Disclaimer: This information is valid at the time the article is written. It’s based on my personal experiences, but obviously, I’m not a visa expert or lawyer. Make sure to check in with your local Chilean Embassy to know the latest regulations regarding the working holiday visa before you apply.
When I decided to apply for a working holiday visa for Chile and started to research how the process works, I found a decided lack of information. Sure, there where websites informing on what documents are needed. But there where still a few practical questions I had that remained unanswered. I just had to roll with it in the end, and luckily my application was successful all the same. Still, I hope with this post I can give some future applicants the help I was missing.
I need to point out that all this refers to Germans applying for the visa. I’m sure there are other nationalities eligible for it, and probably the process will be similar to them, so I hope they can still get something out of this article. However, as I am German myself I can only say for sure how it was for me.
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The basics: What’s a working holiday visa and who can get one?
The basic idea of a working holiday visa is that you travel around the country for up to 12 months and support yourself during that time by taking on jobs. It’s particularly aimed at young people wanting to experience other countries. These visas are available in quite a few countries around the world. I myself did a working holiday in Australia almost 7 years ago.
The requirements for the Chile working holiday visa are similar to those of working holiday visas in other countries. You have to be no older than 30 years. It’s only possible to get the visa once in your life, so you can’t have held it before. You must have sufficient funds to afford your life in Chile (more on that in the next section).
You apply for the visa by sending all the required documents to your nearest Chilean Embassy. They need several weeks to process our application (at least 4, according to their website). Then they will inform you via email whether your application was successful. If granted a visa, you will be asked to pay the fee (currently 70 Euro). You also need to pick up your visa in person at the Embassy once it has been granted, as they won’t send it via mail.
Going to Chile and staying there on a Working Holiday Visa
After being granted the visa you have three months to enter Chile. You can stay there for up to 12 months (counted from the moment you first enter the country). Once there, you need to register your visa to get a Chilean ID card. More on that in the section on the process after arrival in Chile.
The visa covers multiple entries, so you can leave the country in between as often as you like. However, doing this will not prolong your visa. It expires 12 months after you first entered Chile, no matter how much time you actually spent in the country.
The application process: this is what you need
Applying for a Chile working holiday visa was somewhat more complicated than it had been to apply for an Australian one. For Australia, I just had to fill out an online form. Chile requires a lot more documentation, and you need to send it by old-fashioned mail.
First of all, there’s the application form itself which you can download on the homepage of the Chile embassy. It contains all your general information and data. Filling that out is pretty straightforward. The additional documents are where it gets complicated.
You need to write a letter of motivation addressed to the Chilean ambassador. It didn’t specify anywhere what language that letter should be in, but as the visa information on the embassy website was in German, I figured it should be fine if the letter is the same language. As my visa was granted, that seems to have been correct. In the letter, I outlined what I planned to do in Chile (mainly travel around and get to know the country, possibly some volunteering). I briefly referred to my professional background, to explain how I would finance my stay in Chile. Which brings me to the next point.
Proof of sufficient funds
You need to prove that you are able to support yourself financially while in the country. Unfortunately, it never says anywhere how much money or income is actually regarded as sufficient. They don’t state a specific sum you need to have. But I suppose you cannot exactly fake your bank statement anyway. As long as you have a reasonable idea of how you can pay for everything and you can get that across, I would assume you’re fine.
There are several ways of proving that you’re able to support yourself. If you are under 26 you can get a confirmation from your parents that they will pay for you if needed. Those over 26 will have to prove that they have sufficient funds themselves. On the embassy website, it gives two options for doing this: either a bank statement outlining your financial status in recent months or last year’s income tax declaration. I went with the latter. As mentioned, I also briefly referred to this my letter of motivation, outlining how I plan to finance my travels.
Doctor’s statement, criminal record certificate, passport and insurance
You will need a document (downloadable on the Embassy’s website) signed by your doctor, stating that you have no severe or chronic illnesses or a relevant family history of illness. It also lists what vaccinations you have. I don’t know what happens if you do have any relevant illnesses because luckily that didn’t apply to me. I would assume it doesn’t automatically exclude you from being able to get a visa, but you might need to explain a bit more about what you have and how it affects your ability to travel.
Next, you need to get a criminal record certificate stating you have no prior convictions. I applied for this at my local authority, and they sent it to me.
Other required documents are proof of overseas health insurance for the duration of your stay in Chile, a copy of your passport and a biometric photograph.
Lastly, they asked for my flight information and proof of accommodation. Which means you do need to book your flight before you apply for the visa. I would usually tend to do it the other way round but never mind. If you don’t want to book a return flight yet that’s okay, but they ask that in that case, you prove that you have enough money to pay for your ticket home.
As to accommodation, I booked a hostel for the first three weeks in Santiago and handed in the confirmation for that. As I want to travel around and haven’t done much pre-planning, I can’t prove accommodation for the entire time yet. I explained this in my letter of motivation, and again, as I got granted a visa, that seems to have worked just fine.
Duration: how long does it take to apply for the Chile working holiday visa?
If you have any experience with Australian or New Zealand Working holiday visa, you’ll know they only take a few hours to be granted. Not so with Chile.
According to the information on their website, they’ll need at least 4 weeks to process an application. Somewhere else I read of it taking 4 to 8 weeks. In any case, don’t leave it until too late.
Getting everything together that you need for your application will also take some time. Getting a criminal record certificate required about 2 weeks processing time before it was sent to me. And you need to make a doctor’s appointment, which may also have to be scheduled some time in advance, depending on how busy your doctor is.
Additionally, you need to consider the time it takes to make an appointment at the Embassy for the collection of your visa after it has been granted. If you nearest Embassy is some way off and you need to travel there, this will probably complicate finding an appropriate appointment time, so keep that in mind too. There are Chilean Embassies in Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, and Munich.
All in all, I would recommend to send in your application about 3 to 4 months before you leave, just to be on the safe side. I actually did it a bit later than that and it still worked out, but just about. Save yourself some stressing out by doing it in time.
The process once you arrive in Chile
Once you have entered the country, you have 30 days to register your visa in order to obtain a Chilean ID card for the duration of your stay. As Chilean bureaucracy can be somewhat nerve-wracking, I’ll try to help you along here as best I can. I’ll also tell you the mistakes I made, so you won’t have to make them too.
From the Chilean Embassy in Germany, you get a paper stating that you obtained a visa. It contains all your data, your photograph, and your fingerprints, which were taken at the Embassy. You get three copies of this document. You’ll need it for immigration at the airport and then for the visa registration. I think the idea is that the airport gets one copy, the immigration office gets one and you keep one for yourself. However, when I arrived in Santiago and went through airport immigration, the lady behind the counter insisted she needs to keep all three copies. Assuming that she knows what she’s doing, I left without my papers.
Now, the point is I still got through registration without them, because I also had the visa in my passport and the PDI document they give you when entering the country containing all visa details. But I could never quite shake the feeling that some steps might have been easier had I kept my papers. So if in any way possible, try to hold on to them when entering the country.
Where you have to go for registration and how long it takes
For starters, the paper from the Embassy had the address of the office I needed to go to in Santiago, and I hadn’t written it down anywhere else. Don’t make that mistake. I assumed it would have to be the immigration office. That belief was confirmed by a Canadian girl from my hostel who had been through this same process some years ago. However, after waiting in line there for 5 1/2 hours (yes, you read that right!), I was told I’m in the wrong place and I needed to go to the PDI office. Don’t make that mistake either.
PDI is the Chilean police, but they handle some immigration matters, too. Waiting time there was three hours. I recommend always going early when you need to go to any kind of Chilean office. And bring a book or something else to occupy you. And water. Lines often go around the entire building, and it’s hot in the sun. Anyway, this time I did manage to get the registration. They gave me a document with all my data and visa information.
With this document and my passport, plus photocopies of both those things, I had to go to the Civil Registration Centre. That meant another three-hour wait. After presenting the form from the PDI Office, they took all my data again, including a photo and my fingerprints. Plus, I had to pay a fee of just over 4200 Chilean Pesos, which is roughly 5,90 €. With this, they were now finally able to make my ID card, which I will have to pick up there in a month.
Some further tips
If you’re not starting your Chile trip in Santiago you can also do the registration in other cities, at least the bigger ones. Keep in mind that you only have 30 days to do it, and it takes two visits to two different offices. Plus, you need to pick up the card once it’s done, which in my case took a month. You might need to adjust your travel plans to make sure you’re in the right city again when that month is over.
One other thing: don’t make the mistake of thinking that only because all these offices deal with immigrants and foreigners, employees there speak English. If you’re lucky they may know a few words, but more likely they won’t. Knowing at least some basic Spanish will be a lifesaver.
If this whole process seems too overwhelming, you have one other option: use an agency specialised in visa services! It will cost you more, but give you the peace of mind to know that there are experts making sure your application is up to scratch.
If you’re looking for some general tips on travelling in Chile with a working holiday visa, and the pros and cons connected with it compared to a tourist visa, read my Chile working holiday visa review.
Cost of the Chile working holiday visa
The cost for the Chile working holiday visa is currently 70 Euros. Unlike other countries, where you pay when you apply, Chile will only ask for the money once the application was successful. The payment information is in your confirmation email. You will need to bring proof of payment when you pick up your visa at the Embassy.
During the registration process in Chile, I had to pay 800 Pesos (about 1,10 €) at the PDI Office and 4270 Pesos at the Registration Office (about 5,90 €).
Plus, there are some additional costs connected to the visa application. Getting a police statement cost me 13 Euros, and my doctor asked 5 Euros for filling out the required statement. I also had to take new biometric pictures, but obviously, that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case for everyone. Still, keep those things in mind for they may add up the overall costs.
Overview Chile working holiday visa (for Germans):
- Requirements: not older than 30 years, not previously held the visa
- Application: send via mail to nearest Chilean Embassy; process time at least 4 weeks; needs to be picked up in person after e-mail confirmation
- Documents needed: application form, letter of motivation, proof of sufficient funds, doctor’s statement, criminal records certificate, copy of passport, biometric photo, proof of overseas health insurance, flight tickets, confirmation of accommodation in Chile
- Visa registration in Chile: First at PDI Office, then Registration Office; after about a month you can pick up your Chilean ID card at the Registration Office
- Cost: 70 € in Germany and a total of about 7 € in Chile; plus costs for things like doctor’s statement, police statement, pictures, photocopies…
I hope this information helps all of you interested in applying for your own Chile working holiday visa. If you want to add anything or you have any questions, pop them in the comments!