Dateline: Santiago, Chile
When deciding to expatriate, the list of factors can become daunting. A few people might be able to throw a dart at the map, pick up their things and go anywhere, even expecting the possibility of repeating the process again.
But for those who may be moving with their families, are entrenched in a career path or established business, or merely do not like making major changes, the undertaking of choosing a new country and moving there is both serious and tedious.
Having moved to Chile nearly 7 years ago, I have experienced the good and the bad first-hand. No country is a paradise, and Chile is hardly an exception.
But today I’d like to focus on the factors that brought me here, and why it might be right for you too.
Freedom: a strong motivator
Perhaps the primary two reasons most people have emigrated from their home countries throughout history have been economic opportunity (or necessity) and freedom.
Moving from the English-speaking countries of the world to Chile is no exception. The Heritage Foundation, a think tank based in Washington, D.C. whose purpose is to formulate and promote policies based on free enterprise, limited government and individual freedom, releases an annual report called the Economic Freedom Index.
The Index rates and ranks countries based on criteria related to the degree of economic freedom in several categories.
Chile ranked seventh in the 2015 report, the United States 12th.
The highest in Latin America by 21 spots, Chile boasts excellent credentials in several areas that make living and working here significantly easier.
Investment freedom is tied for the highest of any other country, which allows for money to flow smoothly from around the world.
Property rights and contracts are highly respected. When it comes to the rule of law, Chile has a nearly three-decade record without any expropriations, making it a veritable Switzerland of security compared to neighboring Argentina’s kleptocratic government.
Moreover, according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, the level of corruption is tied for the lowest in Latin America, and again, Chile ranks even better than the United States.
Back-alley and under the table deals will not have to be part of your quarterly projections, and as an added bonus, you don’t have to worry about bribing the police to go about your daily business (if you try, you’ll end up in jail).
Finally, protectionist policies are nearly non-existent. Chile boasts more bilateral free trade agreements than any other country in the world, and tariffs for imports are low and trade is high through Chile’s participation in the Pacific Alliance. There is also no penalty for obtaining credit as a foreigner.
‘The California of Latin America’
There’s a reason millions of people moved from all over the United States to California during the last hundred years: great weather and a beautiful environment.
Chile, in many ways, is the California of Latin America. Indeed, Chile has it all. ALL.
The Atacama Desert in the north is the driest desert in the world not covered by ice. The southern tip makes Chile the only country that is home to indigenous penguins.
Forty degrees of latitude provides for whatever climate you want without the hassle of immigration. From west to east, Chile only spans around 350 km but takes you all the way from the Pacific Ocean to the Andes Mountains. If you cannot find the climate you want in Chile, consider applying for Mars One.
Easy residency options
The process for residency is slightly cumbersome, but compared to other countries in the region, is quite simple.
To apply for permanent residency in Chile you are required to spend at least 180 days per year in the country if you have a temporary residency visa.
If you have a work visa, you need to spend two years in the country uninterrupted. Students on a study visa can apply after two years in the country, on the condition they have finished their studies.
Once you have spent the allotted amount of time in Chile, you must apply for permanent residency or revert to a tourist visa. The permanent visa is valid for five years and is renewable indefinitely. After five years you can apply for Chilean citizenship or dual citizenship without having to renounce your current citizenship.
If you leave Chile for a period of longer than one year, your permanent residency visa will be revoked.
The system is still mildly bureaucratic, but navigable.
Good wines, good prices
The wine culture in Chile is among the best in the world.
Wineries are all over the country and they each have their unique story about why they do what they do.
Chile is also nearly the exclusive home to Carmenere, a grape that was wiped out across the world, but survived in Chile due to its isolated geography.
While there are many high quality, and subsequently high-priced labels, it is easy to find good wine at extremely low prices.
In deciding where to establish your new life, people might suffer paralysis by analysis. So when considering Chile, stop asking why and instead ask yourself “¿por qué no?”