How I Applied For Residency In Chile – But Not My Own

Part – or almost all – of my job includes following my boss’s instructions. He is not Chilean, and neither are any members of his family, so when they moved here he applied for a work and residence visa (visa sujeta a contrato) –  before I was hired.

Then I hopped on the corporate train and one of my first huge tasks was to help the rest of his family members apply for their visas. It was like trying to drive a toaster through a car wash, if I may quote Kevin Bacon in one of the greatest movies of all time.

My boss is the only member of their family that has the right to a principal visa (titular). He is the only one that has a job, and therefore his visa is subject to work contract. So, his family members had to apply as his dependents.

The application itself is pretty simple. Name, DOB, birth country, passport number, education level, current visa (in their case, tourist visa as that is how they entered Chile), etc. Then, they needed all sorts of other papers.

The huge catch is that in order for them to prove themselves as legitimate dependents of the principal visa holder, they need to attach his kids birth certificates and his marriage certificate to the application package. This is easy enough if you are married or are born in Chile, but being foreigners, it is an unlikely scenario. One child was born in Africa, the other was born in South America and my boss and his wife were married in Europe. Deep breaths.

First off, if the marriage or birth takes place in a country other than Chile, the Immigration Department requires that the original certificate bear a stamp from the Chilean consulate in the country where the certificate was issued. It would be nice if the Immigration Department put this in huge bold letters on their website before foreigners come to Chile and discover they probably need a stupid stamp 5,000 miles in the other direction. After the certificate is stamped, it needs to be brought to the Department of Exterior Relations at Agustinas 1320 in Santiago Centro for another stamp. Then, if the original is not in Spanish, it needs to be translated at another counter at the same address. The cost is per word, and the wait time is usually 10 days, or 5 days expedited and pay extra. Then and only then can you make a photocopy of all translated pages, all stamps and the original certificate to send with the visa application. Don’t send the original, it will get lost in an Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole and you’ll never see it again.

Well, you can imagine my horror nearly two years ago when I discover that I need stamped birth and marriage certificates at the Chilean consulates on three different continents before I can do anything else. Mission:Impossible. On top of that, a Chilean consulte does not even exist in the African country where one certificate was issued. It had to be redirected to the consulate in Kenya or South Africa.  Head:Exploding . This was just impossible for me to organize on my own, so the company had to hire a very pricey company to get someone to do this for us, and it still took them over a month. Crown Relocations, I wouldn’t recommend them. At least not their operations in Chile. They were disorganized and our account manager left their company in the middle of the process and no one told us.

Long story long, they got their visas.

Now, here I am, almost two years later, a seasoned war-visa-veteran. Once you have held temporary residency for one year (my case) or residency subject to work contract for two years (my boss’s case), you qualify to apply for permanent residency. It takes longer to approve, but the benefits far outweigh the wait. If you are not out of Chile for more than a year, it never expires, and you only have to renew your ID card every five years, instead of having to have a new ID issued every time you renew your temporary, work, student visa.

You are allowed to apply 90 days before expiration of the current visa, so I got things in order for them early.

The translated requirements for those with a work visa transitioning to apply for permanent residency:

1. General Documentation (including principal holder and all dependents in the following order)

  • Permanent Residency Application sent by mail, completed fully and signed.
  • Background check (certificado de antecedentes para fines especiales) issued by the Civil Registry (Registro Civil) – certificate not necessary for minors under 18
  • Peruvian nationals 18 and older must attach an original, valid background check issued by the Peruvian Consulate in Chile (located on Antonio Bellet 444 in Providencia)
  • Colombian nationals 18 and older must attach an original, valid Judicial Certificate issued by the Colombian Consulate in Chile.
  • Dominican Republic nationals 18 and older much attach a valid background check issued by the Dominican Consulate in Chile.
  • Travel Certificate, original, complete and updated, corresponding to the last year of residency. This document is issued by the PDI – Border Control Police (not necessary for those who are applying as a dependent) – located at Eleuterio Ramirez 852 in Santiago Centro.
  • Photocopy of both sides of Chilean ID card (optional for minors under 18, but if one was issued for them, include a photocopy)
  • Photocopy of passport, including ID pages and all visas that give purpose to request for permanent residency.
  • Personal letter indicating motives for requesting permanent residency.
  • 3 ID sized photographs (3x2cms) in color per applicant, with name and ID N°.

2. Specific documentation required for the Principal Visa Holder

  • Copy of valid work contract and any previous work contracts.
  • Certificate of validity of work contract signed before a notary (original)
  • Copies of any contract terminations (if applicable).
  • Certificate of past contributions to your AFP (retirement) and Health insurance of your last visa year (AFP, INP, ISAPRE).
  • Certificate of marriage or birth in the case of acquiring links with a Chilean spouse or child.

3. Specific documentation required for dependents

  • If you are a spouse of the principal candidate, attach a simple photocopy of your marriage certificate
  • If you are the child of the principal candidate, attach a simple photocopy of your birth certificate that indicates the parent’s names.
  • If you are the mother or father of the principal candidate, attach a simple photocopy of the principal candidate’s birth certificate indicating the parent’s names.
  • Accredit economic support via an affidavit of Expenses (Declaración Jurada de Expensas), issued by the principal visa applicant signed before a notary public, signaling that he/she will assume all maintenance costs in Chile of all dependents that are requesting permanent residency.

So yeah, that’s it! Easy peasy lemon squeezy, right??

Now, if you’re busy like my boss is and don’t have time to go running around the country getting all of these papers, you can hire a pretty assistant to do it all for you. Enter Amy.

In order for me to get all of these things for my boss instead of him or any of his family members, I needed notarial declarations from them indicating that I was the person allowed to get these documents. It can’t just be simple and be one big letter, because at every office they keep the letters for a collection or something.

Obviously, there were certain things I could not do for them, like getting their photos taken. But the main things I needed notarial approval from them were for the Travel Certificates issued by the PDI (only required for my boss) and the Background check issued by the Civil Registry (for my boss and his wife). They needed to do the leg work getting to a notary and sending me the letters, but I suppose that takes less time than waiting in line at these offices.

Thank the Dear Lord that I had already gone through getting their marriage and birth certificates the first time, so it was just a matter of his family sending me another photocopy.

The PDI proved to be the biggest headache for me this time around. Previously, you just handed them your Chilean ID card and they printed out a certificate saying when you had entered and exited the country. This time, I get in line for a number and the extremely overdressed, extremely cranky employee handed me a form to fill out and also explained that I needed a photocopy of their passport, including all exit and entry stamps from Chile. Hello? Aren’t you guys the ones that issue that information? Why do I need to give you information that you are in charge of? That’s like a 1st grader having to hand in a photocopy of their report card back to their teacher when it’s in front their face on the computer screen.  Yeah, that’s exactly what that is like. Why do government offices in this country refuse to publish important information on their websites?  Unanswered questions for this lifetime.

So, defeated, I went into work and had to ask my boss to send me a scan of all of his exit and entry stamps. This guy is a seasoned traveller. He sent me back thirteen pages of entry and exit stamps from his passport. He’s been living in Chile for less than two years. The PDI should give him some kind of award.

I went back the next day with my notarized letters and thirteen (completely unnecessary) pages of stamps, wait an hour for my turn, and get told by the other disgruntled employee that I will need another notarized letter to pick up the certificate in five days. You simply must be joking. I tried my best not to argue while explaining the stupidity of that request.

“That makes no sense, you keep the letter, so why do I need to bring another one to pick up the certificate?”

“I don’t know, I don’t make the rules”

“You used to be able to get this certificate at the moment of requesting it, so now why are two letters needed”

“I don’t know, I don’t make the rules”

*Face Palm* I swear they install chips in these officers to automatically respond to any prying question.

So I’m thinking, this is absolutely ridiculous. I went to the counter where in five supposed days my certificate will be ready and start explaining the stupidity of the situation to another person. I guess I stumbled across the head honcho, and he wrote his name on the back of my ticket and told me to speak to him if they gave me any issues when I came to pick it up. Finally, a win.

I went to pick it up last Friday and no one said anything about having another letter, so it was all in vain.

This was the 6th time I have mailed in an application package for a Chilean visa. I’m enough of an expert to start doing this as a living. If you’re having a problem, chances are I know the solution.

Attached are some drafts that may help you out:

carta personal permanent residency

declaración jurada de expensas

carta notarial certificado de antecedentes registro civil

carta notarial certificado de viajes PDI

Oh The Legality!

Joaquin is almost one whole entire month old. In baby years, that’s well into his teens. He is so close to smiling, starting to focus on objects, and has the kick of a seasoned soccer player. Let’s just send him off to college, already!

Things he likes: sleeping, moving in the car (puts him to sleep), moving in the stroller (puts him to sleep), moving in the baby carrier (puts him to sleep), being carried around the apartment (puts him to sleep). So…anything that puts him to sleep we count as “things he likes” (maybe it should be called, “things WE like”).

Things he does NOT like: getting his diaper changed (being cold and naked), getting a bath (being cold and naked) and gas pains, both out the top and the bottom end. The gas pains started about a week ago, and of course I can relate. Who wouldn’t get upset at a blocked fart or belch that causes major intestinal cramping? I’d cry when it was happening to me…if it was adult-appropriate. Which it is not.

We spent a good part of the first two weeks collecting documents upon documents and reading rules upon rules for his citizenship, passports, insurance policy, retirement plan, and 401k. Maybe not the last two, but I didn’t get a lot of sleep those first two weeks, so I’m sure we signed him up for something weird and unnecessary but it made sense in the moment.

Mr. Fancy is Chilean and American so he is already an entitled baby that gets two passports, two citizenships and get this: two different last names. Chile makes you have two last names after the father and the mother, even if the father is a deadbeat or the mom is a flake and can’t figure out who the father is. Chile’s (and I’m pretty sure most of Latin America) last name system works like this: 1st last name is your fathers last name, 2nd last name is your mothers last name. When you get married, women don’t change their last name.

Here’s your one and only lesson on last names in Latin America –

For example, if Andrés name was Andrés Frogmaster Pinkerton (please understand this is just a ‘for instance’), “Frogmaster” is his father’s first last name, and Pinkerton is his mother’s first last name. Then, if my name were to be Amy Fluffybear Puffypants, that means that my father’s first last name is Fluffybear and my mother’s first last name is Puffypants. Now, when Joaquin was born, you take Andrés’ (the father) first last name and my (the mother) first last name and you get Joaquin’s official last name. Did you figure out what his official name would be? — If you chose Joaquin Wesley Frogmaster Fluffybear, you win a pat on the back. And if you are truly wondering if these are our real last names, they’re really really not. I just don’t want to make the NSA’s job too easy.

So, if the father is a no-show or deadbeat or the mom is unsure of who the dad actually is, then the Chilean government gives the baby the mom’s last name twice…for instance: Juan Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez or Maria Teresa Perez Perez.

If you still don’t understand, look it up on Wikipedia. I’m sure they explain it better than how I am attempting to.

This is also why I have yet to change my last name to Andrés’. Lots of document changes and they just don’t do it here in Chile. If/When we move back to the States, I’ll change it then…for the four of you who care about this information!

And then, as most of you know, he just has one last name in the United States.

A lot of people also ask me how he can be a dual citizen as most people think that it’s not allowed between many different countries, but there are always exceptions. For Joaquin’s case, his mom and his dad have separate nationalities. In Chile, the law states that if one parent is a Chilean, the child has a birthright to become a Chilean citizen, no matter what country he/she is born in. The United States has a similar rule, but with exceptions. If one parent is American and the child is born outside of the United States, the American parent has to have lived 5 total years in the USA and another 2 years after the parent turns 14 years old prior to the child’s birth. Us gringos love weird rules. If Joaquin was born in the United States, he would automatically become a USA citizen no matter if Andres and I were Americans or not (a rule I believe they need to change). This kind of rule does not apply in many countries, including Chile. If Andres and I were both Americans and neither a Chilean citizen and with Joaquin being born in Chile, Joaquin would not have the right to become a Chilean because neither parent is Chilean even though he was born in Chile. Um, yeah. That’s my best attempt at explaining why he can be a halfie-halfie. I will encourage you to look this up on Wikipedia as well if you still don’t understand…though I’m not so sure you’ll find a better explanation as this one, because I’ve never been able to find one.

Last Monday we went to the Civil Registry (aka the happiest place in all of Chile) and signed him up for his Chilean passport and ID card. Other than waiting our turn in the ‘preferential line’, it was a fairly simple process. They’re not as anal about the passport photo as the Americans are. They only needed our ID numbers, filled in some information, and gave us a confirmation sheet to pick them up in a week. We got to skip the terribly long line because we had super-baby-powers.

Then on Tuesday we got to head over to the US embassy to apply for his US citizenship and US passport. This trip proved to be a little bit more document-ridden than for his Chilean stuff. First of all, they have 30 rules for the passport photo, even though the poor child cannot control his facial expressions, has zero neck strength and sleeps all day long. Both ears have to be showing, his eyes have to be open, chin has to be visible, mouth has to be closed, no parents hands or fingers can be visible, it has to be against a white or off-white background and probably three other things I can’t think of after the fact. AKA: mission impossible. Literally. After about 60 attempts this is the one we settled on:


Terrified. Totally terrified.

I took it to one of the photo printing stores that the embassy recommended, and the guy said, ‘oh, if you had taken it against a solid color background with no texture I could have changed it to a complete white background on photoshop’. Good information to know after the fact. Not.

I got the photos printed and collected the 35 things they asked me to bring to prove I’m American enough to pass my American-ness on to my son. So last Tuesday, I brought my passport, my high school transcript, my college transcript, copies of medical records (some from 1988, thanks for being organized, mom), pay stubs from my job at a doctor’s office from 2005-2008, two filled out applications for his passport and citizenship, Andres’ passport, his birth certificate, my birth certificate, and other things I don’t have space in my brain to remember. And the kicker was that they asked for photocopies of everything “just in case” they needed to hold on to something. After all that nonsense with Edward Snowden, I am having a hard time believing that the United States government has a hard time figuring out if I have not lived in the United States for less than five years prior to my son’s birth. Do you really need to see my high school transcript?

We get to the appointment and they call our names and I start presenting the book of information I had collected, page by page. We get to the passport photo and I ask her if it looks acceptable and she has the gall to giggle and say, “of course that’s fine, he’s just a baby!” Are you for real? Are you and cute little giggle aware of the rules you have on your website?? I pretended like I didn’t hear her and move on.

Joaquin protested to the whole endeavor by the end of it and was wailing for his lunch, so we let him disturb the peace for a bit and made our way out. If everything works out, we’ll have his papers back in another two to three weeks. Hopefully not much later than that, we do have to leave the country in March. We picked up his Chilean passport this morning so one down…one to go.

All in the meantime, mommy is living on an expired visa because apparently it takes the Chilean government seven months to reopen my case file and say “approved just like the last three visas”.

To. Be. Continued.Always.And.Forever.