I’ve had a few emails from fellow expats asking about finding a job in Chile and getting a work visa.
I’m a full time mum, blogger, journalist and expat spouse. Right now I’m way too busy, but in the not so distant future I’d like to look for some part time office work. I’ve been looking into the practicalities of finding a job and getting a work visa, and I thought to share my findings with you here…
As always, a little disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer or a HR expert. The following are my personal impressions only and rules change; if you have any doubts speak to a lawyer first!
Do I need a visa to work in Chile?
Yes, you need a visa to work in Chile.
Of course there are many people here who have more informal jobs paying in cash and I doubt they have visas. These are often temporary, lower paid or side jobs such as personal training, English tuition and so forth.
How do I get a work visa for Chile?
If you’re planning to work in Chile, you have to apply for your work visa in your host country, prior to moving over. These work visas are granted for two years. Family members can be granted a work dependent visa, which is also valid two years, but with this type of visa the dependent is not allowed to work.
Having said that, if you’re already here (e.g. on a tourist visa) then it is possible to request a new, work contract visa while living in Chile. In fact you need to be in Chile to apply to for this type of visa. I have many friends who’ve been through this process and while it took ages, the procedure was fairly straight forward.
After the two years is up, you can switch your work visa for a permanent residency in Chile. This is only valid as long as you’re working with the company with which you applied. So if you stop working for the company, your visa is no longer valid.
What is the work visa processing time?
Officially the work contract visa takes three or four months to process, and within the first month or two you should receive a visa application receipt (VAR) proving your visa is being processed.
Unofficially it takes a lot, lot longer. As I’m writing this post I have friends who have been waiting for over eight months just for the receipt!
A Special Work Permit can also be issued following 30-45 work days of the application and has a validity of four months. This document allows you to work and earn in Chile while the visa is being processed and may be renewed if the visa has not been approved during such time. Sounds great, but in reality, there is also a huge backlog for these type of permits.
Are there any jobs in Chile for Americans and other native English speakers?
There are lots of jobs in tourism, such as hotel staff and tour guides. Lots of my friends work in the wine industry, which is of course huge here in Chile.
There are loads of extranjeros based here, but highly skilled, native English speaking staff are still hard to come by. Consequently if you speak English as your mother tongue, you’re already at a huge advantage. This is especially true for work which requires English as part of the job, e.g. marketing or translation.
It’s also worth checking with English speaking embassies and consulates. While the top jobs go to personnel hired through a rigorous internal programme, I have heard of friends working on a project consultancy basis for the US, New Zealand and Australian embassies here.
While it’s easier and quicker to find more casual (and generally lower paid) work such as English tuition etc. that’s not to say that if you need to kiss your previous career goodbye.
Any multinationals or American companies in Chile to look out for?
Mining, wine and agriculture are the main industries here in Chile. Having said that there are plenty more options out there too.
Companies like BHP, Hilti and other mining companies have a good reputation among expat buddies. I also have friends at Concha y Toro and this sounds like a great company too. Of course, they’re huge companies, so no doubt it varies from department to department.
All of these companies I know have their headquarters in Santiago. Nevertheless work opportunities are nothing like as plentiful compared to bigger Latin American hubs like Mexico city, Sao Paulo and Bogota.
What about part time work?
Part time work is the only way many parents can juggle hectic lives. While it varies a lot based on the company, part time in Chile generally means working 9am – 3.30pm every day. Unless you’re working on a project or consultancy basis, it’s very rare to be able to work just specific days of the week.
Job sharing hasn’t really arrived in Chile, but fingers crossed times are changing.
Chile is a very traditional country and I’ve heard that employers can be more understanding to mothers needing to get back for their children than to fathers. It’s far more common to see women in part time work than men.
Do I need Spanish to work in Chile?
In a word, yes.
Unless you’re working for a large American company or huge multinational, chances are you’ll need a good level of Spanish. Even if you’re working for a English speaking company, you’ll need some Spanish to get by on an admin level at least.
What’s more, you’ll definitely need some Spanish outside the office. For after work drinks, ordering in a restaurant, topping up your metro card or buying petrol, Spanish certainly comes in handy.
Some highly skilled, technological jobs require fluent, professional level Spanish.
What’s the work culture like in Chile?
I’ve never worked in Chile so I can only go from what friends here tell me.
Typically work starts late, with stores not opening until 10am or 11am, for example. A lot of friends work well past 9pm on most nights.
Alas face time is a real issue here, with a lot of office politics swirling about. If the boss is in town, look sharp!
It’s also a sad reality that promotions are often awarded to friends at the expense of others who perhaps deserve it more. This is not just the case for small family run businesses, but also for larger multinationals with branches here.
I’ve also heard some expats saying they find the Chilean culture of evaluation very tricky. Lots of friends tell me it is hard to give honest, constructive criticism without being taken for a bully. The culture can be quite reserved, and feedback is often given indirectly.
Some expats complain that their company does not offer proper compensation for their efforts. Token rewards like gym passes do not make up for a lower than average salary and maternity leave is not a benefit, it’s the law.
On a brighter note, Chile has a ridiculous number of public holidays. Navy day, army day and avocado day… OK I made the last one up, but you get my drift.
Anything I should know before I move to Chile?
It’s worth checking first if your qualifications are recognised here. Education is a big thing here in Chile (you need to have attended further education just to get a driving license!) I do have friends that have incredible experience, but without a degree in their field and they’re been sidelined. If you want to get into human resources industry most likely you’ll need a degree in psychology for example, which just isn’t the case in the UK. You’ll need to negotiate hard to persuade your future employer that you don’t need a piece of paper to be the best person for the job.
It’s a good idea to get all your certificates translated and apostilled in your home country before you move over. Make photocopies of all your important documents too.
I hear it’s moderately easy to set up a company in Chile, and there are some government programmes such as Start Up Chile which seek to boost talent to the region. Having said that, I’ve heard that bureaucracy can be a nightmare and it’s incredibly tough opening anything in the catering industry in particular.
Who are the best recruiters in Santiago?
Like any city, there are lots of recruitment agencies in Santiago. Focus Advisor specialise in mid to top management level posts and come highly recommended. Seek & Match is another great firm which works with more junior to mid level candidates.
If you’re female and interested in flexible work, be sure to check out a digital platform called Proyecto Moms too.
But the best way to find a job in Chile, is to network (see more below).
Are there any work from home jobs you’d recommend?
Depending on your background, there are lots of options for working from home.
Teaching English, yoga, fitness or other subjects one-to-one is popular here.
For these roles it is best to have a definite cancellation policy in place. So if a student doesn’t show up, or shows up late, you’re not impacted financially. Equally if you have kids and you need to cancel when they get sick, if there is clear policy in place so your students won’t get annoyed.
Other roles include translation, transcribing and English language screening of job seeking candidates. I also know many people who work online for companies based in their host country. Financial risk, marketing, e-learning are some of the industries, for example.
Some expats have decided to set up their own businesses in fashion, beauty, parenting or design. Sleep consultants, make up artists, artists, nutritional experts… they’re all here in Chile.
And of course there are bloggers, freelance journalists and writers like me.
While working from home allows great flexibility and for some people it’s the only means of work, it’s still a juggle. Some find themselves having to rely on childcare more to get their work done. Sometimes the salary doesn’t justify the actual time involved. Like any job, it’s important to look at the net salary, time commitment, work hours and travel required. (Side note, traffic is horrendous in many parts of Santiago!)
As mentioned, if you have a solid career, with a bit of luck you won’t have to throw your experience into the waste bing and start all over. You will have to adapt, however. You might find yourself working from home on european hours or working part time for a lesser salary.
What are salaries like in Chile?
Salaries in Chile vary wildly. The cost of living in Chile is very high compared to the salaries on offer. That’s not to say it’s not worth it. I love Chile and most of my expat friends do too.
Teaching and childcare is paid very badly compared to the UK and US. If you’re offering your services as a nanny you might be rather disappointed with wages here. If you’re a qualified educational assistant, pedagogical expert or English language professional for kids, you’ll need to market yourself as an expert to set yourself apart from house maids and justify a higher salary.
While it may be a long way from home, Chile is not classified as a hardship location by many companies. Consequently, don’t automatically expect a big, juicy, hardship allowance.
Any tips for finding a job in Chile?
Network, network, network. While Chilean companies do post on LinkedIn, often job postings are advertised at social gatherings, barbecues and general word of mouth. I asked friends the best way to find a job or get a promotion and the general consensus is: it’s who you know, not what you know. Time to close the laptop and open the barbecue…