The first and most obvious option for living in Chile is the tourist visa. Practically everyone starts off with this, it’s the one they stamp your passport with when you arrive.
- Costs nothing and is issued on entry to the country with no hassles (possibly dependent on your country of origin – see below)
- Valid for 90 days
- May be extended one time per visa for an additional 90 days from within Chilean borders (at the Extranjería in Santiago or any Regional capital. The price is US$ 100. Santiago address: San Antonio 580 piso 2, metro stop Plaza de Armas.)
- May be reissued indefinitely by crossing the border for a few hours and returning
- You may not legally work in Chile on this visa
- You can do almost everything else on this visa including owning property, although for some services such as renting apartments and internet, you will need a RUT number
- You cannot apply for insurance, own firearms or open a bank account with this visa
If you are a citizen of Canada, Europe or the United States (among many others) immigration will stamp your passport and give you a tarjeta de turismo upon arrival in the country. Do not lose this small, scrappy piece of paper as immigration will request it again when you leave the country or if you file for any other type of visa while in Chile.
If you are an idiot like me and you lose this slip of paper (like I did – note the “DUPLICADO” stamp above) you can request a new one at the Policia Internacional. They will present you with a new one for free, although they will probably moan at you for being a stupid gringo.
This visa is valid for 90 days and can be renewed indefinitely by leaving the country and re-entering again. Many expats have actually been living permanently in Chile on a tourist visa and doing this for years.
The favored way to renew your tourist visa is to take a day trip to Mendoza, Argentina and stay overnight, and come back the next day. You can drive or take the bus. Views are supposedly spectacular and Mendoza is a beautiful city.
You may also extend each tourist visa one time to 180 days at the Departamento de Extranjería in Santiago at a cost of about US$100.
Warning: There are rumblings from the Chilean government that they may take steps in the near future to tighten up the borders. At some point, indefinitely renewing the tourist visa may cease to be an option. So don’t count on it.
Depending on which country issued your passport, you may have to pay an Entry Reciprocity Fee on arrival. This is a one-off fee that Chile imposes in response to the fees charged by the respective foreign countries to Chilean citizens. You must pay this after getting off the plane before proceeding to immigration control.
The amount of the reciprocity fee depends on your nationality:
- Australia – US$ 61
- Albania – US$ 30
- Canada – US$ 132
- United States – US$ 140
- Mexico – US$ 23
If you come from any other country you don’t need to pay anything.
The receipt for payment is attached to your passport and is valid for the life of your passport.
You only need to pay the reciprocity fee if arriving through Santiago airport (this means if you’re coming in by land, you don’t pay a cent).