Extranjeros: The Art of Obtaining a Chilean Visa
The thrill of moving to another country certainly loses some of its luster once the paperwork process begins, or maybe the paperwork process simply reminds you that this is not a vacation… it is actually very real.
During the past two weeks we have been working on the many steps needed to apply for a temporary Chilean visa (We will be able to apply for permanent residency after we have lived here for two years). I’m sure every country has its quirks in its government offices, but here in Chile the joke has quickly become, “You will need to put a stamp on that,” or “I need a legalized copy of your legalized copy please.”
So in case you are interested in becoming our neighbor, here are the steps we have followed in order to hopefully stay in Chile for a long time.
Step 1: Begin at home and begin as soon as you can!
In Chile, a colegio is just a school. Since our diplomas from the states have college on them, it was very important to legalize all documents in order to prove our colleges’ authenticity. Once we got our diploma, transcripts, and college accreditation documents (all notarized and stamped with a raised seal), they had to be sent our colleges’ Secretary of State and then to the Chilean Consulate in Chicago to be legalized.
Step 2: Get a Tourist Visa!
When you arrive in Chile, you are supposed to get a tourist card when you go through immigration. For some reason, Jon and I were never given one. We actually had to make a trip to the PDI (Chile’s version of the FBI) to have tourist cards made for us.
Step 3: Get your documents legalized AGAIN in Santiago
This was by far the easiest and most fun part of the visa process. Although we had to pay for the four-hour bus ride to Santiago from Linares, they processed our documents quickly and we had the rest of the day to play in the city on a beautiful sunny day.
Step 4: Get and sign your work contracts
We will be teaching English in schools in Longavi so we traveled there (20 min bus ride from Linares) to get our contracts drawn up at the DAEM or Department of Education. They were extremely nice, made our contracts, and walked us over to the Mayor’s office to get them signed.
Step 5: Find Arron and ask him to help you
Man, we are so thankful for Arron (fellow gringo who arrived in Linares last year) who took a day off to help us which made the process so much faster! Not only did he know exactly where all the offices we needed were located, but he also knew which specific people to talk to, their hours of operation, and a good place to stop for lunch. On top of all that, by trial and error in his own process, he knew the exact order to follow so that we did not have to backtrack countless times. Without his help we would certainly still be hanging out that the notaria or the gobernacion. Arron helped us to:
- Get our contract and documents notarized
- Get our “carnet” pictures taken
- Find a place to photocopy every marked page of our passport and our tourist card
- Go to the gobernacion, find Hilda, and start the visa application process.
- Find a bank to make our visa payment and then back to the notary to legalize our bank statement so that it could be returned to Hilda.
- Now all we have to do is wait until the papers come back and then we can get our IDs!
Step 6: Be Patient
With Arron’s help we were able to do our visa process relatively quickly. That being said, delays are common like offices being closed for lunch or the person whose signature you might need might be out of office. Patience has been especially important for me personally. While Jon and Jenny were able to apply for their visas and start working, I couldn’t because my first round of paperwork was delayed and lost in the mail and my second round is still in the states.
The GREAT news is that, thanks to some wonderful people, my papers will hopefully be here on Friday! A special shout out to Erika from Kingdom Workers who personally picked up my second round of papers from Wisconsin Lutheran College, drove to Madison to drop them off, drove to Madison to pick them up, and express mailed them to the consulate in Chicago! Another shout out to Mom Gross who found and mailed our marriage certificate (I just realized that a different last name on my diploma might be a problem). Thanks to Chelsea who is getting all this mail and bringing everything to Chile on her way back from vacation in the states. And finally thanks to Laura who I’m sure helped Erika with addresses and legalization process.
While working through the intricate visa process, we have quickly realized many small blessings and are extremely thankful for several people who have helped us out in huge ways. We also were reminded that although we are currently fighting to legally “belong” in Chile, our true citizenship in not here, or in the States for that matter.
“As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world,” Jesus comforted His disciples. (John 15:19b)
“My kingdom is not of this world,” declared Jesus Christ to Pontius Pilate before He was turned over to the Jews to be crucified. (John 18:36)
“For through him [Jesus] we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household,” the apostle Paul reminded the Christian church in Ephesus. (Ephesians 2: 18-19)
“Our citizenship is in heaven,” Paul professed to the Christians in Philippi while he was under house arrest in Rome. (Philippians 3:20)
Legally, we are currently under temporary status in Chile. We are extranjeros or foreigners. Even if our official paperwork comes, or if our gringo accents turn into Chilean ones, or if we start eating complatos for breakfast, or if Jon dyes his hair, we still won’t officially belong here in Chile. And that is just fine. We are not supposed to! Heaven is our home and Chile is a pretty place to stay in the meantime.