Long-term transfers

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What are the main work and business permit categories used by companies to transfer skilled staff?

The main work permit used in Chile is the visa subject to employment agreement. This type of visa allows the foreign worker to render personal services for a company with domicile in Chile.

This visa, as indicated by its name, is subject to the employment agreement that causes it, and therefore the visa holder will only be permitted to render services for the hiring company. The termination of the employment agreement is cause for the termination of the visa.

Members of the family who arrive in the country with the foreign worker are also granted the same visa as dependants of the holder, which prevents them from working in Chile. To provide paid services in Chile or start any economic activity, dependants are obliged to change their migratory status to a new condition independent of the visa holder, that suits the intended activity that they plan to carry out.

Procedures

What are the procedures for obtaining these permissions? At what stage can work begin?

In the case of the visa subject to employment agreement, there are two mechanisms for obtaining it.

The first mechanism is to request the visa at any Chilean consulate abroad. The process takes approximately 30 business days to be completed and requires the electronic submission of information and several of the worker’s documents (such as health certificates, family ties, etc), plus an employment agreement duly signed by the employer’s representatives, which shall be signed by the foreign executive before the Chilean consul. Once the visa is granted, a certification is stamped in the alien’s passport by the consul. The document is then delivered solely to the foreign citizen at the consulate. The foreign employee is allowed to start rendering services once the visa has been granted, so this alternative allows entry into the country and work to commence from that moment.

The second mechanism is to apply directly to the Immigration Authority in Chile. The process takes between 90 and 150 calendar days, and requires the employee to submit, by post, personal information and an employment agreement signed by both parties before a Chilean notary. In principle, the employee is allowed to start rendering services once the visa has been granted and it has been stamped in the passport; however, upon filing for the visa, a special permit to work can be requested for the time the visa is being processed (this takes approximately 60 to 90 calendar days to be approved and the cost is 50 per cent of the visa fee).

Period of stay

What are the general maximum (and minimum) periods of stay granted under the main categories for company transfers?

There is no minimum period of stay under the visa subject to employment agreement; however, if the work period will be less than 90 calendar days, an alternative is to request the visa subject to employment agreement from a Chilean consulate abroad or, alternatively, to enter into the country as a tourist and then file for a special permit to work as a tourist (this permit can only be requested directly in Chile).

Visas subject to employment agreements are granted for a maximum period of two years, and can be renewed for the same maximum period as many times as needed. However, on completion of the first two years (or any of the extension periods), the foreign worker can file for a permanent residence permit that will allow him or her to remain in the country indefinitely and work freely for any employer.

Processing time

How long does it typically take to process the main categories?

If the visa subject to employment agreement is requested at a Chilean consulate, the visa process takes approximately 30 business days to complete and, if the submission is made in Chile, it will take 90 to 150 calendar days.

Staff benefits

Is it necessary to obtain any benefits or facilities for staff to secure a work permit?

In broad terms, it is not necessary to grant determined benefits or facilities to secure a work permit, notwithstanding that under the principle of non-discrimination, foreign citizens shall have all the rights and benefits recognised by the Chilean employment law for local employees.

Chilean law provides that, in the case of the visa subject to employment agreement, at the termination of the employment agreement, the employer shall pay the fare of the worker and of any member of his or her family as agreed in the employment contract, to return to his or her country of origin or any third country as agreed by the parties, unless the employee obtains a new visa or is allowed to reside indefinitely in Chile. The employment agreement must contain this obligation in writing, and this is specially supervised by the Chilean Immigration Authority to grant the visa.

Also, in cases of the visa subject to employment agreement, the employment agreement must have a clause indicating that the foreign employee will be affiliated to the Chilean social security system and that the employer will deduct from the salary the social security quotas to finance an old-age pension fund and health insurance. The only exemption to this is for employees who have a university diploma of a professional career or a superior technician diploma, as long as the employee is also affiliated to a social security system abroad that provides coverage in cases of disease, death, disability and old age, in which case the employee can stipulate in the employment agreement his or her continuity in the foreign social security to which he or she is affiliated (in which case the employee will be exempted from contributing to a health and old age pension system, and if done anyway, will be able to withdraw the money saved in an old-age pension fund personal account). This exemption does not extend to unemployment insurance and to insurance for industrial accidents or illness.

Assessment criteria

Do the immigration authorities follow objective criteria, or do they exercise discretion according to subjective criteria?

Immigration authorities apply objective criteria in the vast majority of cases when approving or denying immigration permits and authorisations. However, a certain amount of flexibility can be applied in exceptional cases (eg, in the case of minor convictions).

High net worth individuals and investors

Is there a special route for high net worth individuals or investors?

Yes, high net worth individuals or investors intending to settle in Chile (or who travel for more than 90 calendar days) can apply for a temporary resident visa as rentiers or investors, which is granted for up to one year and at its termination allows the individual to apply for a permanent residence permit.

In the case of high net worth individuals, such persons must provide evidence of the assets that will finance their living expenses in Chile. In the case of investors, the following should be evidenced:

  • a description of the business project or evidence of the existence of a company;
  • the capital owned by the foreign citizen to be invested or already invested in the company; and
  • the means to finance living costs in Chile.

There is no fast track to process the visa request for these kinds of individuals.

Is there a special route (including fast track) for high net worth individuals for a residence permission route into your jurisdiction?

This case is the same as explained in question 16; there is no special treatment for this kind of individual (except the possibility of applying for a permanent residence permit after one year of residence in Chile).

In any case, Chilean law neither outlines a minimum capital to invest in a company nor requires a minimum term to maintain the investment in Chile.

Highly skilled individuals

Is there a special route for highly skilled individuals?

Yes, but only for professionals of the technology sector. In 2017, the investment promotion authority (InvestChile) put in place a special immigration programme known as ‘Visa Tech’, under which a technology company can request a temporary work visa for a candidate; this is processed within 15 business days, provided the following conditions are completed:

  • the foreigner has a professional degree or technical diploma in the areas of science and technology, or the employee is a highlighted individual with experience in innovation;
  • both parties have signed an employment agreement; and
  • the hiring company has sponsorship from any of the following entities:
    • Start Up Chile or Chiletec (for companies that are members of these entities);
    • InvestChile for foreign companies; or
    • Sub secretary of Economy for Chilean companies.

The temporary work visa associated with the Visa Tech programme can only be requested once the employee has entered the country, through the investment promotion authority.

Regarding citizens of countries that must obtain a visa of tourism in Chilean consulates, in reciprocity of the treatment given to Chilean citizens in those countries (see question 6), the Visa Tech programme allows them to request a special tourism visa for business purposes instead of applying for a regular tourism visa, with the sole aim that the candidate for a work position in a sponsored company under this programme can have an expedited entry to Chile. This visa is granted in three business days by the Chilean consulates.

Ancestry and descent

Is there a special route for foreign nationals based on ancestry or descent?

Children born abroad whose parents are Chilean are considered Chilean.

Foreigners with a relationship with a Chilean (spouse, parent or child) may apply for a temporary residence visa.

Minimum salary

Is there a minimum salary requirement for the main categories for company transfers?

There is no minimum salary requirement for transferees; however, companies need to pay at least the legal minimum monthly salary, which is mandatory for any employee working in the country irrespective of nationality. Notwithstanding this, it is important to consider that immigration authorities take a close look at the level of wages to determine whether the foreign worker and his or her family would be able to pay their way in Chile, and the legal minimum monthly salary should not be considered as a reasonable standard for such purpose.

Resident labour market test

Is there a quota system or resident labour market test?

Decree 597 requires that the activity or trade that the foreigner offers to undertake in Chile be essential to the country’s development. However, the authorities do not reject visa applications for not meeting this condition. The Ministry of the Interior reserves the right to request a report from associations and professional colleges to certify the essential nature of the work that is offered.

There is no obligation to offer the position locally or to test the labour pool first.

Nevertheless, Chilean employment law states that the staff of companies with more than 25 workers must be composed of not less than 85 per cent Chilean employees. To determine the proportion, the law does not consider foreign specialist technical workers, among other cases.

Shortage occupations

Is there a special route for shortage occupations?

In 2017, InvestChile introduced the Visa Tech special immigration programme, under which a technology company can request a temporary work visa for a candidate; the visa is processed within 15 business days, provided the completion of certain conditions (see question 18).

In the past, the Chilean government has offered special programmes for professionals, technicians and foreigners with desired occupations (eg, elderly care or disaster prevention) to apply for temporary residence visas; however, no such programme is currently available.

Other eligibility requirements

Are there any other main eligibility requirements to qualify for work permission in your jurisdiction?

In principle, there are no eligibility requirements to qualify for work permission in Chile; however, in the case of doctors and teachers, medical university studies must be validated by the University of Chile and teaching studies by the Education Secretary, except in the case of those countries that have relevant international treaties with Chile.

In the case of those professions that require a university degree under Chilean law to render services of that profession (ie, physicians, engineers, optometrists, journalists, etc), the foreign workers must validate their university degrees at the University of Chile (this is not required when filing for work permission, but the process must be completed to render the services of such profession). Also in the case of engineers, there is an obligation to register the diploma in a public record of engineers managed by the Chilean Engineers Guild.

Third-party contractors

What is the process for third-party contractors to obtain work permission?

In Chile, work permissions must be requested directly by foreign workers and not by companies or other institutions.

On the other hand, there is no problem with an employee hired for a contracting company rendering services in a third company’s premises, as long as the employment relationship between the foreign worker and the contracting company is real, and does not become a de facto employment relationship with the third company.

If the contractor’s employee works in Chile but is paid abroad, it will be necessary to file for a temporary residence visa specially designed for this purpose. Currently, the only way to obtain this permission is to apply for it directly to the Immigration Authority in Chile; it is not yet possible to apply abroad through a Chilean consulate. The process takes between 90 and 150 calendar days, and requires the Chilean company to submit information regarding the foreign employee and the conditions of employment abroad with the contractor, and a description of the services that the person will render in Chile for the foreign company.

In principle, the employee is allowed to start working once the visa has been granted (see question 11).

Recognition of foreign qualifications

Is an equivalency assessment or recognition of skills and qualifications required to obtain immigration permission?

See question 23.