Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and this article is not legal advice. As happy ex-clients, we can recommend Spencer Global for immigration assistance. You can also read about types of visas in Chile on their website.
Immigration to Chile is still a breeze compared to many developed countries, although the high amount of applicants in the past years have made the process considerably longer. You can do everything yourself with basic Spanish, but each mistake could add 1-2 months to your visa waiting times because the Chilean migration department (Extranjería) is really slow when it comes to sending requests and registering your replies in the system.
So if your budget allows it, it would be better to hire a lawyer who has experience in immigration. Be careful; many "immigration assistants" do not have a degree in law (you can check your lawyer here) and some ask for over US$2,000 per person which is too much for the current market prices.
Caution: There are no "backdoor" ways into Chile unless you'd like to end up in hands of human traffickers. The Chilean migration department is not corrupt and police (PDI) checks leave no space for tricks like buying a residence or passport. Any person who suggests non-standard immigration methods to you is a scammer.
For the citizens of most developed countries, Chile is visa-free for 1-3 months, and you can apply for the long-term visas listed below right on arrival. It's generally not recommended to apply by using Chilean embassies because they are not prepared to deal with them. On average, a temporary residency visa takes anywhere from 4 to 6 months to process and you can live in Chile while waiting for it. You can see the full list of visa requirements on the Chilean migration department’s website.
"Para jubilados o rentistas": This is the best visa to have when immigrating to Chile if you have no intentions to work locally. You can apply for it if you can show any kind of passive (non-work) income from abroad: renting out a property, investment, pension, etc.
Previously foreign work contracts for remote workers were also accepted, but it's not the case anymore. But you still can apply based on small periodic passive income (for example, US$500 a month) and add a foreign remote work contract on top of that. Total income should be significantly higher than the Chilean minimum wage, usually US$1,000 per person is recommended.
For the first 3 years there is no tax on foreign income (Artículo 3º of the tax law). Foreign pensions and social security payments are not taxable at all.
A good thing about this visa is that you only need one year on it to be able to apply for a permanent residency.
"Para profesionales y técnicos de nivel superior": For this visa you will need a non-binding job offer (not a contract) from a Chilean company. The downside compared to other visas is the degree requirement. You will also need to declare taxes for at least nine months before applying for permanent residency in one year. Yet it's still a good kind of visa for remote workers and freelancers who can't obtain the TE6 periodic income visa because it's possible to apply for residency as a self-employed professional — "honorario".
"Por motivos laborales": This visa requires a contract with a local employer, but you can change your job during the duration of this visa. A degree is not required and you will be eligible for permanent residency in one year. The work visa is only suitable for professionals who are searching for a job in Chile.
Caution: faking a work contract for immigration purposes is a crime and you could be stripped of your residency or citizenship.
"Para inversionistas y comerciantes": This is the most complicated visa — you will need to incorporate and explain your business plans to the migration department. While it's possible to obtain, for most investors and entrepreneurs, it would be much easier to go with the TE6 periodic income visa.
The process of getting a permanent residency depends on your visa type, but basically you need to show where you have been getting money during your temporary residency — updated contracts, salary sheets, tax payments in case of local income. The other requirement is a police record from your country and no committed crime in Chile that resulted in more than 60 days of prison. Nothing complicated, but in the last few years the time for processing residency applications has increased significantly and it often takes up to 8–10 months.
After 5 years from the date your first temporary visa was issued, you can apply for Chilean citizenship. Note that Chile is not a place where you can get a passport while living somewhere else, and the migration department checks if you actually live here and looks for connections to the country. Becoming a Chilean citizen isn't a fast process and it can sometimes take up to two years. On average it will take you over 7 years due to the waiting times for the very first visa and the citizenship grant itself. Similar to permanent residency, citizenship requires a police record from your country and having committed no serious crimes in Chile.