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.
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:
• primary education
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.
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.
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 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.
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
There are many great places to settle down as an expat in Chile, and if you’re after hustle and bustle, you’ll be spoilt for choice. With roughly 90% of Chile’s population living in cities and large towns, Santiago and Valparaiso are the two most popular options for expats, but don’t forget smaller towns like La Serena or, if you’re a wine drinker, somewhere surrounded by vineyards.
Chileans generally prefer living in apartments rather than houses, which makes the demand for them high in most major cities. Even so, the prices remain very reasonable. This preference also keeps house prices down, as the market isn’t so competitive.
Once you’ve decided on the area you’d like to live in, property hunting is relatively straightforward. Local estate agents will know the areas and can help you get everything set up, regardless of whether you are renting or buying. However, it is important to note that, unlike in Europe and North America, estate agents are unregulated in Chile, meaning that anyone can become one.
Renting property in Chile is relatively easy, with both furnished and unfurnished apartments available. Rental agreements are usually for 12 months, although shorter periods can be negotiated. The deposit for these terms is typically one month’s rent.
Expats may need a Chilean guarantor to secure a rental contract, and, in most cases, this can be done by an employer. If you can’t find a guarantor, you may be able to negotiate a higher deposit instead. However, this isn’t always the case, and the need for a guarantor will depend on your landlord.
Utilities are unlikely to be included in the rent, and keep in mind that Chilean properties are rarely well insulated, which means heating may be costly in the winter. Cut costs by finding an apartment that faces northeast, as this will get sunlight all day.
Your contract should include everything discussed with the landlord, as well as personal information, details on tax payments, the deposit amount and details of your guarantor. Pay attention to the condition the property and anything included within it are in when you view the property, especially if it is old.
The cost of living in Chile is very reasonable, and property prices there are reflected in this. The economy is in a far better position than it used to be and, unlike in other countries, you don’t need to have residency in order to buy property there.
As most people choose to buy in the cities, these are where the property prices are highest.
Up to a third of the country’s population reside in Santiago. Living there will give you good access to culture, great entertainment and incredible food.
Property prices are generally very reasonable, with a large home in Santiago costing you around $255,000. For an apartment in the city centre, expect to pay up to $3,000 per square meter.
Rent in Santiago is also very affordable. A small, one-bedroom apartment in the city centre will cost up to $400 per month, while larger apartments may cost up to $750. If you go a little further out of town, you’ll be able to get a small apartment for circa $350 per month.
Valparaiso is another great city, with street art on almost every corner. It’s a popular place for foreigners to buy property, with a slightly more relaxed vibe than Santiago.
The purchase price here is less than Santiago, with large homes costing around $200,000.
In small towns and rural areas, prices can be slightly lower. The exception to this is in wine regions, where wealthy foreigners often buy very large properties.
Properties in rural areas vary enormously in price, with the cheapest costing around $150,000. Large properties in Southern Chile cost up to and over $1m.
Chile is a popular place to buy property, as there are no restrictions in place for foreign nationals doing so, except with properties near the country’s borders. However, you may find it very difficult to get a mortgage as a foreign national, and therefore most foreigners tend to buy in cash or obtain a mortgage from a bank in their own country.
It is not necessary to have residency in Chile to buy property, although you will need to obtain a RUN card (tax ID) so that you can be taxed on it.
Chile offers strong legal protection for property rights, but as agents are unregulated, finding a reputable one is essential, especially if you don’t speak Spanish.
Once you’ve found the perfect property, you can make an offer. If this is accepted, a promise to purchase and sell is signed in front of a notary, with a 10% deposit paid. The purchase and sale contract is signed at a later date, with the full amount transferred. All sale agreements must be notarised before registration, and if you fail to register the transfer, your contract will be void.
The process of purchasing a property in Chile is usually completed within 20 to 40 days.
In addition to the property cost, you will need to pay fees, which normally work out at about 5% of the purchase price. These include agency fees, stamp duty and notary fees. You’ll also have to pay VAT, at a flat rate of 19%.
Once the payments are made, the exchange date will be decided and the property will officially be yours!
If you are currently looking at property, it is important to note that, whilst buying a property in Chile is a relatively simple process, you will need a competent lawyer, who can draw up an agreement that protects you from sellers who change their minds, and from other potential obstacles.
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
• 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.
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.
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 (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.
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Learn The Language
Chile is a fascinating, stable, and relatively prosperous country, occupying the landmass to the west of the Andes in South America. There are five distinct regions, but the vast majority of the 19 million people live in urban areas. There is also a large expat community, mostly living in or near the capital, Santiago.
Chile is well-developed economically, being a significant producer of copper and lithium. Tourists are also a major contributor to the economy, coming mainly to soak up the fantastic variety of scenery, from high desert to snow-covered mountains.
If you are moving to Chile to explore, maybe to work or perhaps to retire, you will need to consider the ease with which you are able to communicate.
One of the best ways an expat can begin to integrate and feel more comfortable in any new country is by learning the local language, at least to a point where daily transactions can be achieved in the native tongue.
Spanish is the official language of Chile, spoken by almost everyone in the country, although there are also some small second language groups, notably German in the south. There are several indigenous languages, which are in danger of extinction. English is widely taught in the school system, so communicating, at least with the younger urban population, should be relatively simple.
Chile is a large country, yet the accent does not vary much from north to south. Chilean Spanish has also adopted a large number of English words.
However, if you are intending to travel outside the major urban areas, you will find that the level of English language comprehension is much more limited, and you may well encounter some difficulty communicating unless you have at least some basic Spanish phrases and a good phrase book.
There are a number of good international schools in Chile to help you reach your required level of fluency in Spanish. These can be found on the internet and either applied to in advance of arrival, or when you are settled in your chosen destination. To achieve a foundation in the Spanish language before you go, or indeed to consolidate it when you arrive, there are a large number of courses available on the internet – some of which are free up to a certain level. A simple search will give you a wide choice.
Linguistic experts generally recommend an immersive learning experience, as the quickest way to attain fluency in any language, and immersive courses can be found locally in all major Chilean cities.
In daily life, you will be constantly exposed to the Spanish language, and whilst you may find it daunting to begin with, a little persistence and practice will rapidly improve your ability to communicate effectively. If you are planning to go out to Chile as a couple, it can be a good idea to make a pact to speak in Spanish together during your time out of class. Immersing yourself in Spanish language television and newspapers is also highly productive. You may find locals willing to coach you or converse with you perhaps over a coffee or a glass of Chilean wine.
You may also find that English is used in the workplace in a few international companies, such as IT, banking, airlines and tourism, but it would be unwise to count on this. Jobs are more frequently advertised as bilingual.
If you wish to work in Chile, one extremely popular employment sector is in teaching English. Please note that it is always easier to get work in international education if you have a university degree and a certificate in either TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages).
Several international schools offer language teaching posts, usually on six-month or yearly contracts. These are available to anyone with a Bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certificate. TEFL courses are available in Santiago, with offers of potential jobs at the end of your course. However, relevant experience will generally give you more choice and higher pay.
Most language teaching jobs would be in the capital, Santiago. Depending on your lifestyle, rates of pay may, or may not be sufficient to allow you to stay permanently, but for a working holiday, it can be fun and rewarding.
If you intend to teach English in Chile, it is preferable if you have experience in teaching schemes such as the Cambridge English exams or IELTS (International English Language Testing System): the English test for study, migration or work. Some teaching experience in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will also be helpful. This assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to graduate management programs, such as the MBA.
You may also find teaching work more easily if you are experienced in teaching English for particular sectors, such as tourism and hospitality. You are most likely, however, to find work in either public schools or private international institutions. You should be paid more in the private educational sector.
There may also be some demand for translation or interpretation services between Spanish and English, for instance in translating newspaper articles into English, if you have a high level of proficiency.
There are many bilingual jobs advertised in different employment sectors, especially in Santiago. These would generally require a good level of Spanish, but can sometimes be secured before you go.
Choose A School
The government of Chile invests heavily in their education system, spending approximately 6% of GDP, one of the higher rates reported by the OECD. The system is highly thought of in South America. The literacy rate stands at over 96%. Additionally, there has been a significant government-led drive to create extra vocational qualification opportunities for Chilean children, particularly from under-privileged backgrounds.
State education in Chile is paid for through the tax system, and is under the ultimate control of the Ministry of Education. The state pays up to 90% of tuition fees, usually direct to the school, based on attendance. For higher education, the subsidies are concentrated on lower income students.
There are a considerable number of fee-paying private educational institutions at all levels (often denominational), and many of these may be at least partially subsidised by the government. There are also a number of independently run international schools, where multilingualism is strongly encouraged, and generally classes are given in English.
However, the education system is of course very different from the UK or US systems. For a start, all lessons in state schools will be conducted in Spanish, although a few private schools may offer a bilingual curriculum (typically Spanish in the morning, English in the afternoon).
State education provisions are divided into several levels –
• Pre-school (optional) 4 – 5
• Enseñanza básica – (primary) age 6 – 13
• Enseñanza Media (high school) – age 14 – 18
The first two years of high school are standardized, at which point children have the choice of continuing with general studies, or entering a technical school for vocational training. This is seen as vital for the continued success of Chile as an expanding nation, and has received massive impetus from the government as a result. Students who chose not to continue their academic studies are enrolled in vocational college programs for medicine, construction, engineering, IT, agriculture, and many other areas.
Tertiary education is provided by colleges and universities throughout the country. Chile has a very good reputation for university education in Latin America.
The curriculum at all levels is set by the government, with the express aim of offering a consistently high standard of education throughout the country. A second and sometimes a third language is taught in Chilean schools. English has become more popular as the second language in Chile, but efforts to improve quality and fluency have been hampered by a shortage of teachers, particularly in more rural areas.
There are large numbers of private and international schools in Chile. These are increasingly used by results-oriented parents, and of course expats. Many of these schools are faith-based, which you may wish to factor in to your choices.
Private schools may have almost the same curriculum as state schools, but they are not fully dependent on government funding for activities and extra classes, which makes them a popular choice for expat families. Fees and curricula will vary considerably, and need to be checked locally.
Additionally, there are international schools, generally running on US, UK or European curricula, with a few having also originally been set up by various branches of the Church. Many of these international schools do offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP), with compulsory subjects and a number of elective subjects. The IB is widely recognized throughout the world by further education institutions, for those wanting to go on and attend foreign universities.
A few of the many international schools (at various levels) to consider –
• Bradford College
• Santiago College
• Grange School
• Craighouse School
• Dunalastair School (four campuses)
There are others to consider, but provision is more limited away from Santiago. International schools are very popular with expats, so it will be necessary to contact your chosen school as soon as possible to secure a place for your child. Fees can also be quite expensive, which may need to be factored in to contract negotiations with your employer.
Further education is provided free to Chilean nationals up to undergraduate level at universities. Private universities will have their own fee structures.