There are two paths to obtaining Chilean citizenship, one as a foreigner who has resided in Chile for five years, or, through parents or grandparents with Chilean nationality.
There is little difference in day-to-day benefits between being a permanent resident and becoming a citizen. After five years residency you can register to vote, and apply for a Chilean passport. As mentioned above you don’t need to renounce your current citizenship, but you can hold dual nationality.
The main difference between permanent residency and citizenship is, as a resident, if you leave Chile for a year you will lose your visa status. As a citizen there is no such worry. In fact if you receive Chilean citizenship you may be able to take advantage of some of Chile’s free-trade agreements with other countries.
How to apply for citizenship
You can apply for citizenship after five full years of permanent residency provided you meet the following requirements:
- Have you own permanent residency visa, ie. you are not dependent on a spouse’s or other relative’s visa.
- Have a clean criminal record (minor crimes may not discredit your application depending on the nature of the offence).
- Have proof of sufficient income via employment or a pension.
Once you meet these criteria you can apply with the following documents:
- A filled out and signed (in person) form Solicitud de Carta de Nacionalización
- A letter or document explaining why you want to become a Chilean citizen
- A police report
- Certificate of your travels into and out of Chile
- Two passport photographs with your RUT or passport number on them
- Photocopy of the information page of your passport, both sides of your ID card and your permanent residency card.
If you have Chilean family
You can apply for citizenship if your parents or grandparents have or have had Chilean citizenship at some point.
To apply through this route you will need to complete the following steps:
- Provide documents showing your relationship with the person of Chilean citizenship, which is usually a birth certificate. For a grandparent a chain of birth certificates is the most commonly accepted documentation.
- Submit a form to the Chilean Civil Registry requesting you are added to the Civil Registry. This can be done at most Chilean consulates and in Chile itself.
If your situation is particularly complicated, involves foreign paperwork or relatives that are not registered in the Civil Registry, you may need the help of a specialist immigration lawyer.
Timeline for gaining Chilean citizenship
Temporary residency visa - 180 days out of 1 year or 2 years continuously if you are on a work permit visa. (The earliest you can apply for permanent residency is nine months after receiving your temporary visa).
Permanent residency visa - five full years with a permanent residency visa (if you leave Chile for more than a year you will lose this visa).
Application for citizenship - This can take a while to process, sometimes as long as a year.