How to move to

Chile

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Find A Job


Chile is a prosperous country, which is opening up substantially to international employment: companies such as Microsoft, Nestle and IBM have opened divisions there, offering expat workers the opportunity to relocate to this South American nation on secondment, or to find new employment in the region. There are a number of options for expats to find employment in this country and we will look at some of your options below.

There are various types of visa that you can apply for, and the visa system has recently been overhauled to encompass the following:

• Chile Temporary Residence Visa: maximum duration of one year
• Chile Working Holiday Visa, maximum duration of a year (only certain foreign nationals are entitled to this)
• Chile work visa/ Chile Visa Subject to a Contract (Visa Sujeta a Contrato): for duration of longer than one year

Your employer will also be subject to certain conditions, namely they must:

• be incorporated in Chile
• prove that your employment will help in the development of Chile
• give proof they have paid the relevant VAT for the past three months
• give proof they have paid employee insurance for the past three months

You will need to supply a letter from your new employer which explains why they are hiring you and which includes the full contact details of the relevant person in the company.

You will also need to supply a copy of your work contract as follows:

• in Spanish
• in compliance with Chile’s rules and regulations about hiring foreign workers
• signed by your employer
• with a signature authenticated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Chile
• notarized and legalized

As well as the above, you will need:

• copies of your qualifications (apostilled)
• photocopies of your passport, which must be valid for at least another 6 months
• a picture of yourself which follows strict passport criteria (check that your photographer is familiar with the requirements)
• a police check from your country (usually valid within 3 months)
• a health certificate, issued by a certified medical practitioner, which states you do not carry a contagious disease
• an application form and personal information form, typed and in English. You can download this from the Chile Abroad – Ministry of Foreign Affairs website
• proof of a booked flight ticket

You can apply for your work permit via the government website and you will need to upload the above documents in PDF/Jpeg format.

You will then need to have your passport stamped, at a Chilean consulate or embassy, and will need to pay a fee (this varies depending on the kind of visa), but only after your application has been approved. Make sure you leave enough time to get your visa sorted out before you fly to Chile.

Ideally, you will need a good level of Spanish if you are to work in Chile, particularly for a local company rather than for one of the big multinationals.

Chile’s employment sector is heavily oriented towards natural resource-based industries such as mining, forestry, aquiculture, agriculture, and service industries, so if you have experience and qualifications in these areas, you should find suitable vacancies.

Typical working hours are from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m and consist of 45 hours per week. You will be entitled to 3 weeks of holiday leave per year (most people take their vacations in January and February) plus a few feriados, or public holidays. You are legally supposed to have Sundays off. If you are a part time worker (30 hours per week), you have the same legal rights as a full time worker, and expats have the same rights as locals.

The minimum wage is around USD$428 per month.

If you are pregnant you will be entitled to 18 weeks of maternity leave on full pay. You will, depending on circumstances, also be entitled to leave in order to care for sick children. Bereavement leave may also be awarded.

You can bring your dependents with you under your visa (they will need to apply separately, stating that they are your dependents), but your spouse will not automatically be granted a work permit: they will need to apply separately.


Job Vacancies

Many workers in Chile find employment through their pituto or personal network, but you can also apply through online jobs boards or via the vacancies listed in local newspapers. The ‘hidden job market’ is also a major part of the hiring process, so it will help to establish a local network of your own.

There are a number of job fairs taking place regularly in Chile itself, but expats are advised to check job boards and employment agencies as well.


Applying For A Job

When submitting your resume or CV, it will help in your quest for a job if you have your information translated into Spanish. Expats also recommend including a covering letter and checking out the Chilean dress code for interviews.

Chilean law bans discrimination based on sexual orientation or race. Some employers may ask you to submit a photograph along with your CV, which is not technically legal, but your CV may be rejected out of hand without one. Regrettably, there are racial prejudices within the country, which can have an impact on expats’ success in a job search.


Qualifications And Training

You will have an advantage if you have qualified from a British or American university, as the educational sector in these countries is highly rated in Chile. However, your degree in certain sectors will need to be legalized before you are allowed to take up work:

• medicine
• dentistry
• primary education
• translation

You will need to consult the Ministry of Education in your own country, and also the Chilean consulate/embassy, in order to have your qualifications approved for working in Chile.


Apply For A Visa/Permit


Citizens of certain countries, such as the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, only need a valid passport in order to enter Chile. If you are a citizen of Australia or Mexico, you will be charged a reciprocity fee on entry, assuming you arrive by plane. Chile requires all travellers entering the country on a tourism basis to present either a return or onward ticket.

Upon arrival, you will be given a 90-day tourist card receipt with a barcode. It is imperative that you keep this safe. If you lose it, go to your local policía internacional or police station as soon as possible. You will need your tourist card in order to leave the country. It is possible to renew your tourist card for a further 90 days at the Departamento de Extranjería. You will need to bring photocopies of your passport and tourist card when you file your application. Alternatively, you can exit the country, crossing over the border into Argentina, and re-enter, to receive a new 90-day tourist card.

There are heavy fines for bringing certain produce into the country. This includes fruit, dairy, spices, nuts, meat and organic products. Inspections in the airport and customs are routine, so do not be afraid or offended if you are questioned or searched. Always have your passport on you, as the police have been known to demand identification at random.


Visas

There are several common types of visa that many foreign nationals apply for:

Chile tourist visa
This visa is issued for the sole purpose of tourism and is valid for between 30 and 90 days depending on your nationality.

Chile student visa
The student visa is issued to foreign nationals wishing to study in Chile. You must be accepted by a registered/recognised Chilean educational institution before you travel.

Chile work visa
This visa is issued to foreign nationals who have found employment and been offered a contract in Chile. You must have an existing work contract with a Chilean company or a foreign company that operates in Chile in order to be eligible.

Chile temporary residence visa
A temporary residence visa in Chile is issued to foreign nationals who either have family in Chile, want to make an investment, or are considered advantageous to the economy. It is valid for a maximum period of one year.

Chile working holiday visa
The working holiday visa is issued to nationals of Australia, Canada, and New Zealand who fall within the specified age parameters and wish to participate in the working holiday programme.

Diplomatic/official visa
This visa is for official government workers and diplomats. If you wish to request a diplomatic/official visa, you have to apply in person, and you must present proof of your employment, as well as valid official identification.

When applying for a Chilean visa, you will be required to submit various supporting documents, depending on the type of visa you are applying for. This may include:

• Copies of your passport, which show your biometrics
• Copies of any previous visas
• Proof of status in your country of residence
• One digital passport-size picture meeting passport specifications (if making an online application)
• One passport-size colour photo meeting passport specifications (if you are applying at an embassy or consulate)
• Flight itinerary and accommodation reservations
• Bank statements or proof of earnings from the past three months
• A letter explaining your reason for travelling to Chile
• Copies of education and qualification certificates
• Letter of enrolment (if applicable)
• Letter of invitation (if applicable)

You must also possess the originals of all the documents required for your application, which you may need to present when you go to your local embassy or consulate to obtain your visa.

If you are applying for a visa on behalf of a minor (under the age of 18 years old) travelling to Chile, you will require additional supporting documents for your visa application, such as:

• Your original birth certificate, as well as copies
• A notarised written authorisation to travel from your parent/s or legal guardian/s, if you are travelling alone or with someone other than your parent
• Notarised permission from your other parent or legal guardian, if you are travelling with only one parent/guardian

You must also leave with the same adult you entered the country with, or hold an authorisation signed by both parents.

You must apply for your visa at least 30 days before you intend to travel. The immigration authorities will not accept applications which are submitted within 30 days of travelling.

Chile has a mostly digital visa application process, but in some cases, you may be allowed to apply in person at a Chilean embassy or consulate. You will need to contact your own local embassy or consulate in order to obtain the correct information and find out whether this is possible.

The online application can be found on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.


Work permits

Work permits in Chile generally come with the appropriate visa, and are not usually issued as a stand alone document.

There are two types of work permit available. If you are applying from outside the country, you have 90 days to enter Chile once your permit has been approved. Work permits can be extended at the discretion of the Chilean authorities.

You can enter Chile on a tourist visa and then look for employment and apply for a temporary residence permit. Alternatively, if you have an offer of employment from a Chilean company, or are being transferred to a branch of your company operating in Chile, you can arrange a work visa prior to your arrival.

The Immigration Department of the Ministry of the Interior deals with work permit applications within Chile. If you are arranging your permit before you travel, you will need to submit an application at your local embassy or consulate.

Prior to commencing your job in Chile, your work permit will need to be signed by yourself and your employer, then notarised at your Chilean consulate.


Temporary tourist work permits

The temporary tourist work permit is only valid for a period of one month, but it can be renewed. This is perfect for infrequent business trips, occasional consulting, specific project work etc. This type of temporary work permit works out quite expensive if used and extended on multiple occasions, as it costs 150% of the standard work visa. Be careful not to confuse the tourist work permit with the work permit with a visa in progress.

Longer work permits are available. They run in tandem with your employment contract, are usually valid for up to a year at the time, and are renewable if needed.

There is also a special fast track work permit for tourists, which is available to professional athletes and artists. This benefit applies for groups of 15, or more, legally represented athletes or artists with a scheduled stay in the country. For this type of work permit, you will need to submit your application at least 20 days before you enter Chile, and approval will be subject to a criminal record check. The permit does not negate the requirement for a tourist visa for certain nationalities. A support letter from a local company, plus a detailed itinerary of activities, will be required. You can collect this permit on arriving in the country.

If you are unsure whether you will need a work visa, work permit, or both, it is highly advisable to contact your local embassy or consulate in order to seek clarification prior to making travel arrangements.


Residency

There are a number of ways to obtain permanent residency in Chile. For example, after five years of living in the country, you can apply for naturalisation and obtain a Chilean passport.

There are many options for retirees and pensioners, such as the rentista visa, which effectively allows you to have residency in Chile if you can demonstrate a regular monthly (or even quarterly) passive income that can sufficiently support you. This can come in the form of rental income, pension payments, dividends, etc. Those who are over the age of 55 years old and retired also have the option to obtain residency, so long as they can demonstrate their financial independence through a lump sum of liquid assets.

For a single applicant, the lump sum would need to be at least $125,000, with an additional $25,000 per dependent you wish to add (although these figures are an estimate and subject to change). If you wish to start a business in Chile, you can also obtain residency this way. The financial requirement behind this option is around $60,000, and you will start off with a temporary residency, which can be progressed to a permanent residency.

To be eligible for permanent residency, you must meet one of the following conditions:

• You have held a “subject to contract” work visa for two years
• You have held a temporary resident visa for over one year
• You have held a student visa for two years and have completed your professional or secondary studies

All applications for permanent residency must be made online, rather than by mail.


Get Health Insurance


Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.

When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.

Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.

Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.

Important questions to ask the insurance provider:

1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?

2. Does the plan offer "Moratorium" or is it "Full underwriting" and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?

3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.

4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?

5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.

6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.

7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.

8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?

9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.

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Rent Or Buy Property



Renting Property

Whether you’re planning to retire in style or want to work abroad, Chile is a great place to live. Whereabouts you decide to settle in Chile has a significant impact on the quality of your life in the country. If you are looking for luxurious city life or laid back serene environment, Chile has the bests of both worlds.

The varied landscapes in Chile are appealing and stretch from the southern coasts all the way to the Atacama in the North. Summer and winter are enjoyable in Chile with the beaches of Vina del Mar and the snowy Andes. The climate makes Chile one of the best countries for property development and investment.

Santiago is the capital and business hub and attracts most expats. It is the most obvious choice for those looking for work or the fast city life. Away from this lively city, there are other attractive places where you can settle. Valparaiso is a coastal city loved by tourists and expats because of the rich infusion of culture and the lower property prices. Those looking for great food, wine and beautiful surroundings can look for properties in either city.

The Chilean rental market has something that will accommodate and appeal to various tastes and types of people. Chilean real estate is affordable. The country’s entry into the organization cooperation and development in 2010 has strengthened the economic and living standards of the country. While the recession of 2009 has affected the country, the government remained committed to enhancing the domestic market and housing projects.

There are various choices of rental accommodation that vary in quality and aesthetics. Students are well catered for in the Chilean housing market, since housing options for the other residents are also available to them. Some universities in Chile offer home stay arrangements for short-term students. The students are placed in a home with a family as a way to enhance cultural experience during their stay.

Real estate agents are an option if you want to avoid the hassle of doing the legwork. Alternatively, you can agree with a family or resident to share a rented space at a lower rate. The average rental costs in Santiago can be slightly higher than those in the other areas. You can get a furnished one-bedroom apartment for between $370 and $507 and a two bedroom for $470 to $805. Rental prices in cities like Vina del Mar and Valparaiso may offer great deals on rental apartments at reduced costs. However, the popularity of resorts in Valparaiso can cause a change in price especially during the peak season.

Organizing accommodation from abroad can be difficult, as few Chileans speak English. If you are good at Spanish or you have a contact person, then it can be easier to arrange. If you are searching for a house from abroad, remember that the website you use for property search might misrepresent details such as exact location. To make things easier, stay in a hotel for a few days when you get to Chile so that you can search from within the country.

Research suitable neighborhoods that suit your education, work and travel needs. This will make it more convenient to conduct a property search. Some websites can help you narrow down your search according to your budget and location.

Before you sign a rental contract, consider the convenience of the location. Is it near your work place? Does it have social amenities? Does it meet your budget? Another factor to consider is whether you are looking for a furnished or unfurnished apartment. Furnished apartments eliminate the need for buying expensive furniture. However, unfurnished apartments offer you the opportunity to customize your home according to your needs.

Due to the inclusion of tax in furnished rentals, a property owner may use this as an opportunity to hike the rent. However, do bear in mind that buying furniture for an unfurnished place can be expensive, and you will then have to find a way to get rid of that furniture when you move on. If you are good at negotiation, you can have a few essential or sentimental household items added to the furnished apartment. Before finalizing the lease agreement, ensure you have a satisfactory furnishing itinerary.

Rental contracts vary in length and are usually negotiable with the property owner. Availability of rental units vary depending on location, with holiday destinations having more short-term leases that range in price depending on the season. Santiago is a business hub, meaning long-term contracts for international workers are available there. Property owners may ask for a longer lease for unfurnished properties. Make sure you do the necessary research and are ready for negotiation in Spanish. If you do not know Spanish, enlist a third party to help you in the negotiation.

Utility payments in most cases are not inclusive in rental contracts. They tend to be expensive, since the country does not have cheap energy reserves. Even though Chile generates 40 percent of its power through hydroelectric schemes, this is not enough, so there is a need to import other sources of energy. The costs of imported sources of energy mean that water, electricity and heat are costly. The type and location of a rental property will also have an impact on how much you need to spend on utility bills. It is possible to incur higher heating charges in the southern parts of Chile during winter compared to other areas. The provision of water and electricity are carried out by privately owned firms. Anti-monopoly regulations ensure that various companies cater to the needs of the residents, which means you can hopefully choose a supplier within your region that fits your budget.

With most rental agreement, deposits are standard, with a month’s rent required. You may need a Chilean guarantor to co-sign and validate your contract on your behalf. You will need someone who understands the language so that you know exactly what you are agreeing to. If you do not have a third party, you can ask a lawyer to carefully explain to you the stipulations of the contract.


Buying Property

Chile is a beautiful country and a great property investment destination. As expected, there are legal obligations you need to meet before you can buy property in the country. Many expats living in Chile will decide to rent for the first year before they start considering purchasing property. Due to the climate extremes, it might take a while to select the best place for you to live. In the north, the climate is desert-like, with Mediterranean climate in central Chile, while the far south has a cool and damp climate.

Expats tend to invest in properties located in Santiago, Vina del Mar and Valparaiso, which are found in the central, temperate region. As you head to the Argentina border, you can find ski resorts. The coast has beautiful beaches, though the water might be a little cold for some people. When it comes to property rights, expats are as protected in the same way as locals. However, migrants are restricted from buying property in the border areas, although it is unlikely that you would want to stay in such areas.

The purchase process is quite straightforward, though it would be beneficial if you are fluent in Spanish or have a Chilean friend who can help you in the process. Property consultants are an option that can save you time and money.

With a tourist visa, you can buy property in Chile. However, to finalize the process you will need an RUT number. Obtaining one of these is quite easy. An RUT number is a taxpayer ID that works in a similar manner as the US social security number. You don’t need to be living in the country to get one of these numbers. All you have to do is to go to the local servicio de impuestos internos office with your passport, a completed form, and current address details.

You will be issued a temporary RUT number while you wait for the permanent card. Using this number, you can complete transactions and even purchase property. You need to ensure that your permanent card is sent to the correct address, as it can be hard to arrange redelivery of your card if you are no longer at the address you gave while applying for the card.

Real estate agents in Chile are unregulated, meaning anyone can become an agent. Therefore, expats need to be aware of what to expect from estate agents. Real estate agents are representatives of the property seller. However, their commission is paid by both the buyer and seller. Commission ranges from 1.5 to 3 percent, which is negotiable, especially if the agent did not do much to help you find the property.

In Chile, it is common for properties to be listed with various agencies, and for the agent not to know the identity of the seller until they get a buyer. Real estate agents vary from large companies to local individuals who know about the area. Contact one who is based in the area you would like to live.

Keep in mind that an agent should not conduct title search or draft contracts. That is the job of a qualified attorney. Some agents may use unethical sales techniques to force you into buying a home that does not meet your requirements. Do not hire a lawyer that the seller or agent suggests. To avoid conflicts of interest during the buying transaction, go for an independent lawyer.

It is possible to buy property without being in Chile, though to get your ideal home it is essential to be there. There are many expats in the country looking for property. Helpfully, there are several websites and magazines dedicated to helping potential buyers. You can quickly locate properties at Vina del Mar, Santiago and Valparaiso. You can identify property through land registry office notices, newspapers, real estate websites, or notary office boards.

Once you have located the home you want, you need to notify the agent so that you can view the house. You will be given an ordena de visit, which is a confirmation of the commission of the agent and the property you intend to visit. You must ensure that all legal details are taken care of before purchasing the property. Your attorney will do a title search to confirm the ownership history. A title search helps to determine whether there are problems in areas such as water rights, zoning, colonization laws and building permits.

You will need the registration information for the current title on the property for a title search to take place. Other important details include the county of registration, year of registration and registration number. As soon as you have gathered this information, you can ask for a certificate of valid ownership from the county registry office. This document will be used to do a title search.

Once you or the attorney make an offer on the property and the seller agrees, you will be required to sign the contracts. The attorney will then draft the contact for you since this has to be presented in a particular format. Both parties will need to sign it at the notary’s office. Once signed, the document becomes public record and is archived by the notary. However, a few more steps need to be completed before you can fully own the property.

Once the contract is signed, you need to register a copy of the formal agreement at the real estate land registry. You will need to have a stamp from the land registry, a number assigned to the index book, the property archive year, and the registration number. Once you have registered with the land register, you will receive a certificate that proves you are the legal owner of the property.

The costs related to negotiations and contracts are shared, but the other fees such as title search and registration of the agreement are done by the buyer. The taxes paid on a property are decided by the government after an assessment of the property. The rate is set by the Chilean tax office. Remember, the value of your property determines the tax and not the market value of the property. Taxes are usually around 0.5 percent of the market value of the property. Urban properties worth less than $14,655,788 are not subject to property taxes. This rule applies to all buildings within urban areas.


Move Your Belongings


Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.

Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.

If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.

The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).

Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.

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Register For Healthcare


QUICK LINK: Chile health insurance

Any resident paying into the system will be covered by FONASA, which also covers the unemployed, uninsured pregnant women, people with mental or physical disabilities, and the poor.

You will be eligible as an expat only if you are working (or have a pension), have residency and are paying into the national health insurance scheme. In order to work in Chile, and therefore qualify for FONASA, you will need a work visa, which usually takes the form of a ‘subject to contract’ visa if you are working for a Chilean company, or a temporary visa if you are going to be employed by a foreign company in Chile.

The nature of your employment could affect your access to healthcare, so make sure you discuss any packages which include health cover, either with FONASA or with a private provider such as a local ISAPRE, or one of the main international insurance companies.

Your employer will need to register you with FONASA. If you are retired and wish to make contributions from your pension, you should contact FONASA directly. If you are self employed, you will need to consult FONASA about making contributions.

FONASA covers around 78% of the Chilean population and entitles them to:

• primary care
• hospitalization
• emergency care
• specialist consultations
• medical tests
• maternity care

Screening (e.g. for various forms of cancer) is set to increase as the Chilean government seeks to improve the standard of national health. There are a number of governmentally-set guarantees, known as Acceso Universal con Garantías Explícitas, or AUGE which are applicable to all Chileans, whether covered by FONASA or ISAPREs, and which cover provisions around access, quality, timeliness and financial protection.

FONASA will cover your dependents if you are working but you will need to make sure that they are officially registered with the national scheme. Note, however, that your spouse may not be permitted to work if they join you in Chile.

The contribution rates are roughly 7% of employees’ taxable income with a cap of 4,921 UF (around US$150K). This is mandatory and will be deducted from your monthly salary.


Open A Bank Account


Chileans use the peso as their national currency. This is abbreviated as CLP, and has the same symbol as the US dollar. Expats will need to understand how banking in Chile works whether they are moving to the country for work, study or leisure.

Money Denominations In Chile

Chilean money is divided into notes and coins. CLP notes are available in various denominations including 20,000, 10,000, 5,000, 2,000 and 1,000 notes. CLP coins are issued in denominations of 500, 100, 50, 10, 5, and 1 pesos. The 500 coin was established after the high inflation rate of the 90s.

In local slang, the 1000 note is known as the luca. 100 pesos are known as gamba, while the 500-peso coin is known as quina. Knowing these terms will come in handy, especially when buying items on the street.

Banking In Chile

Banco Central de Chile is central bank of Chile. It dictates and controls the monetary policies carried out by all Chilean banks and financial institutions. Both local and international banks are concentrated in the major cities such as Santiago.

Other banks in Chile include Banco Estado, Santader Chile, Corp Banca, BCO, Scotabank, BBVA Chile and Banco de Chile. Many of these local banks also offer international financial services, especially to expats. International banks with branches in Chile include Banco do Brasil, Rabobank Chile, Banco de la Nacion Argentina, the Bank of Tokyo-Mistubishi and JP Morgan Chase bank. You can also find international online banks like TBA under the BCI bank.

Banking Hours

All banks open from 9am to 2pm on weekdays. Some banks may extend their banking hours to 4pm, but only with special permission from the central bank. No bank is open during public holidays and on the 31st of December. However, ATMs can be accessed 24/7 and they are available in the big cities and in the rural towns.

Expat Bank Accounts

Unfortunately, banking policies in Chile discourage expats from opening local accounts. Where this is possible, the vetting process is very strict, and applications submitted can take a long time to approve. Migrants needing to use banking services while in Chile have other options to consider.

Expats require a Chilean residency card to open a local bank account. Passports are not allowed as a form of identification when opening an account. In addition, expats are required to have a tax number or RUT, which will also be their ID number.

A tax number is applied for separately from the residency card. You will be required to submit a F4415 tax admin form, together with proof of Chilean income. You may also be asked to make a minimum deposit to a local bank account pending the approval process. Lastly, only expats who have stayed in the country for at least two years can open accounts with local banks.

Banking Options For New Expats

Migrants still wishing to open local bank accounts have two options. They can open an RUT account or a fondos mutuos account. Both function as savings accounts, but differ in the privileges they offer.

An RUT account is a savings account that can also be used as a current account. Banco Estado is the official financial institution which provides RUT accounts for expats. Once the account is activated, the account owner is issued with an ATM card. You can use the card to make payments locally, check your account balance or make money transfers.

The maximum balance a migrant can have on an RUT account is CLP$3,000,000. The deposit limit for the same account is CLP$2,000,000 per month. The maximum withdrawal you can make at an ATM is CLP$200,000. Bear in mind that withdrawing large amounts using your ATM card will attract a commission of CLP$300 per transaction. You can avoid these high charges by withdrawing over the counter; this option also has the benefit of unlimited withdrawals.

A fondos mutuos account is a fixed savings account. The interest rate is static, and you can only withdraw from the account once the investment term matures. It is possible to withdraw before the maturity date; however, this will attract high penalties.

Migrants who do not wish to open a fondos mutuos or RUT account can ask their employers to pay them via an international account. This international account is usually one you hold in your home country. It is important to notify your bank that you will be using your account and all credit and debit cards while working in Chile. In addition, find out if you will be charged exorbitantly for international wire transfers. If so, then a last resort is being paid in cash.

Spending Money In Chile

Expats living in Chile should always opt to pay in cash, especially when visiting local shops. ATM cards can be used as debit cards to pay for transport, mobile phone charges or goods at a local store. Banker’s checks can also be used, though they must come from a Chilean bank. International checks can only be processed in their respective banks, while travelers’ checks have a poor exchange rate while in the country. Only consider bank checks as a last resort when making payments.

Foreigners looking to change currency can do so in exchange bureaus. There are plenty of exchange bureaus within the major cities with attractive rates. Interestingly, you will get the best rates if you change your money in a local bank.

International money transfer services are available in Chile. You can send money abroad via Western Union, Oanda, AFEX or Chile Express. AFEC and Chile Express are the most widely used services in the county. Note that exchange bureaus and banks only consider EUR, USD, and GBP as exchangeable currencies. Any other foreign currency will have to be changed in either of the three then finally converted to local currency.

As a rule of thumb, only exchange money when it is absolutely necessary. You will be happy to know that the US dollar is widely accepted as a mode of payment in many places in Chile. If you are traveling with less than US$10,000, changing money may not be necessary.


Transfer Money


There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.

International Bank Transfers

For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.

Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them "on demand" whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.

You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.

When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic - your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.

As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up - ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.

As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.

Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals

Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution - many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.

You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine - but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.

Currency Brokers

Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent - many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.

Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.

A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:

1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.

2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.

3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.

Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money - such as the proceeds of a property - a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.

Save On Money Transfers

Compare quotes from leading foreign exchange currency brokers


Learn The Language


Spanish is the official language of Chile. However, the Spanish spoken by Chilean locals is a little different from elsewhere in the world. Speaking the language in Chile may seem daunting at first. However, with practice, the dialect becomes easier.

About 95 percent of people in Chile speak fluent Spanish. The other five percent comprise of indigenous tribes such as the Mapuche, Quechuea, Aymara and Rapa Nui. Mapuche people are the largest indigenous community and their language, Mapudungun, is the second most widely spoken language in Chile. The Chilean government also try to ensure that the culture and language of indigenous communities are preserved.

Chilean SpanishGenerally, Spanish is derived from Latin, which itself is an amalgamation of several other languages. You will find traces of French, Portuguese, Romanian and Italian in the Spanish grammar. In addition, the Spanish vocabulary borrows heavily from languages such as Greek, German and Arabic.

Spoken Chilean Spanish is characterized by long words, sentences and pronunciation. Tenses in verbs can be expressed in multiple ways. Chileans are generally talkative people who enjoy hearty conversations. They love their language and will take every opportunity to throw in some unusual vocabulary just for fun.

As in many other languages, intonation plays an important part in Chilean Spanish. A simple sentence spoken with a smile will have a different meaning than if it was spoken in anger. Chilean people speak Spanish very quickly, meaning it may be difficult to keep up at first. However, with constant exposure and practice, the language becomes easier to master.

Language Structure

Chilean Spanish has a distinct accent that is different from the Spanish spoken in countries such as Venezuela or Argentina. A word like ‘tu’, meaning ‘you’, is replaced with ‘vos’. In day to day conversations, ‘tu’ will be used when speaking with an acquaintance while ‘vos’ is used when conversing with someone you are close to.

Letters like C and Z are pronounced as S. The letter D when used in between vowels is often silent, especially in past participle. You will discover many other disparities when comparing Chilean Spanish to Spanish from other countries. Therefore, it is better to learn the local language by daily interaction with Chilean people.

Learning Spanish In Chile

The fastest way to learn Chilean Spanish is by interacting with the local people. Chilean people are warm and enjoy engaging with other people. Daily interaction with locals will expose you to the language and its vocabulary more quickly than classes or books. The Chilean culture is vibrant, and provides an ample backdrop to learn the Chilean way of life.

Alternatively, you can also learn Spanish before moving to Chile. This will prepare you before you interact with Spanish speakers in Chile. Do remember that Chilean Spanish is different, so it may feel like you are learning the language all over again. Nevertheless, you will grasp the language faster than an expat who is starting from scratch.

Another way to learn speaking the language in Chile is by listening to local radio stations and watching local TV. Local print media in Spanish are also good sources of learning the language. The Chilean government also supports radio stations, TV channels and newspapers that operate in other indigenous languages. As a migrant, this provides an opportunity to familiarize yourself with all the languages spoken locally, especially if you will be moving around the country a lot.

If you live close to a native Spanish community, you can find a language exchange partner to help you with the language. Exchange students benefit from this arrangement when going to school in Chile or preparing to join the local job market. An expat working in Chile can make the same arrangement with one of their colleagues.

Ideally, you can enroll for Spanish classes while studying or working in Chile. There are plenty of language schools in modern cities like Santiago. Smaller towns outside big cities also have Spanish schools, although these may not be as advanced. Some Spanish schools also offer online classes, which may be useful if you have limited time for face to face classes. In addition, online classes allow you to learn at your own pace until you are confident in the local language.

Some expats also chose to get certified in the Spanish language before or after arriving in Chile. Diploma de Espanol Lengua Extranjera (DELE) is the international certificate awarded to non-Spanish speakers when they attain a certain level of fluency in Spanish. This Spanish fluency exam tests all aspects of the language such as speaking and reading skills as well as vocabulary and grammar.

Spanish is taught at two levels, A1 and A2. Anyone who achieves fluency in both levels is awarded the DELE certificate. In Chile, the DELE certification is facilitated by the Cervantes Institute. Cervantes learning centers are available in all major cities in Chile. You can locate a center near via the official Cervantes Institute websites.

Alternatively, there are Spanish teaching schools in Chile allowed to examine students on behalf of Cervantes. Exam papers are submitted to Cervantes officials, who award marks accordingly.

Speaking the language in Chile may be difficult at first. However, practice and consistent exposure to the dialect and way of life of Chileans will get you acquainted quickly. As a migrant moving to Chile for leisure, the chances are you will not require prior knowledge of the local language. Most educated Chileans do speak fluent English, while vendors in the streets know key haggling words.

On the other hand, if you are moving to Chile to work or study, learning Spanish will help you. For expat employees, find out if it is a requirement to learn Spanish for your job. Some employers favor those fluent in Spanish when considering promotions.


Choose A School


If you are travelling to the south, bring warm clothes such as a hat, a scarf and jacket. Add a raincoat as well for the occasional rainfall. High altitude areas such as the Andes will be hot and sunny during the day, while the nights often become a little chilly. Carry some sunscreen, sunglasses, a jacket and hat to be comfortable throughout the season. Add some hiking boots as well if you will be exploring the hilly regions.

Ninety three percent of students are enrolled in public schools, with the remaining students opting for private schools. The education vouchers system is used in Sweden, Denmark and New Zealand, and was introduced in Chile in 1981 to grant all children access to education despite their financial background. The income of the parents using this system is not assessed when granting education vouchers, meaning the value of the vouchers is the same for all parents. There is stark inequality between poorer and rich families, which means affluent families can afford to top up their vouchers and give their children access to better education. This issue has been highlighted by UNESCO and the OECD. Public education is managed by the municipality, while private schools at times receive help from the government.

Children between up to five years old can join preschool for free, although this is not mandatory. The state funds preschools, and over 90 percent of children below the age of five attend these before proceeding to the primary level. Preschool has three cycles, divided into two segments: - Sala CUNA for babies up to two years,
- Nivel medio for toddlers and transicion for ages four to six.

Chile has a wide range of preschools, although their quality does not necessarily match that of preschools in the US and Canada. Nursery schools are a way for parents to get free, supervised childcare. Preschools introduce children to the social environment of a school setting and help improve necessary skills of coordination. Children are also taught how to relate to other children and even do group activities. Children in preschool are taught writing, reading, and arithmetic, which prepares them for primary school.

After preschool, children attend primary school for eight years. Primary school has two cycles, each of which are divided into four years.

High school education lasts for four years and is where students plan their career paths, which might be technical-professional, artistic or scientific-humanist. Chilean students can receive specialized education to help them prepare for tests which allow them access to university. Although primary school education is free in the country, parents are expected to pay certain fees for high school education.

The state has special schools for children with special needs such as learning difficulties, disabilities, or psychological and behavioral problems. Some of these pupils are taught in special units within mixed schools, although there are also schools that are specifically dedicated to these children. In recent years, special needs students are being integrated into mainstream schools to get exposure. There are various schools for different needs.

The school year starts from March to December, with a two-week break for winter holiday in July and summer break from December to March. Enrollment takes place between July and August for the following year. The children of expats who hope to enroll in state schools are required by the ministry of education to pass an exam before they can enter either primary or high school. This exam is taken in March or July before the start of the school year. If you would like to home school your children, you need to register with the provencial department in March and June. This will allow those children to sit for the examenes libres later. Examenes libres are the exams that migrant children and those who have not studied in the Chilean system are expected to sit for before they can be enrolled into state schools.

Most schools in Chile have uniforms. However, wearing uniform is not compulsory, but rather a formality for differentiating between schools and university. The uniforms mostly consist of grey trousers, white shirts and navy blue jackets for boys, while girls wear grey dresses or skirts with white shirts, blue tights or trousers. Private schools also have their own distinct uniforms whose color and design is determined by the specific school.

The grading system uses numbers one to seven. One is the worst while seven is the best. To pass you need a minimum of four. Early levels of education have a letter grading system, which is as follows: MB (Muy Bueno) B (Bueno) S (sufficient) I (insufficient). For the university entry test level, scores range from 150 to 850 points, depending on the subject or university. Expat students are required to achieve certain minimum scores to be enrolled in universities in Chile. School operating hours vary with the school. Some run from eight in the morning to two in the afternoon, while others run until four in the evening. Lessons last for 45 minutes with lunch breaks. Students are free to carry lunch from their homes, eat school lunch, or go back home during lunchtime for meals.

The primary school curriculum teaches mathematics, foreign languages, indigenous language, history, natural sciences, art, technology, geography, social sciences, religion and physical education. In high school, the curriculum helps students obtain specialized training to prepare them for vocational or university training. The compulsory subjects in high schools include language and communication, science, geography, mathematics, history, social science, English, physical education, technology, philosophy, psychology, visual and musical arts.

High school tuition tends not to be more than 3500 pesos. However, in a government-subsidized school, there are no mandatory monthly fees, meaning parents have the right to refuse to pay. In non-subsidized schools, the price is constant for three years, with quarterly payments.

Higher education in Chile consists of universities and professional institutions. There are about 25 public universities and more than 30 private universities. The public universities are the ones that were formed before 1981 or came from older institutions. At university, there is a two-year foundation program where general education in bachillerato is done. The school year has semesters lasting from February to July and August to December, with a winter break and summer holiday.

Universities and technical schools charge enrolment and tuition fees. If you seek an education loan, the state acts as your guarantor. The government also gives student loans, but only to those in public universities.



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