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Why I came to Chile:

Having traveled to every corner of Chile, I am convinced that it is the most beautiful country in the world. And that is not the only reason I chose to come to Chile. Other reasons abound. It has a largely free market based economy, is business-friendly, Americans and Europeans are well-liked, its mid section has a wonderful Mediterranean climate, recreational activities abound, and Spanish proved to be a useful language for me and my children to learn.

There is little political correctness and traditional family values are still strong. Radical environmentalism and radical feminism are certainly the exception and not the rule. Property is reasonably priced in both the big cities and in resort areas. The country’s two key cities and some resort areas are modern and First World. Medical care is as good as it gets south of the US border. Marriage and divorce rules are sane and reasonable. It’s freer than the vast majority of places in the world. There is little fear of the government, the police, warfare, “terrorism,” or bureaucratic organizations. Economic opportunities are plentiful. You can even get a job here after a while (in the meantime, consider this link). There’s really something for everyone.

How to do it

I’m a former American and I’ve been living in Chile for the great majority of the time since 1996. In my time here, I’ve ended up becoming an active figure in Chilean social and political life and plugged in with a number of influential locals. I am also a citizen of Italy, thus making the EU my “backup” passport.

I’m married to a beautiful Chilean woman, and even though I’ve traveled to 70 countries, I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I have yet to find a place with as much diverse beauty as my adopted country, or one that’s as civilized and welcoming to foreigners. I say this having spent part of the northern summer of 2011 (and some part of nearly every year since then) in Switzerland and Italy. There are certainly some gorgeous places in the world… but I was really glad to come home. My wife and I both agree that Chile is a better place to live.

As a long-term expat in Chile, I helped many members of the Atlas 400 community over the years with whatever they need on the ground in Chile. I run a small consulting service on the side.

You see, Chileans like foreigners very much, especially those from North America, Europe, Israel, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand. It’s one of the most foreigner-friendly places in South America. If you want to live here, you don’t need anything besides a tourist visa—it’s good for 90 days, and you can renew it simply by setting foot over the border in Argentina or Peru every few months. There is also a process to extend the visa to 180 days without leaving the country.

Tourists pay value-added taxes and tariffs on what they purchase in Chile, but pay no income or death taxes, with some restrictions. For example, it’s hard for tourists to get household services like Internet put in their name, buy a car in their name, or open a bank account. They can, however, buy and own real property, and they can obtain Chilean medical insurance coverage. Thus, for perpetual tourists (permanent travelers, passers through, etc.), Chile provides a wonderful Southern Hemisphere location to spend a few months per year.

For those who plan to make Chile their home for the majority of the time over the next five years or so, obtaining permanent residency and citizenship is quite cost-effective. A Chilean passport is respectable and offers visa-free travel to much of the world, including Europe. It enjoys the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) status for the United States.

Chile offers a very transparent and cheap opportunity. Total fees paid to the government depend on your country of origin, but it’s quite low. For US citizens, it’s under US$500. The trade-off, however, is time. Chile requires that a person be in the country a minimum of 185 out of 365 days for the first year (probably changing now to at least 215 days), from the time the initial (temporary or contract) visa is stamped in their passport, in order to qualify for permanent residency and eventual citizenship. Fulfilling this requirement is easy if you actually want to live here (which I highly recommend). But Chile is not a place to buy residency and drop in a few years later for your passport.

Many people will soon be moving to Chile to make it their permanent home. As word gets out, Chile will be added to the map for the best expatriate locations on the globe and a premier destination for those who want low-taxed living, freer markets, social conservatism and great business opportunities. In short, Chile will become a desirable destination where people can easily plan on spending one-half of the year or more.

This is the ground floor. I can’t think of a better time to come down here than before the wave. Obtaining permanent residency in Chile is straightforward. Each temporary visa allows you to bring in one full sea container of household goods absolutely tax-free.

The temporary visa is granted to a person who can justify enough savings, income, pensions or potential investment income (like rental properties, dividends, etc.) to qualify as a retiree, or one who lives off of his investments.

You want to move to Chile and realize all the benefits of residency and eventual citizenship.

I’ll explain the steps:

Preliminary Stage (done before leaving home): All persons desiring a temporary residency visa will need to obtain an official, notarized and apostilled (legalized by the conulate if not a Hague Convention country) marriage licenses, college diplomas or divorce decrees. A birth certificate is no longer required but we recommend you bring one anyway. Overkill is good business when it comes to sailing past bureaucratic hurdles. Non-English/Spnaish/French/Italian/Portugese documents must be translated, certified or apostilled (in the USA by the secretary of state which issued the document). Non-Hague Convention country dcuments must be legalized by the Chilean consulate for your region. If there are multiple Chilean consulates in your country, you need to legalize the document at the consulate that has jurisdiction over where the document came from.

To be clear, unless you ar from Colombia, Peru or the Dominican Republic, there is no home-country police or FBI background check required when the visa is applied for in Chile. That’s one of the nice things about this visa.

Those planning to come to Chile permanently might choose to bring along other translated (into Spanish) and legalized documents as well. These documents are optional but might come in handy in certain circumstances in the future. They include  college transcripts, vaccination records, medical records, professional licenses and concealed weapons permits. For those who like to be prepared for all contingencies, it is worthwhile getting these documents done before leaving home. Again, not required, but it never hurts.

Stage 1 (3 days in-country): First, one enters Chile on a tourist visa obtained at the airport. Citizens of a few countries (e.g., Australia and Mexico) will pay a “reciprocity fee” for the visa. You’ll meet with me or a member of my team, and we’ll take you to a few locations in Santiago to have your documents notarized locally, along with our work contract.

An applicant will also need to have a Chilean address, which is where all mail and notices will be sent. In our program, those who do not already have an address will need to get one (many people buy property in Chile prior to applying for a visa and thus already have an address to use). For a US$400 annual fee, we can arrange an address for you if you don’t have one to receive mail on your behalf, and scan and email it to you and me when it arrives.

Waiting Stage: We will need you physically in Chile for a couple of days to make application. The response to the visa application takes six to twelve weeks to come back to your local address. Usually contract visas come back faster. Sometimes, additional paperwork or documents may be required, but so far our experience has been smooth. This period of time often affords a good opportunity to return to the home country, pack up the container of household goods, and put the house up for sale. Hopefully, all of your liquid assets are already offshore at this point.

Stage 2 (1-2 days in-country): Once the visa is approved, usually in 3 to 5 months, you should try to get to Chile and have the visa stamped in your passport, register with the international police and obtain an ID card called a carné. This process takes another day or two, and the five-year clock to citizenship starts now. Note: under difficult circumstances we can arrange for your passport to be stamped in your absence, using a power of attorney and FedEx. Remember, since you have to spend at least 185 (probably 215) days the first year in Chile in order to qualify for permanent resdiency or naturalization, this clock starts ticking too.

Stage 3 (1-2 days in-country): After being in Chile for a period of time (nine months for the passive investor/retirement visa, twenty-one months with a contract visa), you can apply for permanent residency. A similar process to Stage 1 is involved, with a few added steps like getting a document from the Chilean civil registry showing that you have no local criminal record, a certificate showing how many days have been spent out of the country, and documents showing your local income sources. The package is mailed in (Santiago only), and you can expect to wait a few months to get approved. Upon approval, a new Chilean ID is issued.

Permanent residency: Are there any tax consequences?

Likeunto European countries, permanent residents and citizens who live in Chile are taxed on worldwide income—that means Chilean income or any income they earn abroad and report while they are living in Chile. Chilean income taxes are not paid while living outside of Chile and earning money from a job. Most Chileans who have offshore income do not report it, however, and have little problems unless they try to bring it to Chile. Company income made offshore and that stays offshore is not taxed. Not to mention, corporate tax rates in Chile are only 24%. A lot of people here form a company for their local activities, subjecting them to a much lower rate of taxation.

I’ve read some criticism that tax rates in Chile are quite high. I think most people misunderstand the tax structure here. If you have a high paying job, you’ll pay a marginal rate as high as 35%. You will likely set up a company with a better tax rate and avoid this progressive income tax. I doubt too many people reading this are coming to Chile to find a big six-figure job, though. There are generally no individual capital gains taxes in Chile for assets held over one year. Habitual real estate tradrs might have to pay taxes, especially if they gain more than US$300,000 per year. And foreigners who become new residents of Chile are entitled to a three-year tax holiday on income brought in from overseas.

Next steps

For the program fee, my team will take you through the entire process all the way through permanent residency. You will be responsible for obtaining your documents (we can facilitate this if you need assistance starting out), but once you have documents in hand, we will negotiate through the various steps and handle all the necessary paperwork and administrative procedures. This service entails a lot of handholding and dealing with sundry bureacreatic hurdles thrown into the path.

If you are interested in moving forward, please read the Residency Program Costs page on this site and fill out the form at the bottom. If you desire to consult with me personally, details can be found on the Consultation page.