For years, immigration to Chile for foreigners has been really really easy, at least compared to much of the rest of the World. Perhaps even too easy. So, it was natural that at some point Chile would start restricting the flow of immigration, if not as official policy or by change of law, simply from the volume of applications that would become too much for the system to process.
We have sort of been expecting this to happen for years. Now, based on both our own direct experience with dealing with immigration day in and day across the country, and some various inside information we have gathered from sources we can not disclose, it is fairly safe for us to say immigration to Chile is getting far more restrictive.
The reasons, are well, sort of obvious in a sense. Chile has a hot economy, in a World full of not so hot economies.
Some of the other reasons are not so obvious to foreigners not paying close attention, or only occasionally had to deal with immigration. The big one setting this off is illegal migration from other South American countries (and around the world) are clogging the system badly.
For example, one of the big ones right now that has made the news recently is Colombians coming to Chile and applying for residency under a 2010 law that provides for a form of asylum. Most of them are rejected because they do not qualify, but it takes immigration say 6 months or more to process the application and reject it, but then they ignore the order to leave the country.
Add to that a steady flow of Bolivans, Peruvians, Argentina is not doing so well, and other Latin American countries. There is also a steady but smaller flow of illegal immigration from Iran, Pakistan, India, and just about anywhere else living is not easy.
What does this mean for foreigners immigrating from developed countries?
It means get your act together!!!
If you are playing fast and loose with the immigration laws or expecting someday you will get around to sorting out you visa situation, fix your visa status while you still can and apply for permanent residency as soon as you qualify. The biggest offenders we see are English teachers, but I would caution anyone else that is sort of operating on a grey areas of the visa laws. A common one is for people to work under various forms of temporary residency, and keep changing, or otherwise not move on to permanent residency when they should. That game might be coming to an end soon.
What we are seeing is a steady implementation of rules and powers by immigration, that formally were waved or ignored. These rules have always been well within their authority at immigration under the current laws, but are now going from never applied, to sometimes applied, to being applied everywhere always.
For example, the new one that has become a fairly predictable constant is the official translation of professional diplomas, at the foreign affairs ministry, for people working outside the country but applying under the retirement and periodic income visa. Even when the diploma has nothing to do with their employment outside Chile (e.g. artist working as a stock broker). Before diplomas were not required to be translated, if they originated in most European Languages. Now, even English language diplomas are requiring translation. By contrast, for years, immigration offices actively told us not to include such documents, because they did not want the extra paperwork cluttering up their files.
That is just one example. For the last year, we have had nearly 70% of our first time applications rejected (not simply granted, under the condition that more documents be submitted) for all kinds of reasons, and we have to file at least one administrative appeal at some point in the initial application for temporary residency. To put that in perspective, two years ago 100% of our first time applications for residency were either completely granted on the first filing or granted with the condition that some other document be submitted (which even then was less than 5% of all applications). So far, all of our administrative appeals have been successful, but gives you an idea of the increasing difficulty even when you know what your doing.
The most common appeal we now file is related to some error (intentional or accidental) commit by the annalist at immigration in Santiago. The problem is, most people filing on their own don't know the difference between an error by immigration and error they made. They don't know they have been wrongly rejected, nor that something can be corrected.
So far applications for permanent residency are still relatively unproblematic, but that may change also. They are not as simple as they once were however, so the signs are there also that even if you get your temporary application approved the permanent application might be more difficult a year or two years from now.
We are also starting to see Immigration and PDI (Chilean FBI / Interpol) start enforcing rules to expel foreigners that break the law in Chile or at least reject pending applications when a foreigner has committed a serious crime. So, behave.
This is speculation on my part, but I would not be very surprised in the near future for the PDI to start wholesale deportations of anyone that is out of step with the immigration laws. I don't think they are going to make much a distinction between the illegal Peruvian and the illegal gringos. They just got way too much on their plate.
So, the moral to the story, don't mess around with Immigration. Do not put off applying for temporary residency if you are just arriving. Do not put off applying for permanent residency if you have completed your temporary residency time in the country and qualify for permanent residency.
And my god, if you qualify for citizenship as a permanent resident, apply for it!!!!
If it is 1 year from now or 5 years from now, you might be dealing with a whole new set of rules, laws, and regulations. Don't take it for granted.
Spencer Global Chile: Legal, Relocation, and Investment assistance in Chile.
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