How To Apply for Chilean Permanent Residence Visa

Chile just approved my Permanencia Definitiva or permanent residence yesterday so I thought I’d share the steps you need to take you successfully get your visa. If you’re looking for temporary chilean visa info, check my previous post.

The entire process takes 6-7 months from when you first apply to when it’s granted or denied. They accept english applications, but in my opinion it makes sense to translate everything. If your spanish is bad, pay someone to translate your application.

Step 1 – Review Previous Visa Requirements

You must have already had a temporary visa for at least one year and have spent at least six months of that temporary visa in Chile. If you don’t meet this criteria, you must apply for another temporary visa. You’re only able to apply for a temporary visa twice, after that you must apply for a permanent residence. If you don’t meet the previous visa requirements, the extranjeria tells you you should apply for the permanent residence anyway and then appeal if it’s denied.

Step 2 – Review Application deadlines

You can first apply 90 days before your temporary visa expires. Do this as early as possible to minimize time you have with an expired carnet. More on this later.

Step 3 –  Go to Extranjeria website to pick your visa type

If you have your own business, Inversionista is likely the best one for you, but there are many other options. If you get confused or don’t know which one best fits your criteria, go to extranjeria in person and ask. They were very helpful every time I went and had questions.

Step 4 – Review the requirements.

Here’s the requirements for Inversionista. You can find the rest of the requirements for permanent visas here.

Step 5 – Fill out forms

Download the current Residencia Definitiva document (pdf) from Extranjeria and fill it out.

Step 6 – Get Certificado de Antecedentes from Registro Civil

You can do this online if you’ve already registered in the system or you have to go to a Registro Civil in person.

Step 7 – Get Certificado de Viajes from Policia de Investigaciones (PDI)

This document shows how long you’ve been out of the country during your last visa. Go to PDI offices at Morandé 672. This tramite costs CLP$800 and you usually have to wait at least an hour, sometimes more. It’s open from 830-1400.

Step 8  – Get all your paperwork

  • Copy of both sides of your carnet
  • Copy of certificado de registro. You can use your certificado from last year or pay another CLP$800 from the PDI to get a new one when you’re getting your certificado de viajes.
  • Copy of your passport with all ID pages and any pages with Chilean visas or stamps. I just copied the entire thing.
  • Three 3×2 color photos with your name and rut

Step 9 – Write your personal statement

You need to write a personal statement why you’d like to stay in Chile. I included my resume, everything I’ve done in Chile, any press clippings from Chilean newspapers and my plans to stay in Chile, plus bank information showing that I would not become dependent on the state if they granted me the visa. My packet was about 15 pages long and the clerk in Extranjeria told me it was more than enough. Most people write a page and that’s it.

Step 10 – Get business documentation (if Inversionista)

If you’re doing the Inversionista visa for your own company or if you are an independent contractor you need to prove you are making money and have assets in Chile. You’ll need:

  • Copy of operating agreement (Escritura) of your Chilean company
  • Certificado de inicio de actividades from SII
  • Your company’s last 8 IVA payments
  • Your company’s last “balance tributario”
  • Your company’s last “declaracion de renta”
  • Proof you’ve paid your company’s patente
  • Proof that you actually own stock in the company

If you’re doing it as an independent contractor (emits boletas), you need to prove the same things as above, but with your own personal records.

Step 11 (optional) – Take everything to Extranjeria for a review

The clerks at Extranjeria are happy to go through your paperwork with you and tell you if everything is in order. I did this and realized I was missing a form, so for me it was worth it.

Step 12 – Mail all of this via Correo Certificado to:


Step 13 – Wait for “Visa en Tramite” temporary 6 month visa.

Extranjeria says it will take 45 days and mine took exactly 45 days. If your old visa has expired (like mine did), you cannot reenter Chile on your old visa and must pay for a tourist visa if you enter before you get your “visa en tramite” paper work. You can check on your progress on the extranjeria autoconsulta website. Once you’re approved as “en tramite” you can print off your form which allows you to travel on your temporary six month visa.

Note: you must bring that paper with you if you travel, as your carnet will be expired. Make sure you have it on your person, not in your luggage. I made this mistake once and had to convince someone from my flight to get my backpack from baggage claim for me while I was waiting with a PDI agent who was mocking me the entire time.

You will get a letter from Extranjeria that says that your visa is “en tramite” and that you’re allowed to do any legal activity that you used to be able to do on your old visa, but no Chilean entity actually recognizes it, including:

  • Entel
  • VTR
  • Movistar
  • Claro
  • SII
  • Banks
  • Anywhere that requires a valid carnet

Basically you can’t do anything in Chile with your letter because nobody recognizes it. This was the most frustrating part of being between visas. I was carnetless from Nov 15th, 2012 until May 17th, 2013. If you have any official business, get it done before your carnet expires or else you’re screwed.

Step 14 – Pay application fee

You have to pay a fee, depending on the visa your applied for, via bank check at any bank. Mine was ~$50.000 and I had to go in person to my bank to pay.

Step 15 – Wait for approval or denial

It took me another five months before I was approved. You can check again on the extranjeria autoconsulta website for news.

Step 16 – Go to Extranjeria with your visa acceptance form, carnet and passport and get your permanent visa

Step 17 – Go to PDI to register your address and get your certificado de residencia definitiva (CLP$800).

Step 18 – Go to registro civil to get your carnet (CLP$4.050)

Step 19 – Wait two weeks and go back to the registro civil to pick up  your carnet

Step 20 – Drink a piscola to celebrate being a Chilean permanent residence and being done with all of these tramites!

Once you have the visa, you must either visit Chile once per year or you must go to an embassy once per year to renew your visa. If you go the embassy route, you’ll need to come back to Chile once every four years to keep your visa valid, or else you lose it.

Note: please review each step on your own, this is the process I used in 2012/2013 and may change without notice.

Looking for more high quality information about Chile? Check out my book Chile: The Expat’s Guide:

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  • Nice write up my friend. I will add one or two things which other people might find useful.

    – when you get your visa approved, it says you have 30 days to pick it up from the Emigration Offices. As I left the country, before getting the visa and would not be able to get in 30 days, I emailed them and got a reply saying, those 30 days can be extended to 90days.

    – The “visa is “en tramite” and that you’re allowed to do any legal activity” paper is worth nothing. I was denied opening a simple RUT bank account (the Chilean National bank simplest form of bank account) which purpose is to grant universal access to banking in Chile.

    • Seriously, that visa en tramite paper really is worthless. You can enter and leave the country, nothing else. Everyone else, including other government agencies, just look at you like you’re crazy if you bring them that paper. It’s something the government should publicize better. It was so frustrating having legal authority to do anything thats otherwise legal in chile, but nobody would respect it.

    • Hey Tiago , I just checked and found out I was granted the permanent residency. However, it says the date for that was the 27th of February. I was in the online system checking last time March 24th, and there was nothing there yet, so it seems like they uploaded it a month after granting it. Unfortunately I just returned to Europe and now I wonder about the 30 day rule. Two questions:
      Where did you read about the 30 day rule? All I can find is a rule that one has to register the visa with the international police 30 days after receiving the physical copy from the Extranjeria.
      How did you go about extending the 30 to 90 days?

      • You’ll need to pay a fine or if you have some excuse they can let that go for you.

        • Ok, so you just traveled back to Chile within 90 days, set up a meeting with them to officially get the visa and paid a minor fine for being late? I would hate traveling all the way to Chile only to find out that I lost my chance.I sent them an email through their official system asking them about that and received no response so far. Now I’m thinking of contacting the Chilean embassy, but I’m not sure they will know anything more.

  • Hi Nathan,

    Thanks for putting this up in an orderly fashion. I’m sure many people will appreciate it.

    A comment about “Step 11” – the clerks being happy to review your paperwork – either you got really lucky on this or I got really unlucky on this. I went to the Immigration office in Santiago, because I wanted to make sure everything was in order before I mailed in all my papers. The clerk who attended me, a middle-aged woman with glasses, told me she could not check my papers, because it would take too much time. This was in the middle of January 2013 and I was visibly pregnant. Furthermore I explained to her that I had traveled 12 hours from southern Chile to get my papers reviewed, but nothing moved this woman to check them.

    In conclusion, I want to express what I and many of my Chilean friends and coworkers keep in mind when dealing with any branch of the government here: in regard to navigating Chilean bureaucracy or getting “tramites” done (example: filing/processing a visa), a great deal hinges on who you know in the system, the particular individual who received your paperwork or attended you, and what mood he/she was in at the time.

    Congratulations on receiving your permanent residency and best of luck to those who are currently undertaking the process. – Claire McHale

    • wow, that’s terrible. you’re right, doing tramites is really at the pleasure of the bureaucrat you find yourself in front of on a daily basis, but im surprised they didnt help you.

  • hey,
    I read on some other pages that it’s a stupid idea to register with a business, as your visa status will depend on how your business is going. They instead suggest applying as a retired person, even if one isn’t. Do you know if this has changed? From what is published on the web page at least I cannot figure out how to apply as a retired person without havign a pension.
    Another thing is how about contractors in other countries that are taxed abroad? I am incorporated in the UK, mainly dealing with mainland Europe. The minimum required to register for the UK version of IVA is a lot (79000 British pounds), so I am not. Is this a situation any of you have ever been in?

    • They still have the retiree option and its certainly possible to get it, but if you have a business, i dont think its too hard to get your visa with a business. there are other plusses to having your retiree one, but i dont know if the government will get mad if you have a reitree visa and you’re clearly not retired, especially if you meet the other requirements for other visas. i would speak to an attorney before pursing that method.

      • I see, yeah that makes sense. I am mostly worried about the amount of paperwork. Being incorporated in the UK, all my company related paperwork is digital/online (for example).

        So your visa is not dependent on how your company does in two years, right?

        • If you plan to do business in Chile, then its not too hard to get a business set up. I have a friend who just got approved for permanent residence who never incorporated in Chile, but was able to show payments to Chilean workers/contractors and that he was paying taxes in Chile. That’s basically what they wnat to see. Im not sure if you 100% have to incorporate, so i would suggest speaking with an attorney who’s an expert!

          • 🙂 I ended up getting in as an retiree.

  • One more question: how are you notified of when and how much you have to pay for the visa?

    • you can ask at extranjeria, they have a really good online portal where you can ask questions. look for it at

      otherwise, after you submit the app, they’ll send you something through the mail that tells you where and how much to pay.

      • I see. Yeah, I couldn’t find it on that page. I won’t be in Chile now after I have submitted my application, and I don’t think I will get to my mail either. This information is not available online anywhere?

        • yea, you should be able to login on the extranjeria site that i linked above with all of your personal info to check the status and see the documents.

  • One more question Nathan: how long time after sending in the application were you able to log onto the autoconsulta website? What mail service did you send it in with?

  • Nathan, I’m starting the process for my permanent visa next week as my temporary retiree visa expires in early May. I did not see any mention of a requirement for a criminal records check in your post. Did you encounter that or are you familiar with whether they really want it for everybody? It’s one of those things that has to be done in the U.S. and authenticated etc. at the Chilean consulate. That’s extremely inconvenient and more so if they will work the application without it.

    • From what I remember, you don’t have to get it when you renew, just when you apply the first time. It may have changed since I did it, but I think it’s just the first time you apply. You can ask at the extranjeria and they should be able to tell you.

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