December 17, 2020

Chile Restructures Immigration System

Chile has approved a new law restructuring their immigration system and revising existing permit categories. Key features include stricter laws regarding changing visa or residence status categories while in the country, a new short-term permit authorization process, enhanced work authorizations for dependents and an expansion of the temporary residence permit category. It is expected to take at least a year before the Ministry of the Interior write and publish the new regulations.

The new framework will mean that foreign nationals entering Chile as a tourist will no longer be able to switch to a residence status in-country. Under the new rules, applicants intending to work and reside in Chile will need to complete their immigration process prior to arriving.

In addition, a new short-term authorization process will be implemented. Under the new law, applicants will need to apply for a Special Work Authorization. This can be done while applicants are abroad, and will enable them to start work immediately following their arrival into Chile, as opposed to the current process, which requires waiting for the permit to be issued for 10 days following arrival.

The Chilean Congress has also approved the expansion of the Temporary Residence Category. The new law will include 13 subcategories and will give the authorities the flexibility to create new subcategories if need be in the future, in response to changes in labor market requirements. The Temporary Residence Visa will also allow foreign nationals of certain subcategories to work in Chile without requiring the sponsorship of an employer. Furthermore, dependents of Temporary Residence holders will automatically be granted work authorization, making Chile a more attractive destination for foreign nationals and their families.

Under the current system, permanent residence permit holders in Chile can only spend up to one year outside of the country without losing their status. The new framework will permit them to remain outside Chile for up to two years, facilitating the ability for foreign nationals to take longer assignments elsewhere.

Finally, the immigration restructure will introduce a process to regularize any foreign nationals who entered the country legally before March 18, 2020, but who are in an irregular status. They will have 180 days after the new law is published to rectify the situation and obtain the relevant work authorization. Additionally, anyone who has entered illegally will have 180 days to depart without facing any penalties. Those who fail to regularize their status will be subject to deportation.

The above reforms should enable Chile to provide a more structured immigration system and facilitate the process for the growing number of immigrants who have been attracted to the country in recent years.

For further information on the restructured immigration system in Chile, please contact the Sterling Lexicon immigration team at

Leanne Cottrell

Leanne Cottrell

As Head of Immigration with Sterling Lexicon, Leanne leads a team of specialists who are responsible for ensuring the entire immigration process is smooth and stress-free for clients, assignees and their accompanying family members. She brings over ten years of experience in strategic immigration management, planning and consultation to her role, and has cultivated invaluable knowledge and experience in processing countless global migration applications. As a trusted partner, she consults with clients on everything from policy considerations and cost or efficiency improvements, to the impact of opening offices in new locations. Leanne is a frequent presenter and author on global immigration topics and trends.

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