Why You Should NOT Move to Santiago, Chile

People in Santiago without air conditioning crowd the beaches of Viña del Mar in summer. Photo courtesy of Cynthya Silva Cabrera via Flickr.

The most popular post on this blog for 2 years describes why Chile is the best country to move to, mainly because the constant flow of terrible news about the economies of Europe and the fall of the United States drives some people to seek an alternative; but, relocating to Chile is a poor choice for many people. This post is now the most popular because I discuss the prospects for foreigners who aspire to work in Chile, the topic people care most about.

The biggest problem with Chile is that it is difficult for a foreigner to find work, and the available jobs outside the mining industry pay substantially less than in the USA and Europe. Humans are a tribal species and every country subscribes to the false idea that foreigners take jobs from locals without spending money to create demand for local goods and services. Chile does not allow foreigners or Chileans to easily open businesses and the government forces companies in Chile with more than 25 employees to hire at least 85% Chileans, leaving little room for foreigners (Article 19 of the Labor Code).

A prudent migrant saves enough to stay in Santiago for a year, as that is the amount of time that may be required to secure employment. The good news for foreign women is that companies prefer foreign to Chilean women. The government requires companies to take care of Chilean women who become pregnant so most companies avoid or are reluctant to hire young women. Foreign women are expected to be independent so companies are more willing to hire them.

Many foreigners teach English, as Chileans highly value native speakers, but the pay is low. Emily gives tips on finding a job in Chile that you might find useful. If you have any other tips, add them to the comments in her post or this one. Most people avoid commenting so anything remotely useful is appreciated by readers all over the world. Jim Karger makes great suggestions for foreigners to earn a living in Mexico that are mostly applicable to Chile, too.

Chile also makes it absurdly difficult to start a business. According to Nathan Lustig, who has lived in Chile for 3 years, it takes 9 weeks and costs $4260 to start a business in Chile. He is underestimating the cost; he doesn’t count the value of his labor in coping with the functionaries. And, if you’re a Unitedstatesian dismayed that your nosy government has been snooping on every phone call made in the country during the last 7 years, Nathan reports that Chile requires fingerprints to open a bank account and “these barriers to business creation shield the elites and entrenched interests in power and prevent competition and entrepreneurship.” The same process takes $185 and 30 minutes in the USA and requires no fingerprints.

Chileans in government and the private sector are addicted to paperwork:

In Chile one grows accustomed to waiting in line. Want to get a refund from the health insurance company? Wait in line. Want to deposit a check? Wait in line. Want to get a copy of your marriage certificate? Wait in line although some of that has moved onto the web. But the time people spend at the notary borders on the ridiculous….

In the USA you rarely needed any document notarized. But here in Chile under the 70 year old system the law stipulates that many documents be notarized. So if you buy or sell a car: go to the notary. Start a new job: go to the notary. Quit the same job: go to the notary again. Rent an apartment: go to the notary.

La Tercera newspaper says the notary business generates gross revenues of between $150 million USD and $180 million USD according to their own guild. 20,000 transactions are processed per year whose costs are from $1 USD to $12 USD and $60 USD and more for more extensive transactions….

The government of Chile recognizes that this system is a drain on the economy so various reform proposals have been put forth. Change was tried under the previous president Bachelet, but those bills went nowhere in the congress. Now the government proposes increasing the number of notaries–currently there are a precious few 400–getting them to use technology, fostering competition between them, and offering some oversight by the consumer protection agency (SERNAC). The Economics Ministry suggests they “…establish that the notaries and clerks of court use technology in order that the registered users can upload or send their documents electronically and consult documents online.”

The government recently removed some obstacles, according to Mary O’Grady of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ):

The country’s rank in the World Bank’s Doing Business survey deteriorated from 2006 to 2010 but the decline has been reversed in the past two years, with Chile moving up to 39th from 53rd. Other Piñera objectives include reducing waiting time for environmental impact studies, eliminating regulatory redundancies, cutting import tariffs and opening sea and air ports to foreign competition. The number of days it takes to start a business is down to seven from 27 and will soon be reduced to one.

Michelle Bachelet is the President and she is likely to reverse much of the progress because Chile is skeptical of capitalism. For instance, she has proposed to increase the corporate tax rate from 20% to 35% and remove the ability to delay paying taxes on earnings that are reinvested rather than distributed to shareholders. O’Grady of the WSJ continues:

A “temporary” corporate tax increase to 18.5% from 17% in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake is now being raised to 20% and made permanent. Tax cuts for individuals meant to offset those increases may not pass in Congress because Mr. Piñera’s coalition does not have a majority.

The tax increase, a strong economy, and more borrowing have sharply grown government. It is unclear whether it will grow fast enough to strangle the economy.

Investors are losing confidence in Chile, causing a decline in the IPSA index of stocks in 2012-13 after soaring for 20 years. Many countries prosper for two decades but only Hong Kong, South Korea, and Singapore maintained growth for 50 years. Chile might grow at a slow rate or stagnate in the future, especially if they continue to be complacent, allowing the government to expand and strangle the economy.

Chile has enacted restrictive labor laws that hinder businesses; at least one foreign investor is waging a capital strike against Chile. Chile has passed other idiotic laws such as prohibiting McDonald’s and other fast food chains from putting toys in Happy Meals.

John Cobin has lived in Santiago for 15 years and wrote, Things that Americans (and Canadian, Australians, Europeans, among others) will Hate about Chile. He claims, “some Chilean men will consider it good sport to try to sleep with your wife.” This is true, and if you’re a single man at a party and talk to a married woman, her husband will scowl at you because he thinks that you want to sleep with her. On the bright side, if you’re trapped underground in a mine for a few months, your wife and girlfriend will be overjoyed to see you again when you emerge at the surface. Adultery is common not only in Chile but in all Latin America.

Cobin identifies major problems with managing a business in Chile that applies to all Latin America:

90% or more of Chileans do not tell the truth (or avoid telling the truth), since they never like to say “no” or admit that they do not know something. Few lie with the intent to deceive or mislead you intentionally, but many will tell you something that is not true in order that you not be offended (e.g., “I will call you tomorrow”). Chileans use a culturally-accepted lie which “everyone knows” is not true and therefore does not count as a “real” lie made with the intent to deceive. Americans will have a very hard time understanding this difference in practice. Many of them are also willing to cheat, especially on tests or assignments in school, and plenty of people from the lower middle and poor classes will steal from you if they have a chance. Worse yet, they will treat you as if you are a liar….

Chilean people, workers in particular, do not perform or follow through. Nor do they communicate to let you know they have a problem, thus wasting your time as well if you are waiting for them to perform or depending on them.

The Spanish language makes it convenient to “avoid telling the truth” through the use of the subjunctive mood. English includes the subjunctive but it is not as heavily used as the Spanish.

Pollution in Santiago, Chile in May, 2008. Photo courtesy of Viernest via Flickr.

The most common complaint about Santiago is that it is polluted in winter. According to UrbanPeek, pollution in Santiago is higher than every city in the world except Beijing and New Delhi. The Bellas Artes neighborhood near the Santa Lucia hill is so polluted that real estate costs less than other parts of the city, even though it is attractive and sports narrow streets that are easy for pedestrians to navigate. However, Nathan Lustig believes that the adjacent Lastarria neighborhood suffers the same air but streets are quieter and real estate values higher, suggesting that air pollution does not cause decreased housing demand.

Santiago pollution is caused by several factors: the surrounding mountains, heavy vehicle use in a densely populous city of 6 million, industries such as the power plant south in Rancagua, powering copper mine refining using coal rather than nuclear at El Teniente, one of the largest mines in the world.

Mary and I reckon that the pollution during the southern hemisphere summer is similar to cities in the western USA such as Los Angeles, Denver, and Phoenix. If air pollution repels you, the coastal city of Viña del Mar warrants consideration. A bigger problem for non-smokers like us is air at restaurants in Santiago, polluted with so much cigarette smoke that it is nearly impossible to find an outdoor table on Friday and Saturday nights; one must eat in non-smoking indoor areas. Chileans are the heaviest smokers in the Americas; 39% of men smoke daily compared to 20% in the USA and 10% in Costa Rica. I Love Chile describes Santiago pollution:

During environmental alerts, when the air contamination is higher than 300 micrograms by cubic meter, some emergency measures that are applied include the restriction on vehicles that do not have a catalytic converter and restrictions on some industrial activity. The city also has a Decontamination Plan, which includes requiring filters on all public transport, regulation of wood heaters and standardization of the other heaters as well as reduction of nitrogen oxides emissions by the industries…

Last week, after four consecutive days of environmental alerts, the issue of the parameters for these emergency signals caused controversy. The Senator Guido Girardi, a member of the health committee, criticized the way the calculation is done and the alerts are set, which should also include thin particulate materials that are harmful to human health. In several interviews with the Chilean national media he affirmed that the data given by the government should be more transparent and that the levels to decree environmental alert should be stricter. During an interview with CNN Chile he said, “It is evident that if more environmental alerts are decreed in Santiago, it will paralyze industrial activity. And there is an industrial lobby who makes sure this does not happen.”

The cost of electric power in Chile is double that of the USA, so most people in Santiago live in homes without air conditioning, even though the city is as hot as Denver in summer. People cope by swimming in pools, taking cold showers, and vacationing on the coast.

Chile is as expensive as Denver, Phoenix, and Austin, although it is cheaper than Europe, New York, and California. Mexico and Panama are better destinations for people seeking economical value in a pleasant climate.

Chile insults foreigners by chasing us out of the country like dogs every 90 days even though we’ve committed no crimes, and refusing to allow us to open bank accounts, forcing the use of ATM machines, where the banks chisel us with fees. Bankers are crooks that run politics in every country, and it’s revolting to subsidize their incompetence. Chile suffered a banking crisis in 1981-83, resulting in a heavily regulated banking system that stifles competition from foreign banks. Only one of the 10 largest banks in Chile is a foreign bank. In contrast, Mexico suffered a banking crisis in 1995; today only two of the 10 largest banks are Mexican, 80% are foreign.

Argentina restricts many freedoms but welcomes foreigners more than Chile and Open Borders reports that Argentina recognizes freedom of movement as a human right. Argentina only considers deporting illegal immigrants who commit crimes, and according to their Constitution, “may not restrict, limit, or burden with any tax whatsoever the entry into Argentine territory of foreigners whose purpose is tilling the soil, improving industries, and introducing and teaching the sciences and the arts.”

Immigrants comprise only 2.7% of the Chilean population, compared to 4.2% in Argentina, 13% in the USA and 20% in Canada. Chile is much richer than Peru and Bolivia but does not accept many migrants.

Chile wants to increase population not by encouraging immigration but by bribing Chilean women to bear more children ($200 for their third child, $300 for their fourth and $400 for their fifth). Apparently, legislators believe that it’s preferable to risk having a native on the dole than for a skilled foreigner to carry his own weight.

It’s difficult to be a tenant or landlord in Chile. The meddling government forces landlords to suffer deadbeat tenants in rental units for 4 months prior to eviction, so most landlords require tenants to find a cosigner who is responsible for the rent if the tenant doesn’t pay. As a result, I was rejected 3 times for apartments and it took a month to find one, although one of the landlords would have accepted me as long as I paid 12 months rent in advance. Not only does this make it difficult to be a renter, but real estate is also a primary option for foreigner investors who want to avoid the risk of buying a small business.

Julia Thiel of the Chicago Reader reports that Chileans were the worst roommates she ever had. After reading her stories, any rational foreigner would avoid living with Chileans. It might be prudent to avoid marrying one, too.

Chile has enjoyed a thriving economy protected by a capitalist Constitution for 20 years but capitalism may be losing the battle of ideas. Michael Bachelet and other socialists are threatening to eviscerate the Constitution and drastically expand the government. Forbes magazine fears for the end of the Chilean economic miracle. The Communist Party increased their representation in the main house of the bicameral legislature from 3 to 6 seats of 120 in the 2013 election. The election was the biggest political disaster in Chile of the last 20 years because Chileans are not convinced that capitalism has allowed them to prosper.

Universities in Chile operate as Communist institutions; profits are illegal. Although there is widespread support for this oppression in the USA and Europe, too, I believe that universities ought to earn a profit like any other entertainment business such as a bookstore, movie theater, club, or studio that teaches people to cook or play musical instruments. Non-profits always use government scams to advance their interests and hide their profits. People should be proud to earn a profit; the lionization of socialism should be shameful.

The Bachelet campaign to expand the government includes hiring 6000 new Carbineers, the national police that once carried carbines, to the existing force of 40,000, and many will be deployed in Santiago. They are unnecessary because Chile has the lowest crime rate in Latin America; the police will become entrenched and used against the citizens sooner or later.

The Chilean government subsidizes many businesses such as salmon and trout farmers. The Start-Up Chile (SUC) program hands out $40,000 to small tech businesses, originally temporarily for 12 rounds and exclusively to foreigners, now permanently to foreigners and Chileans. SUC and other business subsidies are supported by both major political coalitions and a government, CORFO, doles out the money.

Chile admires the rich countries of Europe and the USA; many Chileans want a nanny state, too, and have enacted many laws for the purpose. For example, packaged foods and soft drinks high in saturated fat, sugar, or salt soon will carry prominent markers on the front of the package, warning that the food is unhealthy. A majority of Chileans wear helmets when bicycling.

Chile is the richest country in Latin America but the greatest benefits accrue to the richest 20% of the people. In Uruguay, the bottom 80% of the population is slightly richer than the bottom 80% of Chileans. Both countries have become richer at the same rate during the last 5 years but Chile grew faster during the previous 10 years.

Airline service to Chile is poor. Mary and I flew at reasonable cost from Panama the last two winters, but the price doubled to $1600. We decided to live winters in the USA and Mexico. We miss Santiago and perhaps we’ll return someday.

Immigration to Chile has tripled in 7 years, from 60,280 in 2006 to 158,128 in 2013. Chile offers many advantages for potential migrants as I discuss in Why You Should Move to Santiago, Chile.

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108 Responses to Why You Should NOT Move to Santiago, Chile

  1. pj says:

    Have you already left Chile, Mark?

  2. mysticaltyger says:

    That comment about the bankers being crooks running the show in every country sure is true! I hope the people of the world soon get wise to it and revolt against them!

    Thanks for sharing facts about Santiago. I have visited and would like to live there but I don’t think I have enough saved to lived there indefinitely without a job. I’ll have to keep working on my portfolio.

  3. Linda says:

    =While I absolutely despise living in Santiago, I think you need to clarify that you didn’t actually ever live here–you came on an extended vacation. I am here on a work visa (U.S. citizen), so I don’t get kicked out every 90 days, and I was allowed to open a bank account. It was absolutely no trouble finding a job here–in fact, it was much easier than it ever has been for me in the U.S.! I’ve had so many great offers that I’ve taken multiple jobs and even had to turn down some good opportunities. I did have some trouble finding a place to live at first (because I don’t have permanent residency yet), but what I’ve found most about Chile is that it pays to have connections, so try to get to know some of the locals. I do not enjoy living in Santiago, but I think that is mostly because I am just not a big-city person. Next year, I’ll move to a smaller city (but still in Chile)

    • Mark says:

      I only stayed in two cities in Chile so it wasn’t an extended vacation. I spent nearly all my time in Santiago.

      Most people don’t come on a work visa because it’s difficult to persuade someone to hire you from thousands of miles away and it’s impossible to get a work visa if you employ yourself. I’m glad you found it easier to find work in Chile than the USA; I suspect that others have the same experience. It pays to have connections in Chile and that’s a problem; rich countries more closely resemble a meritocracy. I hope the Chilean economy continues to grow faster than other countries; we all live better lives when countries compete for citizens, capital, tourists, and workers.

    • Chrystia says:

      May I ask what you do, and what passport(s) you hold?

      • Chrystia says:

        Those questions for Linda!

      • Mark says:

        I travel the world and am insulted by passports. People should be free to travel as they please.

        • Nathan says:

          Well, that explains a lot… Chile and specially Santiago is not the place for “travelling the wolrd (and staying there for a loooong time)”, it is home to over 17 million people (6.3 in Santiago)… Housng is already quite expensive de to the extense population of the urban area. You probably where living in a terrible cheap side of town and got what you would’ve got living on the cheap areas of NY.

          • Mark says:

            You can see a great deal of the world without leaving Chile because the north and south are very different and the Andes mountains are different from the coast. It’s a pity that Chile deports tourists every 90 days.

    • shubhendu says:

      Hi Linda,

      Saw your sharing of experience in Santiago. I was trying to make a move abroad. And Chile was one destination I would love to spend few years of my Life.
      Need a feedback about your life in there, as you are the only one who saw a good Job offers and I got interested in your Job profile. Looking forward to hear from you.

  4. Alex says:

    “Chile insults foreigners by throwing us out of the country every 90 days”?! Seriously? A tourist visa in most countries in the world last for 90 days, some are even 30 days, and unlike Brazil (or the US) Chile does not require North American citizens to apply for a special tourist visa. If you take into account how hard and expensive it is for any Chilean citizen to obtain a tourist visa to the US, I think you’d think twice about feeling “insulted” by having our government let you stay for 3 months and paying reciprocity just once (unlike a US visa, which needs to be paid every single time).
    If you have a grudge against the visa system used worldwide, that’s fair enough. But feeling insulted because our government applies immigration laws (which are amazingly lax by US standards) makes you sound like a spoiled tourist who believes the world owes them everything just because they’re from a richer country.

    • Mark says:

      Mexico and Canada compete against Chile in tourism by allowing foreigners to stay in their countries for 180 days. Mexico and Canada are closer to Europe and the USA than Chile, so Chile has placed itself at a disadvantage. Tourism to Mexico is at least 20x higher than to Chile. If you want to entice people to your country then you must create a better offering than your competitors. The USA government can afford to treat tourists like garbage because it rules a vast and rich land and would prosper even more if it refrained from insulting foreigners.

      Chile ought to choose more carefully the country it emulates.

      • Curtis Lull says:

        We have plenty of tourists here. If you don’t like the rules of Chile, visit some other country and have a nice visit. I have lived here for over 15 years. I came in on a tourist visa, liked the place, found a job and got a visa. It’s not paradise, especially during rush hour, but it’s a nice place to live in or visit. We don’t need air conditioning here, we have windows.

        • Mark says:

          Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad to hear you’ve been successful in Chile. How do you earn money?

        • Steven says:

          There’s that Chilean attitude right there ‘well if you don’t like it go somewhere else..’

          I’ve lived in Santiago for two years.
          There may be tourists in Chile, but there could certainly be a lot more. When I came as a backpacker, I was heading south though Chile and back up north through Argentina, but was put off it mainly by the cost.
          All of the tourists who I met were like ‘nobody backpacks through Chile, it costs more, and it’s not as accessible so just not worth it. Because of this Argentina benefits.

  5. Mario says:

    I’m a native Chilean living in the states for the past 21 years. I can how how foreigners would find it tough to live there, but I think it wouldn’t be fair for the natives who live there to see foreigners move in and get preferred treatment either. I agree things over there should be equal opportunity for all, but things just don’t work like that over there even for the locals. Stereotyping goes on everywhere it’s just that here we don’t try to make it so apparent.
    I have also been looking into the possibility of moving back there. I have a bachelors degree in animation, which might help depending on how they look at degrees from the US. From what I understand, not even professional jobs over there pay that much though. I also have dual citizenship which might also add to my favor. Right now I’m looking into companies from here that are offering jobs to foreigners in other countries. As I expected, most of the ads I found offer compensation at half the rate or even less than the ones here in the US market. The only solution I can think of is to find a company who is starting to expand and become global who are looking for skilled trade workers willing to work in other countries. If anyone has any info or advise who’d be willing to share with me, I’d be much obliged.

    • Mark says:

      There is a lot of work in Chile that pays just as well as the rich countries such as software development consultants who service customers that they acquired when they lived in the rich countries; they continue the relationship in Chile. This happens even though Chilean software developers earn a third of the income of rich country engineers. Chileans will also choose foreigners from rich countries over natives.

      Animation is a difficult career because it depends on living in a city where filmed entertainment is developed. I met one animator last summer in San Francisco where there are fewer opportunities than Los Angeles. I asked her why she doesn’t move south and she replied that she’d rather be a waitress in S.F. than an animator in L.A.

      The USA is headed towards a steep recession no later than 2015 that will be similar to the Chilean recession of 1983 when 35% were unemployed; essentially, the economy is running as if were in a wartime emergency and most people and legislators are terrified of the convulsion that will result from introducing sound money and balanced government budgets. It will be hard to stay employed in animation or waiting tables because people won’t have money for luxuries like restaurants.

      • Mario says:

        So true. Trust me, I’ve been doing my research. I can’t agree enough on your comment. That’s why I wouldn’t mind doing a career change, and going for a cheap certification in anything as long as it leads to a US paying job. I already gave up on Chilean jobs even if I wouldn’t have a documentation issue as a dual citizen living in Chile. People in Chile either make too little or too much it seems, and not just anybody can get those good paying jobs. Those with preference are Chilean professionals who were born and raised there. IMO even Chileans who stay abroad for too long find it difficult to come back after a while. Such as in my case. Foreigners would need to have not only good credentials, but good connections as well. Namely from their US employers who already have established ties in Chile. Chile as a country is just starting to open up to the world. Up until now, it has been a fairly isolated country. All foreign affairs have been kept in low profile which is why you don’t hear too much about Chile on the news in other countries.

        • Mark says:

          I’m surprised that Chileans abroad sometimes find it difficult to find work when they return. In many countries, experience abroad makes you more valuable! Since Chile has negotiated many more free trade agreements than Argentina and Brazil, I hope that Chile will become more integrated with the world.

    • Patrick says:

      I just saw your post on an article titled “Why You Should Not Move to Chile”.
      Two things in your post grabbed my interest: 1) You are a native Chilean 2) You are an animator.
      I have a degree in Film & Television Production. Over the past few years I have been doing more motion graphics and adding it to my other skills. I have been working as a freelancer creating New Media, internet videos for small to medium sized companies in the U.S.
      I have read many articles about how South America and Central America will have great opportunities for video producers, animators, and motion graphic artists. The articles to which I am referring explain the coming demand small and medium sized businesses will have for an online video presence.
      I would love to get your thoughts, and hear your opinions about Chile, as well as if you have returned to Chile. Are you still working in animation?
      Thank you.

      • Mark says:

        I’m not a Chilean or an animator.

        If you can work independent of location, I reckon the only places in Latin America worth considering are Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, and Chile. Argentina, Ecuador, and Venezuela have embraced socialism and will suffer in the coming years. Columbia and Peru might prosper.

  6. angi says:

    why bother coming back when you are so negative.Try being a foreigner entering the USA..Rude people,ridiculous security checks and don’t even start me off on green cards….

    • Mark says:

      Yes, it’s difficult to be a foreigner in the USA, an exceptional country that used to welcome immigrants and now blames them for their problems. United Statesians believe that printing money is the secret to prosperity and aren’t bothered by ridiculous security checks that frustrate foreigners and natives that use airports. All governments are evil and the USA is rapidly deteriorating. On the plus side, they recently removed x-ray scanners so Mary and I are discontinuing our boycott of airports. I’m negative on Chile in this post because I outlined positive reasons to move to Chile in Why You Should Move to Santiago, Chile. I think it’s important to describe positives and negatives so that people have sufficient info to make good decisions. Emigrating to Chile is a foolish idea for some people and a brilliant one for others.

      I’m staying away from Chile for the second consecutive winter even though I like the country and hope to return someday; instead, I choose Mexico and Texas. Chile will prosper only if it works hard to entice foreigners and that’s difficult because it’s isolated and fears immigrants. Mexico has many enjoyable beach cities and allows me to stay for 180 days while Chile forces me to leave the country every 90 days. Mexico allows me to open a bank account while Chile forces me to use ATMs and chisels me with fees. The economy in Texas is better than most of the USA, allowing my wife to grow her business. The world is competitive and people have choices; the smartest and most humble countries will prosper most.

      • Patrick says:

        I have traveled to Chile 4 times. I was last there in 2011 but plan to return in January , 2015. Yes there is pollution in Santiago but I just love the city, the architecture , the many places of interest: Cerro San Cristóbal , Santa Lucía , the zoo on the side of the hill. The Funicular , the teleferico , Belles Artes, the street performers at the intersections and on the city buses. My most favorite place is Parque Arauco with all of their restaurants, the cinema, ice skating rink etc.
        My Chilena friend informs me that I can extend my stay beyond the 90 day visa limit by paying the Visa Entry fee again. After 4 ninety day extensions I would have to exit Chile for a 24 hour period. I could then re-enter Chile on a 90 day visa and continue my extensions every 90 days until the year is up. I was told that I could easily find a job teaching English as I am a native speaker and speak enough Spanish to get by. I have been to Mexico twice and notice the dirty looks by the natives. My last visit there I was confronted by 2 Mexican banditos who intended me harm. I will never return to Mexico. While in Chile I never once received a dirty look from a Chileno. I traveled all over Chile, Pucon, Viña del Mar, Zapallar, etc. I love Chile. However, I do have concerns regarding the pollution in Santiago. I also wonder about your comment not to marry a Chilena and the high rate of adultery there. It does give me pause. Naturally my Chilena wants to marry me. They all seem to believe we Americans are wealthy. Yes, I say American. I hate their term united statesian. What kind of title is that ? I simply inform them that Yo soy Americano, del Estado Unidos. Tell me more about the marriage thing and Chilean women. Maybe I won’t go back in January… LOL.

        • Mark says:

          I’ve been going to Mexico for 25 years and have never received a dirty look from anyone or encountered a bandito. The USA has accepted millions of Mexicans so why would Mexicans dislike a country that welcomes them? I’ve spent most of my time in tourist cities like Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas, and La Paz.

          Chileans, Canadians, Argentines, and Mexicans are Americans, too, so I prefer the more specific “unitedstatesian” although “Yo soy Americano, del Estado Unidos” is just as good. Maybe you could say that you’re an inglesaparlante but not from Canada or Belize; that’ll force them to think! I dislike “norteamericanos” because it slights Canadians; most users of “norteamericanos” are only speaking of unitedstatesians.

          Chile has a large industry of “love hotels” or “hoteles parejeros” that rent by the hour, largely patronized by married people. Many foreigners marry Chileans; they can tell you more than I can about how to choose a mate carefully. I suspect that any country like Chile that has a low divorce rate has a high adultery rate; that’s what the USA was like prior to 1960, too.

          Every English teacher in Santiago told me that Chile is the best Latin American country to teach English. Many don’t speak a word of Spanish.

          If you like ice skating, try the roller hockey group that plays Monday nights in Los Dominicos. There’s a video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pe3TzQgk5U8. It’s an interesting mix of locals and foreigners. Everyone brings equipment from North America; there are no hockey shops in South America.

  7. I’m an American living in Santiago. I moved here April 1, 2012 so I could be with my then boyfriend, now husband, so he could finish his education. I have not worked at all, and he has put his education on hold so he can finish them in the US now.
    While I really like Chile because it’s so different than the US, it is SO different. Not at all in any negative way, but when I came here not knowing what to expect, it was a real culture shock. I don’t know any Spanish (I’m slowly learning, and that’s my fault) so I rely on my husband to translate for me.
    We’re in the middle of the spouse visa process for the US, so hopefully in a few months we’ll say c ya to Santiago, and while I’ll miss aspects of it, I’m happy and excited to get back home where I can work, communicate, drive, and have access to things that I just can’t find here.
    One thing that really broke my heart when I got here was all the stray dogs. They’re everywhere! As an animal lover, I always bought bag of dog food when we went to Hiper Lider and fed the dogs that I saw on the way home, but after a while, (because I can’t find work) I started running out of money.
    I do like that the people here seem much friendlier than the US, but I guess it all depends on where you’re from in the States.
    I do enjoy their tea time a lot.
    Anyway, I have enjoyed the time I’ve spent here and it made me really open my eyes to another world… I am more than ready to get back to the US and restart my life there with my husband.

    • Mark says:

      I’ve met people who left Santiago and moved to smaller cities in Chile because people are friendlier in small places. I think most people are friendly to foreigners and I’ve found all Latin Americas to be friendly.

      I miss the stray dogs in Santiago. In Mexico, the strays are unhealthy and bark loud. Chilean dogs are more polite. Mexicans use dogs to guard their houses and the dogs are constantly barking.

      • Joaquín says:

        There are lots of comments I wanted to reply to.
        But your’s just made me laugh pretty hard. (In a friendly way).

        “Chilean dogs are more polite”

        Man I, laughed at that.

        Anyways, In respect to the other comments you said about my country (Chile) I just had one question.

        Do you like my country?

        • Mark says:

          I haven’t seen most of the country but I love Santiago during the warm months. It provides many of the benefits of a big city like New York or London with the temperate climate of Spain and California.

  8. And I agree… to use an ATM it costs me a $6-$8 fee, depending on the particular ATM.
    I couldn’t open a bank account until I got married to my Chilean husband and became a temporary resident, which was an easy process.
    But all the things that I knew as simple errands in the US seem to be these day-long tasks because we don’t have a car, so we walk, take a cab, then the metro, then walk some more, something I’m not used to because I’ve been driving for 9 years and such tasks would have taken me 20 minutes, not 3 or 4 hours.
    But… it’s part of the experience!

    • Mark says:

      Living in Santiago is like living in other big cities like New York and Buenos Aires in that one walks to accomplish many daily tasks. Most United Statesians are accustomed to driving for even the most simple things. It’s often faster to drive, more efficient, but encourages people to gain weight and degrades health. And, of course, everything takes longer in a new country. Big city living isn’t for everyone but I prefer it.

    • Patrick says:

      What ? Have you ever driven in Santiago or Viña del Mar ? Chilenos are crazy ( aggressive) drivers who just love to blow their horns. They cut in and out of traffic and cause accidents with their terrible driving habits. When in Santiago I prefer to take the metro or a cab. Trust me, you are better off not driving in Santiago. Of course I usually stay in Providencia where traffic is very heavy. Nevertheless I prefer the metro trains, safe, clean, efficient, relatively inexpensive with great artworks to view in many of the stations while waiting for your train.

      • Mark says:

        I think that driving in Santiago is as silly as driving in New York, San Francisco, or Mexico City. One joy of living in a big city is walking around the neighborhood or using public transport to visit other areas, and as you say, the art in the metro stations is great. A car is more useful in Viña del Mar.

  9. Arielle says:

    “Chile insults foreigners by throwing us out of the country every 90 days and refusing to allow us to open bank accounts, forcing the use of ATM machines, where the banks chisel us with fees. Bankers are crooks that run politics in every country, and it’s revolting to subsidize their incompetence.”
    This is an extremely biased comment and most countries emulate the U.S.’s actions. If you want to write a respectable article please refrain from ignorant comments such as these.

    • Mark says:

      Yes, it’s true that most countries emulate the actions of the USA even when those actions are foolish. Why can’t people think for themselves? I suppose it’s because we’re a social animal that needs a leader, like dogs that follow an alpha male. There’s nothing ignorant about my comments; I tell the truth even when it’s unpleasant. People shouldn’t have unrealistic expectations when they visit Chile or other countries.

  10. Rebecca says:

    I find your comments quite rude – If you find the country, with its meddling government and insulting immigration policies so bad then please dont come back. I hear Mexico, home of one of the worlds highest murder rates, is lovely at this time of year.

    • Mark says:

      You might find it rude but thousands of others have seen this post and are pleased that it details the downsides of living in Santiago. If you’re seeking compliments, look at sites that sell real estate or other services. This site tells the unvarnished truth, good and bad.

  11. Mark has some pretty extreme views on certain subjects (taxes, visas, government in general), but he gets most of his article pretty much right. My few quibbles are that there’s not many places in the world that have the combination that Chile does, so the positives outweight the negatives.

    Also, the pollution is indeed bad in the winter, but I don’t think you have it right about why Bellas Artes is underpriced. It’s because Chileans with money don’t want to live there, partly because its a busier section of town and partly because of classism. Also, Lastarria, which is 2 blocks from Bellas Artes, but has quiet streets costs the same or more than parts of providencia or las condes. Those two areas have the same pollution, the only difference is how quiet the streets are.

    • Mark says:

      Thanks for stopping by and blogging in detail about the horrors of starting a business in Chile. There are many positives and negatives about emigrating to Chile so I lay out the facts and let people decide for themselves. Chile is a unique and misunderstood country.

      I love the Bellas Artes neighborhood because it reminds me of Greenwich Village in New York but I’ve never been there in winter when it’s polluted.

      You probably believe it extreme that I opine, “all governments are evil” and “bankers are crooks that run politics in every country, and it’s revolting to subsidize their incompetence”; but I prefer to claim that I’m realistic.

  12. Mike says:

    Interesting, I started looking at Chile as a possible place to spend some time. I have had an interest for many years (like 18) after reading about the privatized retirement. My interest intensified after the election and the opinion that the long term economy in the US is on shaky ground long term. After I started thinking about this, had friend, from TX now living in AZ that visited there. Co-worker went there as part of SMU MBA and his group wrote about starting a business there. So seemed everywhere I began to turn I found some connection to Chile. My friend’s parents met there when his dad worked at the embassy. Even a lady I met on the plane last month spent her honeymoon there. Very strange.

    I want to go there sometime. I do like Canada but tax and housing north of Whistler where I visit are insane. Canadian beer is 1/2 the price in Dallas.

    I know there are programs to bring start ups to Chile. I have had few ideas for IT start ups. Another job I looked at would not really require me to live in a specific place. Any experience with IT related jobs there?

    • Mark says:

      The Start-Up Chile program has increased the demand for programmers in Santiago and consequently the wages for programmers are 50% higher than in Argentina. The program will end in about a year and wages will drop to normal unless a new government handout is created. The program has been a failure; few foreigners have created IT companies in Chile. Santiago is a good city for someone who can earn money without being required to be in a particular place and being in a similar time zone to the USA is a big advantage.

      Canada is a bad choice because it’s similar to the USA except that it’s colder and the banking system is less corrupt. Canada also is vulnerable to a decline in housing prices. Smart Canadians are selling their overpriced houses and moving to Mexico.

      • Mike says:

        Too bad the startup program has not yielded better results.

        I agree on Canada. Canada is a nice place to visit, but I believe the tax burden is not sustainable even though some taxes have come down a bit. They should be crushing it given the natural wealth per capita. Also you can not get a fixed rate loan so there is an awful lot of exposure. I know there are parts of Mexico that are safe, but given how little control the government has it would not be on my radar.

        How much does a decent programmer earn in Chile? My thought was that if I can get in that situation where the where of the earning does not matter, Chile might be an option. I can certainly develop software from anywhere just wondering if it is easy to find decent IT talent down there. I have heard mixed things about the infrastructure.

        • Mark says:

          Junior level programmers in Chile were earning $24,000 before Start-Up Chile. They earn 50% more now if they’re willing to switch jobs. There’s a shortage of senior talent that can only be filled by foreigners. Some foreigners earn just as much as in the USA and Europe because they brought their jobs with them.

  13. Ian Guzman says:

    Mark, you seem like an extremely negative person as you are taking your experience and generalizing it as if everyone else that goes to Chile will have the same experience.

    My problems with your comments:
    1) You went to Chile without an extended work visa. Come on dude, really… what do you expect. Got to Europe and try landing a permanent job there without an extended work Visa… you’d most like encounter worse problems
    2) Again, you went to Chile without an extended work visa. Course the banks are going to be reluctant in giving you a bank account.
    3) Pay, like practically every other country in the world, if you are trying to land a non-profession job, of course you are going to get paid like crap. Get a carrier in IT, medicine, or something else that is needed and you would be surprised as Chile does have a growing demand for PROFESSIONALS whom speak fluent SPANISH & ENGLISH.
    4) Cost of living, yes Santiago is not the cheapest place… but it is MUCH cheaper than living in most European countries and big cities in the U.S.. I live in the bay area of San Francisco, want to talk about ridiculous cost of living… I am living it, and I make a very decent living working in IT.

    I do agree with you on pollution; though it is getting better in Santiago. Santiago has got rid of the private buses (“micros”)… my family actually owned micros (busses) but not any more as they have been replaced by bus networks like we have here in the state (correction, they are nicer and cleaner). Santiago is also moving industries that pollute away from the center of the city. Santiago is also cleaning up the Mapuche river, that runs through the city… and they are making more green ways.

    My advise is for you to rewrite your article…
    * Mention CLEARLY that you went with a temporary visa (employers like here in the great US of A are generally reluctant to hire & sponsor a person for a work visa).
    * Mention CLEARLY that you are also generalizing certain industries… non-professional industries. If you are wanting to get paid decent teaching English, you better have a masters degree in it… else, its like native Spanish speakers here offering Spanish lessons (without a degree in it), you are not going to get paid squat.

    I could go on and on about your article and subsequent comments/replies to others as you are being bias and are generalizing way too much. Please excuse my rudeness, but I couldn’t help myself as your comments are extremely rude to my home country of Chile and those with common sense. Cheers, ~ Ian

    • Mark says:

      Thanks for your detailed reply. My post might seem rude, but the purpose is to emphasize the negatives of moving to Chile; the positives are emphasized in the “Why You Should Move to Santiago, Chile” post. The beauty of this blog is that you’ll learn the positives and negatives so that you can make an informed decision. Most sites, such as those by people trying to sell real estate, give only one side.

      You’ve chosen not to move to Santiago even though you’re Chilean. That alone is very informative! You may need to speak English and Spanish fluently to get a job in Santiago but you can start a business in the USA while speaking only Spanish, and you can work in Sweden speaking only English. Chile must compete with other countries and it doesn’t always compare well. If you were a Frenchman or German who speaks English, would you move to the USA, Sweden, or Chile?

      This post is constantly revised based on reader comments.

  14. OMG says:

    Mark you are so right, I am living in Santiago since 2007 with my family, and it has been very difficult to find a job here, the pay is low, and they usually ask a thousand questions during job interviews. If your plan is to find any job in Santiago it won´t happen inmediatelly unless you work in a bar or call center maybe??.
    But if you are looking for a job as geologist or mining engineer you will get a good job for sure.

    • Mark says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience. I’ve met several Chileans in the SF Bay area and a few others have commented to this post. If you don’t teach English and need a job and you’re not in the mining industry, Chile might not be a good choice. The USA and Canada are strong competitors. If you own a relocatable business or are willing create one from scratch, Santiago is worth considering. Chile is also a good place to start a farm.

  15. Shar Newman says:

    It seems this post needs updating, especially regarding the time it takes (and cost) of opening a business here. http://www.ciechile.gob.cl/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=128
    As in most places, it does help to know people, but in my 4+ years here I’ve had no problem obtaining a lease in my name three times and the amount of work I have to turn down is ridiculous (good work for linguists here). Non-residents can open a Cuenta RUT at Banco Estado which is a savings account, but you can also get a debit card with it and pay bills online. Also, there are no charges at this bank’s ATMs for foreign cards. Getting a work visa may take a bit of waiting, but it’s not difficult. Of course, everything is simpler with a good command of the language.

    • Mark says:

      Thanks for the info. I will update the post. I didn’t meet anyone in Santiago in 2010 who received a RUT in less than a year except people who received a job offer before they arrived and participants in Start-Up Chile. The Cuenta RUT sounds interesting. Does it allow the holder to use it to setup utilities, cable, phone and other businesses that require a RUT?

  16. cameron says:

    The requirement to leave Chile every 90 days looks like a nit to me; from what I understand you can reenter the very next day and you can repeat this cycle as many times as you want.

    My question is this: if I obtain a remote work job for a company here in the US and then relocate to Chile how does the Chilean government react to that situation? I will have means to support myself but it will not be via a local job. That would seem to be ideal since I wouldn’t be taking work from a local citizen.

    But, perhaps they wouldn’t like that for some other reason.

    I’m looking at this from the standpoint that I could potentially earn US wages while paying Chilean living costs. It sounds like a big win but there may be pitfalls.


    • Mark says:

      If every Unitedstatesian spending the winter in Mexico were forced to leave every 90 days, the Mexican tourism industry would suffer. Canada allows tourists to stay for 180 days for the same reason. Once you live in Chile, you’ll understand why it’s a big disruption; or, you could try leaving your country every 90 days for the next year to see if that bothers you.

      If you worked remotely in Chile, why would you care what the Chilean government thinks of you? Why would you want them to know that you’re working? It’s legal for foreigners to rent and buy apartments, houses, cars, and bicycles; you don’t have to request government permission. Why would you?

      I think it’s best to avoid governments and other bullies to the great extent possible. If you don’t bother them, they’re less likely to bother you.

      Venezuela has the best policy; they will never deport you unless and until you commit a crime. Chile and other countries should do the same. In every other way, Venezuela is a terrible place.

  17. MarCo J says:

    Hay Mark, thank you very much. Good to read different oppinions…not only ones that are promoting Chile/likely fake ones.

    • Om Sala says:

      Hi Mark:
      I agree with you in that is hard to open a bank account in Chile. I’ve tried twice, and I was told that I had to have pay stubs or $5,000 dollars in a savings account in order to get a check book. This forces you to use your bank’s credit or debit card every time you need more cash, and of course, the banks take advantage of this, and is true, they charge between $6 to $8 dollars for each withdrawal.
      I strongly disagree on your comments about Chilean people being skeptical od Capitalism. What people are tired of is the huge inequality in the distribution of the wealth generated in Chile. As a matter of fact, this problem has being pointed to the Government by developed countries as one of the main factors that must be corrected as a condition to gain more social stability. You must know that the cost of higher education in Chile is the most expensive in the world, in a country where a few make ridiculously high salaries or humongous profits, but where most citizens must pick which child will be sent to the University, if two of them were selected to attend. The median salary in Chile is proximately $ 700 dollars, and most Chileans living the “American Dream” are up to the neck in credit card debts. The cost of living in Chile is equivalent to many American cities. Same goes for Real Estate. The real danger to the Capitalist model is to keep the model without making it more humane. I hope the Socialists (which in reality are Social-Democrats) can make of Chile a more democratic country, with equal opportunities for all.

      • Mark says:

        The USA and European countries waste colossal sums subsidizing college students; they learn little or nothing useful and spend 5 years getting drunk and going to parties. The streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts are filled with taxi drivers who graduated from Harvard. A big chunk of the waiters and mailmen in the USA have graduated college. College in Chile is the most expensive in the world because the government subsidies are much smaller, producing a larger portion of serious students. There are still many students drinking their lives away in Bellavista but they’re wasting their own and their parents money rather than fleecing taxpayers.

        Chileans incur too much debt from credit cards and other lenders but people in Brazil and the USA borrow excessively, too. Most governments borrow too much money, reflecting the will and lack of discipline of the voters. The miracle of Chile is that the government debt is small; if the politicians followed the will of the people, subsidies would be handed out like Christmas presents, debt would soar, and the taxis of Santiago would be driven by graduates of the most exclusive colleges, as in Cambridge.

  18. Gonzalo says:

    Hi Mark! I enjoyed reading your article and can agree with most of your points. Nevertheless, I think you have to base it on case to case basis.
    My wife and I moved here in 2006, when my wife accepted a job for a multinational mining company. My wife had just gotten her MBA from Stanford at that time. For me on the other hand, was very hard finding a job considering that I have a MA (not from a top 5 school) and speak four languages. The job searching process is long and frustrating. Once a company wants to hire you they send you psychological test, which I think is biased, because they always give you the same test. After 5 times of taking it for different jobs, I already knew it by hard and could pass it. After 8 months I found a pretty good job, but my wife was transferred to Peru, so we moved there where we lived there for 3.5 years (Peru on the other hand is pretty awesome, if anyone wants to know just ask me).
    We came back in 2010 where she changed companies and now 3 years later she works for another company and she has a very high position in the company.
    I had to start my own company because looking for a job here is exhausting. My wife has a very good salary, even better than she would be making in the US. But there is a catch, for her tax bracket she pays 40% taxes plus we pay US taxes (there are some laws where you are exempt unto 80k), and she has to pay obligatory health benefits and a terrible pension pla (AFP).
    Now this is where I disagree with you, getting a resident permit is probably the easiest place to get one. Also, if you come here like a tourist and find a job, you can easily get a special work permit which you get in two-five days which lasts until you get your work permit. I just got an investor visa and it was quite easy as well. Opening a business is quite easy as well depending on what type of business you want to open. It can take as little a 5 days, and you can even do it online.
    For foreigners there is a Chilean program to start your own business called Startup Chile where the government gives you 40,000 USD to start your own business. They are mostly doing this so entrepreneurs can give local employment and at the same time give local skills practiced in other countries.
    To open a bank account is tough if you do not have a identity card(RUT). You cannot open a bank account, nor any other type of account. Once you get it life is much easier.
    Life is very expensive! Real estate is ridiculous, and all services are astronomical, specially heating. We used to pay almost 1000 USD a month, for heating in our old house. Food is not that great. When you go to the supermarket you will find that all the chicken is hormone injected, and it will be very anything without preservatives, and you can forget about organic food. If you do find it, it will be very expensive.
    The air sucks, as you mentioned about pollution. Getting your kids into school is another long and frustrating process. They actually interview 3 year old to get in a school. If your 3 year old can’t draw a person, or if she doesn’t want to speak that day, she will be rejected. In some schools you have to belong to a specific elite Chilean class.
    One good thing, is that Chile is very safe and family oriented, although Chileans in general have pretty closed circles.
    Finally, service in Chile has probably one of the worst customer service in the world. When you go to a fancy restaurant, just do what all Chileans do, don’t mind that you have been waiting for an hour and you just got your drinks served.

    • Rebecca says:

      Hi Gonzolo, I would love to hear about your life in Peru. I’m thinking about moving to Chile, Argentina or Peru to teach English. I majored in Spanish at UCF in Orlando and studied in Spain. I opened a language business (which I sold) and spent two months in Brazil getting clients for ESL courses in Orlando and Miami. I’m working on an IT degree now and I am bilingual in Spanish and English.

      I would appreciate any input that you have about life in Peru.

      Thank you!

  19. Mike says:

    Here’s a quick list of comments based on my 4 years living and working with a residency visa in Chile. I was in one of the “Regions” and not in Santiago. It will give some perspective to Mark´s comments.

    - Banking is a pain… Chile experienced a banking crisis in 1981 (years after the Coupe in 1973) which resulted in a heavily regulated banking system. The regulations now give banks a huge advantage a stifle any real competition. Banco de Estado was started to try to open the banking system to regular Chileans. Chileans as well as foreigners suffer at the hand of the banking system…

    - Chile is very bureaucratic… Any kind of “official” document must be notarized and stamped with a “timbre.” Again, due to regulations, to be a Notary you have to be a well-connected lawyer with years of experience. Many notaries pass there business along to family members. Chile is not a signatory of the Hague treaty for public documents. This protects their notaries who make a killing…

    -Most of the foreigners I met taught English. You are what you study in Chile. Chilean degrees are highly specialized take 5 years, a thesis and a final exam to obtain. They don’t use a core curriculum like in the US, from day one a doctor is studying medicine or a teacher is studying teaching. I experienced students studying to be English teachers who had never written a paper in Spanish. It was a challenge to help students gain the skills necessary to become professionals. This will sound repetitive, but do to regulations there is little competition or oversight of universities. The University of Chile and the Catholic University are the two biggest and most prestigious schools. You will see open discrimination on job postings requesting a graduate from one of these schools. After the dictatorship ended in 1989 many private universities appeared, a lot of these turned out to be great ways of laundering money. The private university (which is “non-profit” will rent the facilities at a very high rate from a real estate company. You will see a lot of similar last names between the board of directors of the universities and the owners of the real estate company. Piñera’s government started cracking down on some schools but this was quickly stifled… No surprise student protests continue to be the order of the day.

    Chilean society is highly sensitive to class, appearance and politics…. I remember reading an article in a Chilean paper where they interview a number of people to ask them if the identify as being of Indigenous or of European descent. 80% responded as being of European descent as opposed to 20% as indigenous. The reality is reversed. 80% have some Indigenous heritage. You will hear a lot of “Quicos” (high class) versus “Picante” (low class) comments as well. The middle class leans one way or the other. Your outward appearance is very important as well, you will see all types of uniforms in Chile for every type of job.

    Politics…. Chile elected Socialist President Allende democratically in 1970. On Sept 11th 1973 one of the countries General’s Agosto Pinochet lead a coup a began a dictatorship that lasted until 1989. Chileans are very polarized politically, many on the left were tortured and killed while those on the right praise Pinochet for creating a stable economy and saving Chile from a socialist oblivion. Needless to say the wounds are deep and still very sensitive. The newly re-elected Bachelet is the daughter of a political exile. Younger Chileans are more skeptical in general of religion and politics. Voting used to be mandatory if you were a registered voter. The law was recently changed to a system of automatic registration but a voluntary vote. The turnout in Chile’s last election was abysmal…

    This was a long response, but living in Chile requires you are aware of its history and the patience required to navigate through the society. There are many more details to add so these are some of the big issues one faces.

  20. Deniz Turk says:

    Dear Mark,

    After reading your comments and evaluating the language you preferred to use, I seriously started thinking about relocating to Chile.

  21. Mario says:

    It is worth noting that many of the opinions in the post are now obsolete. For example, it is possible today to open a company in a single day:

    • Mark says:

      You can incorporate a company in a single day but cannot operate it legally without undergoing 7 other government procedures. Chile remains enamored with Latin American bureaucracy. See the United Nations “Doing Business”report on Chile for details.

      • Miguel says:

        Mark, can you specify what other government procedures one needs to go through to operate a company there as a foreigner?

      • Socium says:


        Every country has pros and cons around the world, and you choose your ecosystem where to live for different reasons.

        Some insights to create a business. I am certain that if you want to start running a copper mine wherever around the world you will need many authorizations during a year at least to run it, depending of the scale, location, the mineral, environmental studies, etc. That it is the business world, and people comes to this leading country on the mining industry. But if you want to start as contractor for the mining industry in Chile, you create the company and during the same week you are on business.


        Regarding your complaint about banking restrictions it is not only for foreigners, they are applied also to Chileans. They started more than 40 years ago, and the restriction applied to foreigners, has kept the country out financial bubbles. Because short term capital inflows mostly don’t come to Chile, due to such restrictions. Secondly, Chile has been the country receiving more foreign investment during the last 40 years, only after Brazil and Mexico, which are giant economies compared to Chile. So, the restrictions had been effective to finance real long term productive projects and provide stability to the country.

        Regarding the high cost of traveling trough Chile, it is also something paid by Chileans. We are a narrow country, very long, a broken geography and a small population. And we live happy here. We have choosen to have ecotourism, fly fishing, birdwatching, skiing, cruising, sky observation, dessert and mountain trekking, rainforest observation, and other more selective options for tourism. The reason? Wilderness needs to be protected. We don’t want hordes of people destroying and contaminating everything. We can not have mass tourism. Brazil is a huge country and can have mass tourism. Argentina size is also more than 3 times larger than Chile, so prices, services and other things can be cheaper for simple scale of operation.

        But Chile has been the leading economy of Latin America during the last 25 years in average rate of growth. Stability has a price, and foreigners that have come to live and stay value it. Keeping political stability, a well respected legal system, property rights, etc, are assets that people looking for a long stay, value very much. Clearly Chile is not cheap for a short visit. There are other countries for such election.

        Chile has been at the top of Latin America on the classification of our debt and we have the lowest country risk in Latin America. This has has happened during the last 40 years.

        Your comment regarding the limitation to hire foreign Personnel in Chile is misleading for newcomers. There is a restriction, but when a business needs a skilled foreigner, there is no limitation at all. The company hiring you, presents the application !!

        People that is living comfortable on his home country, with his family, a good job, on a peaceful environment, doesn’t move as immigrant. He doesn’t need to leave his comfort zone. People seeking for new opportunities are going to the unknown because they are not having a good time at their home country. That it is the primary reason. I am certain that searching for air conditioning it is not on their priorities. People moves because he is not being able to provide support for his family or because poverty is the only future that he sees ahead, or because crime or war are threatening his family. Or because he is looking 20 years ahead and he sees that his kids would not be able to buy a real estate in Europe when they may become older, because it will not be affordable. But in Chile or South America it is still possible to secure that future for your kids.

        So, whoever has choosen to stay in Chile, be a layman from Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, or a skilled worker from Europe, Argentina, Brazil, etc all of them are most than welcome. My grandparents came very young from Spain almost 80 years ago, because they were having a rough time there. The first settlers to USA were all having a fancy time at England, Ireland or Europe before they move to New England? I don’t think so. By the way, there are many Americans and Europeans coming as business owners. Everyone is welcomed. The layman, the skilled person and the businessman.

        Sorry to be your contradictor on the points I wrote. I don’t want to extend further this post, but I hope to assist some of your potential readers with a different view, based on more than 25 years of experience assisting foreigners in Chile.


  22. John Cobin says:

    Mark, Let me begin by thanking you for citing my blog so much in yours. I see you have also done some research in comments in other publications and have garnered a few special cases from people giving you a synopsis of their experiences. Congratulations! Nevertheless, your post has, unfortunately, a number of errors, half-truths and generalizations that are misleading or mostly untrue. The comments about difficulties of opening a business, tourist visas, bribing women to have kids (do you really think they are that stupid?), air conditioning needed but absent, and more. Comment’s like Mike’s are far more balanced. You know that I am at times very critical of Chile, even as a naturalized citizen, but on balance I am very positive. I suggest that you read my latest post “Is the grass really greener on the other side?” from April 2014 to gain a better perspective. I have been a resident of Chile for over 18 years, have visited every town in Chile over 500 inhabitants (except Juan Fernández), am the most widely-published academic in Chilean newspapers, have published research about Chilean regulation in scholarly international journals, have a Chilean wife, speak Spanish fluently, have helped many dozens of people immigrate here and done consulting for many of them, and have been active in Chilean society. I also am host of the Red Hot Chile radio show on http://www.overseasradio.com and have written two books (800 pages total) and over 430 blog entries on life in Chile. . Given that, I think I know what I am talking about, don’t you? I suggest you send folks over to my blog for a look and to be better informed. The comments criticizing you usually do so for good reason.

    • Mark says:

      I include many links to your posts because it is the best blog about Chile. This post isn’t intended to be balanced; it’s a compilation of negatives. I have another post, Why You Should Move to Santiago, Chile that compiles the positives. Only a lazy fool would read one without reading the other. It’s not my purpose to reach conclusions because whether Santiago is a good immigration destination depends on the individual. I merely state the facts and let others follow the links and reach their own conclusions.

      As an economist, I’m sure you know that incentives are important. That’s why the Chilean government bribes women to have children! Social engineering qualifies as a negative and so is included in this post.

      I’ll include a link to your “grass is greener” post in Why You Should Move to Santiago, Chile.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  23. John Cobin says:

    Are you implying that I am a lazy fool with the best blog on Chile? I will let that pass by. I suggest when you write a blog entry that is negative and have done a positive one before that you link to it so people know without having to search your blog for other comments. Women were not generally stupid enough to believe that $200 would somehow cover the costs of raising a child for 23 years. The gesture was a vote seeking measure and not a bribe. Air conditioners are not needed in Santiago due to the winds int he summer, except in west-facing apartments, which are often installed with shades and air conditioners. A tourist visa is automatically renewed i country for an additional 90 days and one can easy apply for temporary residency during that period to extend his stay by showing minimal assets or getting a jobs (e.g., teaching English). Thank you for posting the link to my site and for taking what I have to say seriously.

    • Mark says:

      You missed the link to the post on moving to Santiago; it’s in the first sentence! What’s the difference between a “vote-seeking measure” and a bribe? Politicians bribed women $200 for their vote, a downside of democracy in Chile and other democracies. All democracies die after voters perfect the process of voting themselves money rather than working.

      I didn’t meet a single person in Santiago with air conditioning even though it’s as hot as Denver. In contrast, everyone in Denver has air conditioning and even Vail has it for the 5 days of July that it’s needed. People in Santiago jump in pools and take cold showers because electricity is triple the cost of the USA. Most apartments in Santiago don’t even have individual heated units; people rely on space heaters and central building heating that is activated from 4-11 PM during spring and fall.

      Tourists visas aren’t automatically renewed every 90 days; the economy of Mendoza booms partly because foreigners in Santiago go to Mendoza for the weekend every 90 days. My guess is that the Mayor of Mendoza lobbied the Chilean legislature for the 90 day limit. It’s a major inconvenience that Mexico doesn’t force foreigners to endure. I have plenty of assets but the government denied my application for an extension.

      The New York Times today published an article today about Ecuadorians who brave great dangers to emigrate to the USA, including the story of a 12 year old girl who committed suicide in Jaurez after the Mexicans caught her. Isn’t this ridiculous? Why does Chile attract so few emigrants from poor South American countries? Why are there only 100,000 Peruvians in Santiago out of 5 million people? Chileans are much more insular than people in other countries; they don’t realize that recruiting rich and poor foreigners is essential for economic success.

  24. B Ryan says:

    Thanks for the entertaining comments folks. I have been reading tons of blogs/postings from many sources including John’s. I have not listened to the podcast yet, but plan to.

    I first went to Chile in 1995 and lived there for a year in 1996. I have returned just about once or twice per year since. Chile has changed/grown since my first visit and mostly for the positive. My wife is Chilean and we married in 1997 and moved to the US where we have been ever since. We did consider staying in Chile, but felt that there was more opportunity in the US. Now 17 years later, we are considering moving to Chile with our kids and man, there are so many things to consider.

    On the comments about finding a job as a foreigner in Chile, I agree that it may not be particularly easy outside of teaching English. When I was living in Chile, I did teach English for a little while. It did not pay enough to cover my cheap rent and metro fares. It was some extra spending money as I lived off savings. I applied for a few jobs with US firms in Chile, but did not land anything. This was back in 1996 when I had a weak resume and things may have changed. When I go every year, I survey the landscape for the possibility of return. I work in IT Security and there is work in Santiago, but as with most jobs in Chile the pay is less than 50% of what I get in the US. I have worked for Clients through my US firm in Uruguay and Brazil where similar to Chile local professionals doing my sort of work get paid much less. The key to making money in Chile is owning a business. Being an employee even in higher paying professions won’t let you build wealth efficiently.

    Recently, my father-in-law proposed that we move to Chile and that he would pass me the responsibility of running his business so that he can ease out into retirement or to take on other business opportunities. This is a 40 year old strong/established business with about 70 employees that does over 2 million USD in sales annually. I am basically being given a red carpet to walk in to an ownership/general management role. We are starting to do our homework and it won’t be an easy decision. We live very well in the US and we don’t want to sacrifice our standard of living. Part of the research that I am doing is trying to equate our US lifestyle to life there. Although some costs of living are lower, to be at the same level as our US lifestyle would require a large salary in the new position. My father-in-law is a very low key conservative guy who lives modestly. I am afraid that my salary requirements might freak him out. My salary in the US equates to about 6,800,000 per month CLP. In Chile that is a fairly high salary. That does not even count the $9K USD in benefits my firm provides in addition to my salary. I have a lot of research to work on before I present him with what it would take financially to bring us back to Chile. Ending a career in IT security that took 15 years to build is also a concern. So much to consider.

    Then there are other concerns like our kids. We have two boys 9 and 11. They are fully fluent in Spanish and spend 1-2 months a year in Santiago. So, language is not an issue. My kids are home schooled which is not very common in Chile. We will want to continue that. This may present some challenges. I already know that my father-in-law does not understand it.

    Apart from those things, I am selfishly concerned about two of my hobbies. One is guns and the other is cars. The cars I have in Chile cost much more and the work I do on them require parts and services that are harder to come by there. I also do some weekend racing in my cars and there are also limited options for that. Not to mention the streets tearing up any nice cars you might have. Regarding guns, I love to go to the range and also have a concealed carry permit. I know that you can join a club and own a couple of guns but carry is not legal. Importing any nice guns will also be very painful with all of the crazy paper work and having the Caribineros test your gun. I guess I just have to weigh everything carefully. The US is not perfect and is getting less desirable by the day in many ways.

    • Mark says:

      You’re earning 6,800,000 CLP per month? At an exchange rate of 550 pesos/dollar, that’s $124,000 per month. A typical programmer in the USA with 15 years experience earns about $120,000 annually. The USA offers the best standard of living in the world by far for people in the top 20%. However, it’s still a frustrating police state with high taxes so if you can work remotely, relocating to Chile is a viable option. Chilean programmers earning half your salary usually aren’t as good as you; there’s a shortage of people with many years experience. Chile has many young programmers.

      • RB says:

        I am reading your comments, thought negative, i know that every country has many negatives. I lived in Netherlands for one year, which was most well organized, than lived in Paris for one year, which was lovely. But in France, the day today work and system is based on documents and papers, which was slow. And living in Norway since 5.5 years, a lovely country with lot of space and time for family and kids. You earn more in Norway but also spend more, at the end you live a comfortable life, but not saving much.

        I had been to Chile recently to look at the location connected to a job offer. (Puerto Montt and Puerto Varas), In general I liked people and place, however, cant compare with EU countries. They offered me 5,000,000 Persos per month and Bonus and other benefits(which is equal to 120000 USD per year, 40% more than my current salary in Norway) also a job for my wife(about 1,50,0000 pesos per month, which we felt highly under offer for her 6+ years of experience in Software industry , currently as senior project analyst). My age is still 31 and the offer I got is a best one I can get at this age, with option to stay in USA in some months in a year. So, we are seriously consider moving. What is your opinion?

        • Mark says:

          Your offer is very good and the offer for your wife is very bad. It could work out well if she can create her own work and find customers in Europe or the USA.

  25. Turbo says:

    I am a Chilean, living in the US. I agree with the article for the most part. Chileans with a lot of money don’t have AC beacause they can live without it. Indians from Peru open business every day there no problemo. In the US a mexican can not open a bank account without an ID either. Chile, as well as US dislike foreigners from poor countries, but they don’t call them minorities or nothing. And so on. We are still colonies of the powerful, we don’t imitate we are obligated to complaint. Overall I will retire there with my social security chevk. No taxes

    • Mark says:

      A Mexican or any foreigner can open a bank account in the USA with only a passport. However, a foreigner cannot open a bank account in Chile with a passport; a national ID card, a RUT, is required. A foreigner can open a bank account in Mexico with only a passport. Unitedstatesians dislike poor foreigners but still allow them into the country, and many of them work. Chileans dislike poor foreigners and prevent them from working.

  26. bill says:

    So if your looking for for a place to live away from us and don’t need to work and can afford it, is and where in Chile that is an option. What about a family with kids and opportunities for them to start businesses. You mentioned ed farms as a business.

    • Mark says:

      If you manage farms, Chile is a very good option, and a good way to employ kids. They can also teach English. I met a Californian who started a blueberry farm, earned a good living, and moved to Texas. He told me that Chile is doing many things right.

  27. Socium says:

    Mark. A little help to your readers about a Tax Reform under heavy discussion in Chile presently.

    Basically is going to affect much more Chilean business owners than foreigners. The reason? Foreigners have paid since very long a general income tax burden in Chile of 35%. However the higher bracket for wealthy Chileans is 40% today. It has meant a discrimination against wealthy Chileans. Some indications rise above the 40% the taxation for Chileans. Other indication level it to the same level than foreigners. The tax reform is still on the war zone, receiving bullets and bombs from the left wing and the right wing. So, the final outcome is unknown.

    However, there are no indications at all to raise the 35% income tax applied to foreigners. Companies pay thus far a 20% corporate tax on accrued profits, but business owners had been able to deduct from his personal taxation, the amount paid by the company. So, a foreign business owner has to pay the difference when he withdraw his profits. It means the remaining 15%. Chileans do the same, when he withdraw the profits for personal use, he must pay the difference on April of each year.

    The tax reform is rising the corporate tax on profits from 20% to 27%. This is one of the big changes. So, it means that foreigners will have to pay the difference: 8% when withdrawing profits. The final tax burden of investing in Chile may be lower for a foreigner if his country has an agreement with Chile to avoid double taxation or of he can use the amount paid in Chile as a credit to deduct from his taxation elsewhere.

    However there is another big change against Chilean business owners. Presently we can deduct 100% of the corporate tax from our personal taxation. The taxation alien under cross fire, is coming out with the idea of allowing a 65% use of such corporate tax. So, Chilean business owner will actually pay more taxes. None of this has been said to be applied to foreigners yet.

    The tax reform has other edges applied to foreigners, as eliminating DL 600, eliminating advantages for existing companies regarding accumulated gains and losses, etc. but it will make this post too lengthy. The tax reform is going to be revised by the Camara de Diputados ( The House of Representatives) for second time after modifications done on the Senate. So, there are some changes to be cooked by the House Chefs. The left wing Chef wants to add more chili and spices to the seafood paella and the right wing Chef wants to transform it on a chocolate fondue !! So, we still may expect a new dish, that as usual, all politicians from both sides, will celebrate as a victory. Nothing better to raise hope and health, to listen politicians after any election or big reforms: They are all happy and they are all winners. However, on the back stage, some will need more than a glass, they will command for a case of bottles to digest the new tax burden. At the end, as always, all of them will be “winers”.

    My best regards


  28. Rodrigo Garcia says:

    I have been living in this country for 10 years and boy did the article sounded so foreign to me….This country has issues, certainly pollution, services may be expensive, quality is inferior, tax reform, a somewhat bureaucratic culture, etc, etc, etc. If Chile were perfect it would be a developed country!! We all comment from our experiences, and mine has been quite good. 4 years after arriving in this country I got a 25 year mortgage from a bank, my first job was responding to a newspaper ad in English. That the elite is a bit inbred? true, there is also a good ol’ boy feel to it.
    I navigated the immigration process without an attorney and it is dirt cheap compared to other countries. As a kid I spent 14 years in the U.S and I can easily compared what it was like to go through the Immigration and Naturalization Service, I think now it has a less friendly name. Anyway, for kicks and laugh, the Chileans citizenship process cost about USD 6, but it may last 2 years…..The residency permit is not difficult if you have a job contract, and after two years you get permanent resident status.
    In Chile you can also get visa extension with no much hassle, friends and family have done it. Maybe there is a business opportunity charging foreigners on their immigration process….
    Chile is not for everyone, college educated people will do well, those with no education might suffer since the welfare state does not exist here. Maybe that is why there is not much more immigration from neighboring countries. What cannot be underestimated that you must be fluent in Spanish. I would not expect to go to the Mid West and have people speak Spanish to me.
    If only 2.7% of the population is foreign born now, you should have seen this percentage 10 years ago. There is not a day that goes by that I dont hear multiple foreign accents in the streets. Chile has gotten cosmopolitan and Chileans are getting acquainted with foreigners and their culture. It is a learning process.
    What everyone should understand is that Chile does not bend backwards to foreigners, that there are local rules and a local cultures, just as other countries have their own. Some things may be annoying, and they are, but that is part of the immigration experience.

    • Mark says:

      The immigration process in Chile isn’t the worst in the world, and as you say, it’s much better than the USA. But, the USA has no trouble enticing immigrants because it is rich and has an enormous welfare state. Chile is poorer than the USA, and Chile is also isolated from the huge populations in Asia, Europe, and North America. If Chile wants immigrants, it must try harder than other countries. A job contract is an onerous requirement for a residency permit. Chile could more easily grant residency permits and revoke a permit only if the holder commits a crime. If Chileans want to attract foreigners, they must be innovative, unafraid to think differently about government than other countries. Unfortunately, Chileans are fearful and have little imagination.

    • Mark says:

      I disagree that if Chile were perfect, it would be a developed country; perfection would be a miracle! Every developed country has major problems. For instance, the USA incarcerates too many people and the police view the citizens as enemies. All developed countries today believe that printing money is the secret to prosperity. Switzerland, Hong Kong, and Singapore are very expensive. Most European countries are socialistic, heavily burdening businesses with regulations. I think you must choose a country to live in based upon what you enjoy and are willing to tolerate.

  29. Dean says:

    To add my 10 pesos worth, the problems with Chile are not plentiful but they are painful. I have lived here twice, now on my second stint, I am married to a hard working, well educated Chilena with an Australia born 2 year old who carries both my Canadian citizenship and her Mom’s Chilean. We live about 45 minutes south of Santiago close to Rancagua.
    Problems, not really in any particular order;
    way too much beaurocracy
    way too many bloody protests!
    too many people that can easily be fooled by lying protest leaders and communist/ socialist idiots who think everything should be free without raising taxes to support the cost. The current political party here are populists and never really do anything much that will make anyone better off, just small handouts to keep everyone at bay. In Canada we pay a lot of tax sure but, when you can send you kids to school and pay virtually nothing as well as going to the hospital without dying after seeing the bill ( there is no bill).
    Too many bloody dogs shitting everywhere, please hire some dog catchers before you can’t even walk in the streets!
    Too many shitty drivers
    Very narrow streets
    No parking
    Paying for everything, driving on highways, parking everywhere, health care, schooling etc, etc…
    There are good things too such as the cost of a new house outside of Santiago, it is still way cheaper than Canada.
    People are friendly, they have to be with all the bullshit they put up with!
    Produce is cheap
    Wine and booze is cheap.
    Women are bloody gorgeous, my wife especially ;-)
    Cultural very interesting.
    That is enough but there is more good stuff.


  30. Alejandra says:

    Mark does not know anything, you are just insulting my people and country, even dough a couple of things my be true about landlords, Notaries and pollution…but thief, lazy people, low performance, bad room mates, bad people for marriage and liars can be found everywhere in the world.-
    About Mr. Piñera just let me tell you that he bankrupt one Bank to create his own business, and people here is tired of not having same opportunities, Free Education with quality is a big change that Michelle Bachellet is trying to do, a few rich family own the Country and they try to stop any good benefit to the people, and I´m not a communist but I’m just saying the truth, too long to explain more details here.-
    Anyway try to go to Indonesia next time, for sure you will get some real fun and you may even finish married over there…

    • Marco says:

      As a native Chilean what Alejandra tells us is 100% the holy truth.

    • Mark says:

      I tell it like it is; every country has positives and negatives. The positives of Chile are discussed in Why You Should Move to Santiago, Chile and the negatives are discussed in Why You NOT Should Move to Santiago, Chile.

  31. Attila says:

    There are too many comments to address here, but I will do my best.

    Let me first offer a brief bio of myself. I am from MD, USA, and I have been living in Santiago for over three months. I have a B.A. in Spanish and Latin American Studies. I have experience with ESL, teaching, translation/transcription, in addition to a host of other skill sets.

    I was offered a job with a job with a Chilean company that operates out of Providencia. They specialize in subtitling and closed captioning of movies and TV series. I have been offered a contract so that I can obtain a work visa, but the process has not begun yet. For that reason, I have had to travel to Argentina (which costs $180 in reciprocity fees for US citizens) and re-enter Chile.

    I can relate to the hardships of renting and getting paid, and I agree that there is an obsessive tendency towards bureaucracy and paperwork, but I diverge on some of the other analyses, namely cultural and economic, elucidated in this thread.

    Culturally, Chileans are by no means any more inherently dishonest or untrustworthy than other people. Nor are their attitudes more evasive and passive-aggressive than in the United States, which, I would argue, is perhaps the most intellectually evasive and socially peculiar society in the Western Hemisphere.

    Theft, while low in Chile, can largely be accounted for by the gaping income inequality, the worst on the continent. Cost of living is inordinately high, while wages remain impossibly depressed and controlled. This, it warrants pointing out, is a direct result of the “economic miracle” you alluded to. The vaunted miracle is a complete farse, obvious to anyone with at least three of their five senses functioning.

    Corporate capitalism has eviscerated civil society here. Education, health care and public works, among countless other things, are being aggressively privatized (attacked) by domestic and foreign corporate interests that place profit before people. Consequently, life in Chile for a majority of its people is precarious, expensive, insecure and unsatisfying. Petty crime may be low, but syndicated corporate crime is systemic and far more deleterious.

    Your bemoaning of the injustices to which foreigners (and by that you mean, presumably, US Americans) rings cynical and infantile. If you had any notion of how irksome and dehumanizing it is to immigrate into the US legally, much less find a dignified job and a decent place to live, you wouldn’t dare charge countries like Chile with being discriminatory and unfair towards you.

    It isn’t that Chile is too socialist; it’s that the country isn’t socialist enough. Neither is the US, which is not incidental, given that Chile has been violently and despotically restructured in the image of a US economic client-state. The social inequality is truly astonishing in Chile. All one has to do is venture out of the safe, sterile and bourgeois orbit of Las Condes, Vitacura, Providencia, Bellavista, the Center, and the UC district to view the realities of the “miracle” Chile has suffered over the last four year.

    Suffice it to say that the reason I am loath to live in the United States is the same reason I am critical of Chilean society: collective well being and happiness are being sacrificed at the altar of capital. The only economic miracle that is possible is one beset with the principles of democratic participation. There can be no social or political democracy absent the third leg, economic democracy. That fact that we are cognitively dissonant enough to declaim freedom without having access to and participation in the process borne from our labor and responsible for our livelihood is a testament to the efficacy of mass corporate propaganda designed to compel people to act, vote and speak contrary to their own interests.

    Finally, this post reinforces my disinclination to consort with expatriates in the countries I have lived in, which are many. Most of you suffer from a severe and chronic sense of entitlement, and you desire to recreate in your host countries that material and shallow world you feel you have lost by leaving your home country. Said entitlement is exacerbated by a stubborn and arrogant unwillingness to learn foreign languages well, adapt to certain customs, and accept and embrace the nuance that makes humanity so wonderful. You are, in short, miserable assholes.

    • Mark says:

      I reckon you made a poor choice by relocating to Chile given that you are a socialist. You’d probably be happier in Argentina, Bolivia, Venezuela, or Cuba. Why did you choose Chile over those countries?

    • A says:

      If you have a university degree, you can apply for a temporary visa on professional grounds http://www.extranjeria.gob.cl/media/2014/10/TE8-ISO.pdf see Annex B1 which means only legalising your Bachelor’s degree. After two years of temporary visas, you may apply for a permanent visa under the same scheme and after five years you are eligible for Chilean nationality. You can open a bank account at Banco del Estado with your temporary ID card and register into Chilean IRS which allows you to give boleta at any job you might hold, giving you the freedom to work wherever you wish and not being tied to contracts local companies are afraid to sign due to their lack of knowledge in migration law.

    • francisco says:

      and I have been living in Santiago for over three months.

      so much time? You are an expert in anything about Chile.

      And Mark : I have no problem with criticism , often help improve things, but some of yours are generalizations of a tourist , not someone who actually lives in Chile

      • Mark says:

        The Chilean government chased me out of the country like a dog every 90 days but they graciously allowed me to return a few days later after patronizing the hotels, restaurants, and other businesses in Mendoza, Argentina. Hence, I was able to live in Chile much longer than 90 days. However, there was one exception; I showed up at the border once without proper documentation so rather than chase me away like a dog, the Chilean government kidnapped me and dumped me in Santiago. The next day, I corrected the documentation and traveled unmolested to Mendoza. I have no proof but I reckon that the legislators and President of Chile have been bribed by an association of tourist businesses in Mendoza. I can’t imagine anything else that could explain the legislators’ bizarre desire to disparage Chilean tourist towns and subsidize foreign competition.

        • francisco says:

          Mark, I am sorry that you feel expelled from bad ways every 90 days.
          And you raise makes sense, at least I fully understand your position … But
          Perhaps it would be good if you try to understand that in this world no country can have two different sets of rules.

          Yet the economic conditions of the country ( until this government done to destroy it) has meant that we have a flood of illegal immigrants from neighboring countries, and an increasing of Haity , Central Asia and Africans iligals.

          Would not misunderstand , I am in favor of immigration ( I am a son of tow of the many European immigrants because of WWII came to these shores ) but illegal in it is bad for the country and themselves.

          And those illegal immigrants who most often enter as tourists can not give them 180 days. You rightly can tell they just have to leave the country on weekends and have another 90 and so on to infinity and therefore the rule makes no sense,

          But usually the third time leaving, many of thrm cant re-enter the country . So if it makes sense.

          And as posed at the beginning we can not, because we would be punished and accused of racism by countries such as Peru , which largely based its economy on the trafficking of human flesh and foreign currency remittances that these immigrants send to their families ( more than 8,000 million dollars per year), if we had two sets of rules , one for countries like Canada, USA, European countries, or some Asian like Japan, and one for countries source of the illegal immigration.

          Mark maybe im wrong , but I think your case as seasonal resident is rather the exception than the rule


          Forgive my poor english

          • Mark says:

            Chile needs more immigrants from Peru and other poor countries just as the USA needs Mexicans and Australia needs poor Asians. They are poor at first but easily earn more after they arrive. Chile has a better political system than other countries in Latin America and can become richer by adding more people. It costs nothing to allow willing foreigners to work for willing employers; governments shouldn’t force employers to be racists.

            Argentina became rich because it attracted migrants. It doesn’t have a good system now so Chile should be the country in South America that benefits from increasing population.

  32. Joe says:

    You guys have it all wrong…it is very simple to traverse social barriers. Join a Yacht Club and you are fine anywhere in the world. Reciprocity is honored amongst most clubs and you will meet the right people and make the connections needed to make your stay an enjoyable one.

    I agree with the Doctor and very rarely associate with ex-pats when abroad, I am just having too much fun to engage in country bashing. Love it or leave it. If visitors to our country do not like the rules , then they should go home and I feel the same way when i am the visitor.

    Travel Well,


  33. Gummy says:

    Very interesting blog!. I have question for you guys: What’s the situation in Chile with regards the stock exchange, banks, brokers and financial markets in general? I mean would it be relatively easy for a foreigner to find a job in the financial industry and are salaries higher when working in a bank or for broker? Where can I find jobs ads in the financial industry?
    thank you

    • Mark says:

      Chile has enacted regulations that make it hard for foreigners to invest in their stock market and to own financial businesses. Bankers are crooks in every country and Chile is no different.

  34. I have considered relocating to Chile, either temporarily of permanently, for years. The timing coincides with my oldest son’s graduation from high school. He is not the best student and I don’t think college would be the best thing for him. However, he is one of the most skilled soccer players in the country (U.S.) for his age. If he is good enough to make a second or third division team in Chile, what are the barriers if we move down there? Does anybody have an idea or know somebody who does? Thank you so much.

    • Mark says:

      I don’t know what barriers a soccer player might be forced to overcome. Anyone else?

    • Jesse says:

      You should visit for an extended stay and bring your son, maybe during the summer. It’s too big of a choice to make without visiting first.

      I’ve enjoyed soccer in Chile. Chileans are very passionate about football, the cities come alive when there are matches, and everyone is very affectionate and joyful during that time. Colo-Colo is the most highly praised football club in Chile and the one I heard talked about the most.

      It’d be really difficult for your son to get involved with sports in Chile. The teams are predominantly full Chilean and speaking Chilean-Spanish is even more important in sports. In Chile, Football is the major sport, they don’t really care about other sports, there are tons of young men going into football there who are born and raised with a soccer-ball. So it’s extremely hard to try and migrate there for a career in sports.

      What you might want to consider is a program called “Immersion”, it’s great for people ages 18-30, you join a Spanish teaching immersion program, they provide room and board, and they get to go experience things like football games, skiing, hiking, etc. while learning Spanish and Chilean-Spanish. If he’s not a good student it’s okay, there’s no punishment for bad grades, it just means they reteach you the same level until you understand it. In some cases colleges even allow a term there as college credit.

      Your son would get to experience another country, become bilingual(if he already speaks Spanish it would become greatly improved, most students who spoke spanish already discovered highschool-spanish wasn’t the same as immersion spanish) and see what the football opportunities are like and if he even wants that.

  35. Jesse says:


    So I know that this is an old post, but I wanted to add in my point of view as well.

    I migrated to Chile back in 2013, I am going on my second year of living there. I’ve forced myself to learn the language, and not just Spanish, but “Chileanismo” and I’ve not only networked with the locals, but also made close friends with local Chileans. I shop at the places the locals shop, learned how to make the food, and learned what things to do to save money and generally have a good time in Chile.

    So here are my two cents. This information is outdated.

    I am a young single woman who migrated with no husband or family to Chile. A country I’d never visited before, and when I migrated I knew ZERO spanish and had ZERO job prospects. If you want to talk about hard, it’s hard to move somewhere alone, especially as a female in a Latin American Country and not being bilingual.

    1. I run my own business. Currently, Chile is very big on encouraging entrepreneurs. They’ve made it free to start your own business (as of 2014) in Chile if you become a resident, and you can get it in a few days. If you can’t be a resident yet there’s programs like Start-Up Chile.

    2. There’s nothing wrong with networking to get employment. It’s true it’s harder to get hired based on paper, they rather hire based on trust. There are Spanglish meet-ups in Santiago & Vina Del Mar to not only help you network with people, but improve your Spanish. If you go to Meet-Up websites there’s quite a few groups for mingling.

    Chile isn’t the first country I’ve lived/stayed in, but every place has it’s problems. It isn’t a promise-land and it isn’t a place for people to flee to without a game-plan. Every country has it’s challenges and policies we do or don’t like. I’m sorry, but there is no paradise. People need to visit countries for an extended stay and feel out where and what is the best place for them.

    For someone like me, I love Chile. I love the people, I love the culture. But, to be honest, I end up loving everywhere I go, because it’s my personal mentality that determines whether or not I embrace and integrate instead of just immigrating.

    And I think that’s really important for people, don’t come to Chile to escape your country, look at the pros and cons and see if it’s a good fit for you. Some people find Mexico a better fit, or Sweden, or Iceland. Some say Malta is best. It’s all about you and what is the best for your financial, mental and physical circumstances.

    I don’t think it’s fair to why “Why you should not move to Chile” I think it’s better to just say “Don’t come for the wrong reasons”.

    It’s not perfect, but it’s a good fit for me and my life has been good.

    • Mark says:

      Thanks for your comment. It’s a good summary of the mentality that one must adopt to enjoy living in another country and learning a new language. I think Chile is safer than most countries, making it a good candidate for young women, better than Mexico or Argentina.

  36. Hernan says:

    “The cost of electric power in Chile is double that of the USA, ”

    An amazingly stupid thing to say, as if there were a single tariff all around the USA, and a single tariff in Chile. In the USA, rates typically vary from about US$0.08 to about US$0.37 per kWh, not counting the high overhead fees and taxes added. In Chile I pay about US$0.15 per kWh but very low overhead fees.

    For the record, my [previous] consumption in the US, and my [current] consumption in Chile in kWh are about the same, but the amount I pay in Chile for the same amount of electricity is about half of what I paid in the US. Part of the reason for that is the high taxes and overhead ["grid access fee" etc] charged in the US. My “fixed fee” (cargo fijo as they say here) plus taxes comes to less than US$3 a month, while in the US it was over US$35 a month, and over US$40 when taxes were added, and that is in addition to the actual per-kWh cost of the electricity.

    I would take much of what is in this article as subject to additional research. And anything that “Nathan Lustig” pronounces is likely to be complete rubbish.

    • Mark says:

      Electricity in Chile is so expensive that residences have no air conditioning and stores only sell nightlights activated by motion. The light comes on 0.1 seconds before you slam into a wall! Chile is the only country in the world where mining companies find it more economical to install wind and solar power rather than buy hydroelectric power or fossil fuels. The Economist discusses energy in Chile:

  37. Anonymous says:

    I’m a young Canadian born and raised. I have been researching Chile for a while, and because they embrace the “North American” culture, I’m hoping that I can bring some value socially and hopefully financially as well. I’m an adrenaline junkie, and the mountains, beach and everything in-between is very exciting to me. I don’t mind being alone, but that may not last too long. I felt more drawn to “Jesse’s” experience above. Hoping we could chat. I have a strong customer service background, sales, marketing, as well as a plethora of other skills. I’m not easily intimidated and usually can make a success out of most things I try. I’m on the fence if I should sell my life in Canada, for a chance at Chile or similar. The language barrier is my biggest obstacle and I’m working on that. And I feel with the way things are going it’s better to get rid of my house while it has the highest value. Can foreigners buy/own property in Chile? I need more information, and would really like some real tangible experience coming from someone that has lived through these cultural changes. The food is also a concern, I’m a healthy person, are there regulations to growing my own? Also with the “xpats” moving down to Chile, are there any Marina’s for pleasure boats? Any help is welcomed! Thank you all, Jay.

    • Mark says:

      Learning Castilian Spanish requires a great investment of time and learning Chilensis is a further investment.

      The food in Chile is the best in the world. They export more food per person than any other country. You can grow your own food but may decide that it’s not necessary.

      You can own property in Chile and buying will prove that you have skin in the Chilean economy; the government will treat you with more respect, including giving you a national ID card, the RUT, enabling you to open a bank account, buy phone service, etc. If I owned Canadian real estate, I’d sell it immediately and invest in another country such as the USA, Mexico, or Chile. Canada sports the most overpriced real estate in the world.

      There is a marina in the north part of Vina del Mar but it small. The marinas in Mexico, Canada, and the USA are much bigger and fancier. The sailing is great if you like high winds and big waves, similar to Oregon and California. The surfing, windsurfing, and kiteboarding is excellent. Chile is a good place for adventure sports.

  38. Al says:

    I would like to meet people in the USA to move to Chile. I lived there before and I liked it a lot. Or perhaps, I would like to meet people in Chile that would help me to move to Chile.

    • Mark says:

      Start-Up Chile recruits techies at many cities in the USA and you can meet many people at those meetings who are interested in moving to Chile. You can also attend meetings of the Libertarian Party whose members often consider moving to a country with a smaller government. Anyone else considering emigrating or visiting Chile?

      • Melinda says:

        i was in Chile this january( i stayed for a month from january 24 2015 – febuary 21 2015) and i really loved it. I am seriously thinking of relocating but its not an easy decision. I have a masters degree in industrial pharmacy, i currently live in Italy and am actually searching for a job. while i was in Chile a lot of people told me to come over cos it would be very easy to get a job…i also have connections in chile so it really might not be a problem but i think i can’t just decide to relocate without getting to know exactly how the place is, When you visit a country as a tourist you actually get a different treatment but when you live there you get to know exactly how the people truely are.
        I am already learning spanish (i speak english and italian) . However i need more information, can anyone tell me exactly how life is there? is there racism, violence and all other bad stuff?? how long will it take to get a residence permit?

        • Mark says:

          Chile suffers very little violence or racism but there is substantial tension between the rich and poor. Nobody can tell you exactly how life is in Chile because everyone experiences it differently. You should move there only if you view it as an adventure that might not work as you hope. Italy suffers one of the biggest debts of any government along with many obstacles to running a business. Chile ought to reduce government harassment but is less offensive than countries in Europe such as Italy, Spain, and Greece; and Chilean government debt in lower than almost all countries.

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