How to Obtain Chilean Residency and Citizenship
Briefly, Why I came to Chile
Having traveled to every corner of Chile, literally every mainland town over 500 people and many scenic areas, I am convinced that it is the most beautiful country in the world. And that is not the only reason I chose to come to Chile. Other reasons abound. It has a largely free market based economy, is business-friendly, Americans and Europeans are well-liked, its mid section has a wonderful Mediterranean climate, recreational activities abound, and Spanish proved to be a useful language for me and my children to learn.
There is little political correctness and traditional family values are still strong. Radical environmentalism, radical ecology, radical homosexualism and radical feminism are certainly the exception and not the rule. Property is reasonably priced in both the big cities and in resort areas. The country’s key cities and some resort areas are modern and First World. Medical care is as good as it gets south of the US border. Marriage and divorce rules are sane and reasonable. It’s freer than the vast majority of places in the world. There is little fear of the government, the police, or bureaucratic organizations. Economic opportunities are plentiful. You can even get a job here. There’s really something for everyone.
How to do it
SovereignMan.com's Simon Black has not exactly been shy about Chile over the last few years. He calls Chile ‘the New America,’ in reference to the ideals of America—greater freedom, opportunity for prosperity, personal responsibility. As a long-time resident of Chile, I couldn’t agree more.
I’m an American (soon to be former American) and I’ve been living in Chile off and on since the 1990s. In my time here, I’ve ended up becoming an active figure in Chilean social and political life and plugged in with a number of influential locals.
I’m also married to a beautiful Chilean woman, and even though I’ve traveled to 70 countries, I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I have yet to find a place with as much diverse beauty as my adopted country, or one that’s as civilized and welcoming to foreigners. I say this having spent part of the northern summer of 2011 and some of 2012 and 2013 in Switzerland and northern Italy. There are certainly some gorgeous places in the world… but I was really glad to come home. My wife and I both agree that Chile is a better place to live.
As a long-term expat in Chile and a friend of Simon’s, I’ve helped many members of the Sovereign Man Confidential and Atlas 400 community over the last year or so with whatever they need on the ground in Chile. I run a small consulting service on the side, and for months, I had been putting a bug in Simon’s ear about a Chilean residency program that I put together. He finally came through and published a version of this article in Sovereign Man Confidential.
You see, Chileans like foreigners very much, especially those from North America, Europe, Israel, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand. It’s one of the most foreigner-friendly places in South America. If you want to live here, you don’t need anything besides a tourist visa—it’s good for 90 days, and you can renew it simply by setting foot over the border in Argentina or Peru every few months. There is also a process to extend the visa to 180 days without leaving the country.
Tourists pay value added taxes and tariffs on what they purchase in Chile, but pay no income or death taxes, but there are some restrictions. For example, it’s hard for tourists to get household services like Internet put in their name, buy a car in their name, or open a bank account. They can, however, buy and own real property, and they can obtain Chilean medical insurance coverage. Thus, for perpetual tourists (permanent travelers, passers through, etc.), Chile provides a wonderful Southern Hemisphere location to spend a few months per year.
For those who plan to make Chile their home for the majority of the time over the next five years or so, obtaining permanent residency and citizenship is quite cost-effective. A Chilean passport is respectable and offers visa-free travel to much of the world, including Europe. Simon is convinced it will become a Visa Waiver Program (VWP) candidate to the United States.
Chile offers a very transparent and cheap opportunity. Total fees paid to the government depend on your country of origin, but it’s quite low. For US citizens, it’s $0. The trade-off, however, is time. Chile requires that a person be in the country a minimum of 185 out of 365 days for five years, from the time the initial (temporary or contract) visa is stamped in their passport, in order to qualify for citizenship. Fulfilling this requirement is easy if you actually want to live here (which I highly recommend). But Chile is not a place to buy residency and drop in a few years later for your passport.
Freedom Orchard's sustainable community project is going to facilitate many people being able to stay in Chile for longer periods. Many people will soon be moving to Chile to make it their permanent home.
As word gets out, Chile will be added to the map for the best expatriate locations on the globe and a premier destination for those who want low-taxed living, freer markets, social conservatism and great business opportunities. In short, Chile will become a desirable destination where people can easily plan on spending one-half of the year or more.
This is the ground floor. I can’t think of a better time to come down here than before the wave.
Obtaining permanent residency in Chile is straightforward, and for most of this year I’ve run a special business that hires foreigners to facilitate their visa. There are two kinds that I’d like to discuss, each having distinct advantages and disadvantages. Both options follow the European model whereby you first obtain temporary residency, then permanent residency. The two options are:
(A) the one-year temporary visa for retirees or passive income earners, and
(B) the two-year contract visa. This option requires one to have a job in Chile and we are not providing this service to people at this time.
With either kind of visa one can obtain citizenship in as little as five years starting from the date your initial visa is approved. Further, each visa allows you to bring in one full sea container of household goods absolutely tax-free.
The temporary visa (A) is granted to a person who can justify enough savings, income, pensions or potential investment income (like rental properties, dividends, etc.) to qualify as a retiree, or one who lives off of his investments.
For these people, certified account or annuity statements are essential. Note that it is not necessary to show all of one’s assets to the Chilean authorities, just enough to make them think you have enough to live on. We have found that an account statement (whether in Chile or any other country) showing at least US$100,000 works well. A person may work in Chile with this visa. As this is a temporary visa, as the end of your first year approaches you may apply for permanent residency through a similar application process.
The contract visa (B) is granted to those who are promised employment. There is no asset requirement, you just need a work contract with a Chilean company. We are not currently helping people with this sort of contract.
Preliminary Stage (done before leaving home): All persons desiring a temporary residency visa will need to obtain an official, legalized birth certificate plus any applicable marriage licenses or divorce decree. These documents must be translated, technically, but usually can pass without it, certified or apostilled (in the USA by the secretary of state which issued the document), and legalized by the Chilean consulate in the region assigned to the document issuer. If there are multiple Chilean consulates in your country, you need to legalize the document at the consulate that has jurisdiction over where the document came from.
Example: The US has several consulates. You were born in New York. You live in California. You will need to request an official birth certificate from the state of New York and have it legalized at the New York consulate. See http://www.chile-usa.org/consular.htm to find out more if you’re from the US, and http://www.chile.ca/index.html/?page_id=212 if you’re from Canada. Most other western countries only have one consulate/embassy, you can find them here: http://chileabroad.gov.cl/embajadas/
To be clear, there is no police or FBI background check required when the visa is applied for in Chile. That’s one of the nice things about this visa.
Those planning to come to Chile permanently might choose to bring along other translated (into Spanish) and legalized documents as well. These documents are optional but might come in handy in certain circumstances in the future. They include college diplomas, college transcripts, vaccination records, medical records, professional licenses and concealed weapons permits. The college diploma is the most important of these things. For those who like to be prepared for all contingencies, it is worthwhile getting these documents done before leaving home. Again, not required, but it never hurts.
Stage 1 (3 days in-country): First, one enters Chile on a tourist visa obtained at the airport. Citizens of Canada, Australia, Mexico and the United States (and a couple other countries added recently) will pay a US$160 “reciprocity fee” for the visa. You’ll meet with me or a member of my team, and we’ll take you to a few locations in Santiago to have your documents notarized locally, along with our work contract.
An applicant will also need to have a Chilean address, which is where all mail and notices will be sent. In our program, those who do not already have an address will need to get one (many people buy property in Chile prior to applying for a visa and thus already have an address to use). For a US$400 annual fee, we can arrange an address for you if you don’t have one to receive mail on your behalf, and scan and email it to you and me when it arrives.
Waiting Stage: The response to the visa application takes six to twelve weeks to come back to your local address. Usually contract visas come back faster. Sometimes, additional paperwork or documents may be required, but so far our experience has been smooth. This period of time often affords a good opportunity to return to the home country, pack up the container of household goods, and put the house up for sale. Hopefully, all of your liquid assets are already offshore at this point.
Stage 2 (1-2 days in-country): Once the visa is approved, you should try to get to Chile and have the visa stamped in your passport, register with the international police and obtain an ID card called a carné. This process takes another day or two, and the five-year clock to citizenship starts now. Note: under difficult circumstances we can arrange for your passport to be stamped in your absence.
Remember, since you have to spend at least 185 days each year in Chile in order to qualify for naturalization, this clock starts ticking too.
Stage 3 (1-2 days in-country): After being in Chile for nine months for the passive investor/retirement visa, compared to twenty-one months with a contract visa, one can apply for permanent residency. A similar process to Stage 1 is involved, with a few added steps like getting a document from the Chilean civil registry showing that you have no local criminal record, a certificate showing how many days have been spent out of the country, and documents showing your local income sources. The package is mailed in, and you can expect to wait a few months to get approved. Upon approval, a new Chilean ID is issued.
Permanent residency: Are there any tax consequences?
Permanent residents and citizens who live in Chile are taxed on worldwide income—that means Chilean income or any income they earn abroad and report while they are living in Chile. Chilean income taxes are not paid while living outside of Chile and earning money from a job. Most Chileans who have offshore income do not report it, however, and have little problems unless they try to bring it to Chile. Company income made offshore and that stays offshore is not taxed. Not to mention, corporate tax rates in Chile are 20%, about as low as Singapore. A lot of people here form a company for their local activities, subjecting them to a much lower rate of taxation.
I’ve read some criticism that tax rates in Chile are quite high. I think most people misunderstand the tax structure here. If you have a high paying job, you’ll pay as much as 40%. You will likely set up a company with a better tax rate and avoid this progressive income tax. I doubt too many people reading this are coming to Chile to find a big six-figure job, though. There are generally no individual capital gains taxes in Chile for assets held over one year. And foreigners who become new residents of Chile are entitled to a three-year tax holiday on income brought in from overseas.
For middle class people, taxes in Chile are actually pretty low. A person earning the annual equivalent of US$100,000 will pay about US$7,000 of it in ALL taxes: car registration, property taxes, value added taxes, income taxes, etc.
If you’d like to take advantage of this program, my firm can help you with both, along with permanent residency. Our fee is $2,995 plus $500 per adult dependent or $250 per minor dependent. An address service is also available for an annual charge of $400.
For the program fee, my team will take you through the entire process all the way through permanent residency. You will be responsible for obtaining your documents (we can facilitate this if you need assistance starting out), but once you have documents in hand, we will negotiate through the various steps and handle all the necessary paperwork and administrative procedures.
If you are interested in moving forward, please contact me at email@example.com and please have a look at the FAQ and Residency Program blog entries on this site before writing.