Hailed as the least corrupt country in South America and classified as one of the most advanced developing countries in the world, Chile is an attractive destination for expats. And because it’s an easy place to start a business, it is also becoming popular with expanding corporations and entrepreneurs.In 2017, Chile’s census indicated that 6.1 percent of the country’s population was foreign-born, a significant jump from the days of a one percent immigrant population a decade earlier. In April of the same year, Chile’s president-elect, Sebastian Piñera, concluded that Chile would continue to “welcome immigrants with open arms”, but that an immigration reform was needed. Changes made to immigration laws have greatly affected those moving to Chile and new visa regulations should be investigated thoroughly when choosing a visa that suits your requirements.
Once you have the right visa and are standing on Chilean soil, it’s recommended that you ask the immigration officer to ensure the immigration stamp is as clear as possible, since a faded stamp could jeopardise your ID card application. The ID card carries the RUT and RUN numbers which are needed to do pretty much anything in Chile. The RUT or Rol Único Tributario is your Chilean tax ID number, and the RUN or Rol Único Nacional is your civil register ID number. An ID card application takes approximately 10 days.
However, if you need a RUT number immediately, you can apply for a temporary one at an SII office by completing form F4415. This form can be filled in online, printed and taken to an appointment, also arranged online, at an SII office. However, bear in mind that temporary RUT number cannot be used to open a CuentaRUT account or subscribe to a phone or internet plan.
Expats who don’t wish to open a temporary RUT account can ask their employers to pay them via an international account that the employee uses in their country of origin. It is important to notify your bank that you will be using this account and its associated cards while you are working in Chile. A last resort is to ask to be paid in cash until you receive your ID card and RUT and RUN numbers.
You will need to register your visa with the Jefatura Nacional de Extranjería y Policía Internacional, or National Office of Overseas Affairs and International Police. This office opens at 8am, but there will already be a long queue by 7.30am. While registering your visa at the PDI, you will have time to get a travel certificate if your immigration stamp is unclear. The current travel certificate fee (Certificado de Viajes) is $800 CLP (0.95 GBP).
Registering your visa with the PDI will also cost $800 CLP. Before paying this fee, you will be given a queue number. Once this number is called, you will be directed to a booth where your passport, visa, entrance stamp and the immigration papers you filled out on the plane and at immigration will be examined.
Once the visa registration certificate has been awarded, check the document. Before going to the Registro Civil e Identificacion, make a photocopy of your passport, visa, entrance stamp and certificate of registration of visa, along with anything else you think might be necessary. Always over-prepare when dealing with Chilean Government offices. If you have time, go straight to the office of Civil Registration and Identification (Registro Civil e Identificacion) to apply for your ID card and RUT/RUN number. Both offices close at 2pm.
Upon arrival, a passport type photo and fingerprints will be taken, along with a copy of your signature, your address, telephone number and parents’ names. A fee of $4,050 CLP (4.67 GBP) must be paid before your RUT number and ID card collection date can be released. You can check the status of your card here.
This time, after queuing at the Civil Registration and Identification office, you will finally be presented with the much-prized ID card, giving you a chance to open a bank account in Chile.
The best banking option for most expats is probably through an international branch or partner of your home bank. Inform your bank ahead of time that you will be going abroad, and make sure to pack your debit and credit cards to avoid problems.
Normal opening hours for banks in Chile are from Monday to Friday, 9am to 2pm. ATMs operate a 24-hour service, even in rural towns, though transaction fees can add up quickly. Even after obtaining a temporary residency visa and an ID card, most banks are still reluctant to open an account for an expat, unless the individual is a large investor, or has been a resident in Chile for more than two years.
The main national bank and the one in charge of controlling inflation and creating money in Chile is the Banco Central de Chile. Other important banks in the country are Santander Chile, Banco de Chile, BancoEstado, BCI, BBVA Chile, CorpBanca and Scotiabank Chile. See our country guide for more details.
One way to start a relationship with a bank is to apply for a type of account called a Cuenta Vista. These accounts often have charges associated with them, but they can be useful for paying bills and sending wires within Chile.
Most banks offer this type of account, but BancoEstado calls its Cuenta Vistas by a different name—CuentaRUT. You will need your RUT and ID number to register for a CuentaRUT account. Choose the branch from which to pick up your account documentation. Go there directly and within one hour, your account details and new bank card will be waiting to be picked up using your valid Chilean ID card.
You will need to prove that your income is steady and substantial. If you’re in Chile on a temporary work visa, try talking to your local bank manager. They might allow you to set up an account if you pay a service fee of around £1,500. The charge might be worth it if you plan to stick around for a while in Chile and want to use extensive bank services.
Once you have permanent residency in Chile, opening a bank account becomes much more straightforward, and the banking industry in general starts to have a lot more appeal.