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Moving to Santiago de Chile

What to know if you're moving to Santiago de Chile

Moving to Santiago can be a big step, partly due to how far away it is from much of the world. But small things like distance should not stop you from making the exciting move! Find out about many of the practicalities of relocating to the Chilean capital in our guide.

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All about Chile

Chile, the long and narrow country on South America’s west coast, often evokes images of rural life in Patagonia and the Andes. However, there is more to Chile than its breathtaking countryside. Learn all about moving to Chile, including location and climate, visas, and transportation.

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Relocating to Santiago de Chile

At a Glance:

  • You will need different visas depending on the length and purpose of your stay in Santiago — make sure you apply well in advance of your trip to ensure everything runs smoothly.
  • The quality of property very much depends on the area of the city — the eastern districts are wealthier and tend to be where expats settle.
  • Santiago is home to two of Chile’s most prestigious higher education institutions, the Universidad de Chile and the Universidad Pontificia Católica de Chile.
  • It is your decision whether you choose to follow a public or private healthcare plan — either way, 10% of your income must be paid to your chosen healthcare plan each month.

Moving to Santiago de Chile, more often known simply as Santiago, requires some forward planning. It is possible that you’ll have to visit the city before you move there permanently, for which you might require a visa. Read on below to find out about the rules for entry into the country, before you set your heart on life in the Chilean capital.

You will find that your most important point of contact will be the city’s Extranjería (office for dealing with resident foreigners). This is located at:

Intendencia de Santiago, Departamento de Extranjería

San Antonio 580 piso 2, Santiago Centro

Tel. 600-626-4222

The office is open from Monday to Friday, between 08:30 and 14:00.

Testing the Waters: Tourist Visas for Santiago

If you want to make a quick trip to Santiago to start your housing search or to visit the Extranjería, then this is the visa for you. Bear in mind that visa approval process will take between two to six weeks, so you should apply well in advance! To apply, you will need:

  • a completed visa application form
  • proof of booked flight to Chile and back
  • a valid passport and a photocopy
  • an employment certificate / pay slip from within the last three months
  • confirmation of travel health insurance
  • one passport-sized photograph with your full name written on the back
  • proof of hotel reservation in Santiago / invitation by an individual or company in Chile

You will have to pay a fee for this visa, though the amount depends on your country of origin.  When you contact your nearest consulate, make sure to get more information on this before heading to Santiago.

Short-Term Visas

If you intend on moving to Santiago for a maximum period of one year, then this is the visa for you. Also known as temporary resident visas, the common applicants for a short-term visa include students, volunteers, and expats on short-term assignments. To apply, you need:

  • a completed visa application form
  • a valid passport and a photocopy
  • a police clearance certificate (not older than three months) detailing whether or not the applicant has a criminal record
  • a certificate of health (confirming that the applicant does not have any contagious diseases)
  • a document supporting your reason for applying (e.g. work contract)
  • proof of sufficient funds to cover the duration of the stay (e.g. bank statement)
  • four passport-sized photographs with your full name written on the back

As with the tourist visa, the application can take between two to six weeks to be processed. Make sure you do not complicate matters with a delayed visa application!

Work Visas

A work visa is, of course, necessary if you are moving to Santiago for a long-term job. Applying for a work visa will require you to already have a work contract: bear this in mind before sending off your application form. More information on work contracts can be found in the section below. For your work visa, you will need:

  • a completed visa application form
  • a valid passport and a photocopy
  • a police clearance certificate (not older than three months) detailing whether or not the applicant has a criminal record
  • a certificate of health (confirming that the applicant does not have any contagious diseases)
  • an official letter to the consul from your employer, explaining your employment
  • a notarized work contract
  • one passport-sized photograph with your full name written on the back

Work Contracts

The most important piece of information about the work contract is that it must be signed in the presence of a notary. This applies both to you, and to your employer. Contracts must also include specific phrasing. Please see our article on Moving to Chile for more information.

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Housing and Education in Santiago

Moving to a new city feels much more real once you have scouted out where you are going to live, and — if you have a family — which schools your children will attend. The information below should help you with both decisions before you move to Santiago.

Head East for High-Quality Property

In the 2017 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, Santiago ranks 67th, with a lower cost of living than many other South American cities. While this may be a draw for many expats, be aware that there is a huge divide in the quality of property between the east and west of the city.

The eastern half of the city is significantly wealthier and is the area where almost all expats settle down. The highest standards of private and public facilities exist here, and the area is well connected by public transportation to the main city center. Prices here can be exorbitant, though, so do not assume everything in the city will be cheap.

Housing Districts in Santiago: Which Block Is Best?

The center — Santiago Centro — is where students tend to live, due to the cheap prices and lower quality of the apartments. Usually, prices increase the further out from the center you look. Providencia is a favorite amongst expats, due to its green neighborhoods, quiet streets, and fairly central location. Prices are moderate here.

For something more upmarket, the districts of Barrio Alto are the most popular. These comprise of Las Condes and Vitacura, and are undoubtedly the best and safest neighborhoods in Santiago.  However, they are located on higher land, towards the mountains, and are less well connected by public transportation.

The district of Bellas Artes, just north of the city center near the Santa Lucia hill, is also a pleasant and popular area with young professionals. It should be noted, however, that there is a lot of pollution in this area of the city, which could have a negative impact on your quality of life.

House Hunting: Where to Start?

The best way to find somewhere which suits your needs is to speak to any contacts you might have in Santiago. Word of mouth can often be the most reliable means of discovering a potential home. However, if this is not possible, try the following methods:

International Schools in Santiago

If you would prefer to send your child to an international school, your best option is the International School Nido de Aguilas (Eagle’s Nest). This is the oldest international school in Santiago. It has a strong academic reputation, plenty of social activities for families, and is a great place for you to meet other English-speaking expats.

An alternative is the Santiago College, a Judeo-Christian school which focuses on providing bilingual education. Application forms can be found on their website.

Santiago: Home to Chile’s Top University

Santiago has a number of well-established higher education opportunities. The Universidad de Chile (UCH) has roots dating back to 1622. It is now the country’s main university and ranks fourth out of all public universities in Latin America according to QS University Rankings 2016. The Universidad Pontificia Católica de Chile (PUC), a private university, also has an excellent reputation. It is a modern university with extensive facilities, and the majority of their courses are in English.

Healthcare in Santiago

Santiago has an excellent medical system which ranks among the best in Latin America. Government expenditure on healthcare is growing at a faster rate in Chile than in most other OECD countries, which demonstrates that it is a government priority.

Pre-Travel Precautions

Before you move to Santiago, it is a good idea to ensure that your general vaccinations are up to date. It is also wise to get shots for typhoid, polio, hepatitis A, and tetanus. Although you may see a lot of stray dogs while you are in Santiago, rabies is almost nonexistent, so there is no need to worry.

Need a Doctor? Go Straight to the Specialist

It pays to take some general precautions while you are living in Santiago. Although drinking water is safe in Chile, it is recommended that you only drink bottled for the first few weeks of your stay, particularly if you have a sensitive stomach. Also, beware of raw vegetables and fish, and any food sold in the street. Always wash and peel fruit and vegetables carefully at home.

If you have asthma, you might experience some difficulties with the thick smog across the city. Make sure to carry your inhaler with you, and if you think it will be a problem, consider visiting a doctor to get a prescription in Spanish.

When Chileans need a doctor, they go straight to a specialist, as general practitioners (GPs) don’t exist in the country. Follow their lead, and ask your contacts in Santiago to recommend a good doctor. The majority of doctors speak English and are able to provide you with the same prescriptions you would normally find back home.

Healthcare: Public, Private, or International?

The public healthcare system in Chile is known by the term FONASA, which is the Spanish acronym for the “National Health Fund.” The private system involves many different profit- or non-profit-making private health insurance companies, known collectively as ISAPREs.

While you are working in Santiago, you will have to enroll in either a public or a private plan. This is the same for all formal workers, self-employed workers with a retirement fund, and all retirees who have pension plans. For healthcare, 10% of your income or pension plan must be paid to the healthcare plan per month, up to a monthly income limit of 2,000 USD.

Typically, those with higher incomes tend to enroll with ISAPREs, and residents on a lower income opt for FONASA, though this is not always the case. If you are not staying in Santiago for a long period of time, it is worth checking to see whether international health insurance will cover you during your stay in the city.

Both FONASA and ISAPREs must offer the same basic primary care, according to the Explicit Health Guarantee (GES) laws. However, beyond this usual beneficiary package, ISAPREs are free to offer more elaborate packages.

Updated on: January 08, 2019
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