Finally, I am a resident of Chile and able to work after a long 4 months. I tell you, it is a relief to finally be done with the process. I am a worrier, and I don’t think I have had a good night’s sleep since this all began. I have learned a great deal through this process, however, and I would like to share some insight having recently suffered this ordeal.

Tips on Moving to Chile Based on my Experience:

— Know Which Visa You Need to Apply For —

There are two types of visas for first time residency applications: Subject to Contract (Work Visa) or the Temporary Residency Visa. These are both the first step to permanent residency. If you are married to a Chilean, file for the Temporary Visa. If you are not, you have to find a job with a contract…not an easy feat. Most employers in Chile do not want to hire foreigners unless they are permanent residents. However, once you have the contract, the visa is an easy process.

After one year of the Work or Temporary Visa, you must apply for the Permanent Residency Visa to continue living in Chile. It is an easy process, but a long wait time. Make sure you apply at least 90 days before your current visa expires.

If you are a student, apply through the consulate in the US before you go, it will make it easier and faster to get your ID card (Carnet) so that you won’t have to carry around your passport all the time.

— Read the Website —

This seems like a no brainer, but it can be intimidating reading the all Spanish website if your vocabulary is not up to snuff. Instead of wasting your time with your Spanish-English Dictionary, however, you can go to the English version.

Make sure you read all documents thoroughly. You do not want to send off your application and have it rejected because you were missing parts.

— Apply for Your Visa as Soon as Possible —

This is more for your convenience than theirs. Tourist Visas last 90 days, and that is it. It is a hefty fine if you are caught over staying your visa. You can file for an extension of 90 days, but it is a once in a lifetime (literally) opportunity. You cannot file for another extension of another tourist visa after the first one. You can border hop, but that is becoming more costly. The “Mendoza Run” was common for many years. Tourists hopped over to Argentina, stayed a weekend in Mendoza and came back. However, Argentina is now charging a fee of $160 US at all border crossings as of 2012. It gives you a 10 year usable visa into Argentina, but it makes the trip much more costly. Rather than dealing with the hassle, it is my recommendation that you file as soon as possible for a visa.

— Make 5 copies of Every Document You Have…Actually Make That 10 Copies —

The Chilean government runs on an antiquated system. They have a complete computerized database on every citizen detailing their lives, but for whatever reason, every time you have to set foot in a government office they ask for two copies of everything. Just make sure you are prepared. Government offices tend to open at 8-9 am while the copy places don’t open until 10 am.

— Get your Diploma Legalized Before you Leave your Home Country —

This is for future residents who want to have a professional job. It is of utmost importance that you do this. Chile does not recognize degrees from foreign universities unless they are legalized. That means that when you come here and you do not have your diploma legalized, you are qualified only for jobs as a high school graduate. Jobs that are considered “professional” require that you show them proof of your degree before hiring. It is an easy, but time-consuming process detailed here.

— Don’t Lawyer Up —

Some people and websites advise you to use a lawyer to complete the process. To be honest, I do not think it is necessary. (Take that with a grain of salt, please, everyone is different.) After reading and re-reading all of the information, the process is incredibly simple. You fill out some paperwork, take some pictures, make some copies, and wait. Compared to the US visa process, it is a breeze. Not to mention that for US citizens, it is a free process outside of the $8 US for the Carnet. I had no trouble doing the process myself other than being a worry-wart.

— Don’t Take Advice From Chileans Who Do Not Work in the Extranjería —

Chileans are awesome, helpful people. They are so awesome and so helpful that even if they have no clue about what you are talking about, they will offer their aid and advice no matter what. This is the same with the visa process. They will give you all sorts of advice. The truth is, however, that unless they have someone in the family that has done the process, they have no idea. The processes of the Extranjería are not really on their day-to-day agenda. Think about it, how many US citizens truly know the visa/green card process? Same here, but Chileans won’t admit that they don’t know because they want to be helpful.

— Make Sure that Government Offices and the Post Office are Not on Strike —

Yeah, this happened to me. One ended and the other began, both interfering with the process of my visa application. My wait times on everything were longer from getting the letters about my visa status from the Extranjería to waiting in line outside the Registro Civil for four hours. It also caused my diploma to get lost in the mail for a three months. My stress levels were through the roof.

If you have any questions, I would be happy to answer. I don’t claim expertise, but I can provide friendly advice. It is a wonderful feeling knowing that I can travel and do as I wish again! The job hunt is also on a green light…so far I have applied for a wide variety of positions, but all are still accepting applications, so no word yet.

**Disclaimer: I do not claim to be a legal authority or trained in Visa applications. I am just sharing some general tips.