When bestie and I were planning our move to Santiago, we knew we would need a temporary visa to stay in Chile for up to a year. We read all the blogs and the Chilean government sites and thought we had a master plan for getting this thing squared away. Oh the issues we ran into along the way of gaining legal status.
1. Applying for the Visa
Within a month of being in Santiago, we got our work contracts and were able to apply for our visas. The application in and of itself was confusing, mainly because our Spanish was still tragic. We had to the take the application to our employers and have them walk us through the entire thing. We got four tiny pictures and copies of every document ever and mailed off the application. The application status was supposed to be updated online and then we would receive a letter in the mail saying whether or not it was approved. Cool.
2. Getting Paperwork
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my application status was indeed being updated online. This turned out to be extremely important because the Chilean mail system leaves much to be desired. The letter telling me that my application was approved arrived three weeks after the Extranjeria sent it. Oh, and it came with a fee of almost $300 that was due in a week for a work permit that I didn’t know I had asked for. Apparently, my employer needed this work permit so when they helped me fill out the application they made sure I asked for it, even though they had no intention of paying for it.
3. Workers on Strike
So now I had an extra $300 fee for a document that was needed strictly to protect my employer from hiring foreigners. In the midst of trying to figure out how in the world I would pay for this, I learned that the workers at Civil Registry went on strike. This meant that once I paid for my work permit, there would be no one to actually give me the physical permit or an ID card. Fabulous.
4. Visiting the Extranjeria (Foreign Services Department)
Unfortunately, not paying for this permit that I would never physically see was not an option if I want to live and work in this country. So, bestie and I went on an adventure to the Extranjeria. Thankfully, a few people told us to make appointments online before visiting the Extranjeria. This was a lifesaver. The Extranjeria was a 20 minute walk from our apartment and we were in and out of there in 15 minutes. I essentially received a barcode to take to the bank. This told the bank what I needed to pay for and how much the fee was.
5. Paying for the Work Permit
Now it was time to actually pay for this permit. We had to go to Banco Estado – apparently this is the national bank and the only place to pay for the work permit. When we walked in, there was an ATM where I tried to take out money. Little did I know, this was a special ATM that didn’t actually give money -_-. The security guard swiftly shooed us out for using the ATM improperly. I had to go to a real ATM and return to the bank.
In the bank, we were number 69 in line; they were serving number 60. This shouldn’t take long right? WRONG. After waiting for 45 minutes, they did not serve a single person. The bank’s entire system was down and only one person could serve all the people in line. Great. We asked another banker what we should do and he explained there was another branch with more tellers half a block down. We walked there and guess what? All of Chile was in there. I had things to do. We gave up and I went to teach a class.
6. Paying for the Work Permit, For Real
But of course, my class was cancelled. So I rendezvoused with bestie at another Banco Estado branch that happened to be in the Metro station of all places. This turned out to be the smoothest part of the whole day. Within 15 minutes, we paid for our work permits and we were armed with receipts to take back to the Extranjeria. I thought we finally hit our stride.
7. Going Back to the Extranjeria
During our first trip to the Extranjeria, they told bestie that if she came back in the same day she wouldn’t need an appointment and she could skip the line. We quickly found out this was a lie. We returned to the extranjeria only to learn that we were behind 80 people in line. Not gonna happen. We swiftly walked out and made another appointment online for the day after.
8. A Third Trip to the Extranjeria
Bright and early on a Friday morning, we went back to the Extranjeria with our appointments and receipts. Again, it took fifteen minutes to process both of us. We both walked out with papers that said we have work permits and are legally allowed to get paid.
The best part: the work permit is only valid for one month, as though our visas will get here in the next month. We’ll see how that goes.