its official currency. You can easily exchange your local currency, from the American Dollar (USD) to the European Euro, at currency exchange offices or banks in major cities.
Step 3: Arrange housing and accommodation
Finding suitable accommodation is not only a visa requirement but also essential for setting up quickly in Chile. Here, we’ll look at Chile's housing options and the steps you need to take to secure your new home.
Renting vs. buying
Property prices in Chile are relatively affordable, so you may consider buying property. Ensure you have sufficient funds to cover the upfront costs, including a deposit, transfer tax, and insurance fees.
Properties in Chile may require renovation, so budgeting for repairs is important.
If you're only staying for a few years or are still determining where you want to live in Chile, renting may be a more suitable option. If you're planning to move to popular cities like Santiago or Valparaiso, booking your accommodation well in advance is recommended, especially during peak seasons.
Finding suitable housing
Chile offers a range of housing options, from modern apartment buildings to older, traditional homes. Older homes may have plumbing and electricity issues due to outdated systems.
It’s easy to find accommodations tailored to expats and digital nomads in Chile, with amenities like strong internet connections and modern furnishing. Landlords often cater to this demographic, making negotiation and finding your perfect place easier.
Once you've chosen a property, thoroughly read the lease agreement. The contract should include:
- A description of the accommodation
- The amount of rent you'll pay
- Any required security deposits (typically equivalent to two months' rent)
- The length of the lease (usually a year)
- Your responsibilities regarding the property
- Pet policies
Step 4: Job market and working arrangements
Chile offers a vibrant job market characterized by sectors such as mining, which is a major driver of the economy, and agriculture, with its world-renowned wine and fruit exports, renewable energy, and a budding tech industry in Santiago, often referred to as "Chilecon Valley."
The monthly income can vary greatly depending on the industry and job role, with a noticeable trend towards remote work and freelancing, making it an attractive option for digital nomads. For employment opportunities, job seekers can utilize popular platforms like LinkedIn, Laborum.cl, and Computrabajo.cl.
The Chilean work culture emphasizes punctuality, respect in professional interactions, and the importance of personal connections, known as "pituto," in securing positions.
Step 5: Accessing healthcare and education
Chile boasts a high-standard healthcare system, allowing expatriates to choose between the public healthcare system, known as FONASA, and private health insurance, or ISAPREs, which offer more comprehensive coverage and faster access to specialists. Registration with either system is necessary to access healthcare services.
The education system in Chile provides various options, including public schools, which offer free education, and international or private schools, which deliver globally recognized curricula. The country also prides itself on its higher education institutions, such as the Universidad de Chile and Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, attracting international students with a range of programs.
Step 6: Ensuring your safety
While Chile is one of the safest countries in Latin America for expatriates, maintaining vigilance, especially in crowded areas and while using public transport, is advised. The nation's geographical location makes it prone to natural events like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Thus, being prepared and familiarizing oneself with safety procedures is essential.
Emergency contacts and protocols
For emergencies, the essential numbers in Chile are 133 for police assistance, 131 for ambulatory services, and 132 to report fires.
While English may work in more international settings, expatriates will find that learning essential Chilean Spanish phrases or having a translation app can be crucial for clear communication in emergencies.
Step 7: Embracing culture
- Chilean Customs: Adopt the “beso,” a single cheek kiss, as a common greeting among friends. Handshakes are reserved for more formal or first-time encounters
- Dress Codes: While casual wear is widely accepted, many Chileans dress smartly for work and social occasions. Understanding the context is key
- Social Norms: Chile is a Latin American country with deep-seated respect for family and social hierarchies. Being polite and punctual is appreciated
- Café Culture: The coffee scene in cities like Santiago is thriving, offering a cozy spot for both leisurely chats and business meetings, complete with a taste of local staples like ‘empanadas’ and “cortado,” a local espresso
Kick off your new life in Chile
From the bustling streets of Santiago to the serene landscapes of Patagonia or the vast Atacama Desert, (did you know Easter Island/ Rapa Nui is also part of the country?) Chile offers expats a vibrant and diverse experience. You can benefit from the country's thriving job market, affordable cost of living, excellent healthcare, and rich cultural heritage.
If you’re considering making Chile your new home, careful research and planning can ensure a smooth relocation and limited culture shock. For extra support, Deel can guide organizations and their employees through the visa application process and help them shop for insurance plans.