What is a work visa in Chile?
A work visa is an administrative authorization allowing a foreign citizen to come to work in Chile.
What are the different types of work visa in Chile?
Chile is interested in attracting foreign skilled workers, so that several types of work visa exist, and are more or less difficult to obtain.
“Subject to contract” visa
The most granted work visa in Chile is the “subject to contract” visa, which allows foreigners to come to live in Chile and work with an employment contract signed only with a Chilean company.
You can apply for this visa once you are in Chile or while you are still abroad, through a consulate. The subject to contract visa is valid for one or two years, renewable.
1) You are eligible for this visa only if you already have a signed employment contract. Moreover, the contract must include some specific clauses, and you cannot start working until the Immigration Department has formally received your documents and granted you a work permit.
2) The visa then allows you to work only for the employer with whom you signed the contract. This visa also allows the worker’s family (spouse and children) to come to settle in Chile, provided you have the financial means to take care of them. However, members of the worker’s family are not allowed to work in Chile.
3) If one of the parties decides to rescind the contract, the visa expires automatically. From the date of the breach, the worker has 30 days to apply for a new visa or to leave the country. As a result, if you decide to change employer in Chile, you have to apply for another visa by submitting a new employment contract. There is no limit to the number of employer changes you can make, provided the request is done correctly.
If you come to work in Chile on behalf of a foreign company, while remaining an employee of the foreign company, the procedure is more complex. You have to apply for a temporary visa. To do so, you need to provide the following documents:
- A notarized letter through which the foreign company agrees to cover all costs related to your stay in Chile.
- A notarized invitation letter from the Chilean company that welcomes you.
Thus, if you plan to develop the Chilean subsidiary of a foreign company, we advise you to anticipate the creation of the legal structure in Chile via a lawyer.
PET: work permit as a tourist
It is not a visa, but a work permit for a period of one month, renewable as necessary (but you will have to go to the immigration department every month).
This permit costs 150% of a standard work visa. It is therefore only useful from a financial point of view in rare cases. It is mainly used by foreign companies that need to send employees for a short period of time in Chile. For instance, this is the case of specialists on a technology, or of a particular need to make up for a labor shortage to finish a project, by transferring employees from another subsidiary.
Be careful not to confuse this work permit as a tourist with the work permit with a visa in progress.
What if I want to come and seek work in Chile?
In this situation, the “subject to contract” visa above-mentioned does not apply, unless your profile is so interesting that the company is ready to sign a contract and wait 2 or 3 months for you to receive your work permit.
Until 2018 (see below), you could apply for a visa with a recruitment offer. As this possibility has been abused a lot (issuance of fake recruitment offers), it has been definitively removed.
Be aware: some unscrupulous intermediaries sell work contracts signed between a dummy company and you. The immigration department is not fooled and detects these companies quickly when dozens of visa applications related to the same company are registered at the same time. To obtain the visa, you will be asked for additional documents such as an HR certificate or proof of employer contribution, which you will not be able to provide. Thus, you should better avoid this solution.
The only option available is to apply for a temporary visa. There are more than fifteen temporary visas. We mention some of them below, which were created during the last immigration reform. For more information, you can read our dedicated article.
What is next for work visas in Chile?
In 2018, the Chilean government passed a new immigration law, which affected work visas. As a result, since April 2018, if you have entered Chile as a tourist, it is no longer possible for you to upgrade to a work visa once on the spot (except the specific case mentioned above of a company ready to wait to hire you).
However, three new visas were created during the reform, and came into effect in August 2018. The 3 types of visa are to be requested via a consulate of Chile abroad and are renewable once. These visas allow qualified foreigners who do not have a contract signed with a company to come and seek work in Chile:
- Temporary Opportunity Visa: this visa allows professionals to come to settle in Chile for 1 year to look for work. Please note that for this visa, you need to have a Spanish diploma, with at least a B1 level.
- The Temporary Opportunity Visa for Entrepreneur: like the previous one, this visa allows entrepreneurs wishing to start a business, invest and live in Chile to come and settle there in order to launch their project. If you consider this visa, know that you will have to commit to invest at least US$102,650 during your first year in Chile. Like for the previous visa, a Spanish diploma is required, with at least a B1 level.
- The Temporary International Orientation Visa: this visa allows professionals graduated from one of the 150 best academic institutions listed here to live in Chile for 1 year and seek work.
If you want more information about prices, requirements and documents to provide in order to obtain these types of visa, you can read our dedicated article.