As an extranjero in Santiago, Chile, you will almost certainly need to visit the Extranjeria (the Chilean immigration office) at some point, for example if applying for a temporary residency visa, permanent residency, or simply extending your tourist visa. So where can you find this building, and most importantly, how can you avoid queueing when you get there?
Firstly, it’s important to know that the queue for the Extranjeria is fairly well-renowned for being absolutely gargantuan. It’s common to see the line extending out of the room, down two flights of stairs, out of the building and halfway around the next block. There are horror stories abound from foreigners who have waited 5 hours in the queue only to be told that the department has closed and they need to return the next day.
Luckily there are a few things you can do to minimise your queueing time and get served and out of there as quickly as possible. Recently, the Extranjeria introduced a new online reservation system. Simply go to this web page and sign up with your name and passport number for the time you would like to reserve.
This system is still fairly new and hardly anybody knows about it yet, so it’s easy to get an appointment within a couple of weeks. I needed to check the status of my permanent residency application, so I made an appointment for 9am this morning, and in a surreal daze I breezed past a line that stretched out of the building and two blocks down the street. On the ground floor, I simply told the guard I had a time reserved and he waved me right on past the crowd of people straight up to the third floor. I took a ticket, sat down for 20 minutes and finished my business before 9.30am.
For those of you that don’t know the Chilean Extranjeria, this kind of stress-free experience is completely unheard of. I absolutely 100% recommend using this method to book online beforehand, rather than waiting in line since 5am like those other poor foreigners who didn’t know about the online booking system. Personally, I’m just glad the Chilean government has finally decided to take some action on tackling the overloading of the immigration department.
The official opening hours are from 9:00 to 14:00 Monday to Friday. If you don’t have a reservation, you’d better get there before 7am or you will most likely wait the whole day and not be admitted.