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Chile Practical Advice: Work Permits for Visiting Foreign Employees

Harris Gomez Group has been working with foreign companies in Latin America for 16 years. We often meet companies at the beginning of their journey when they are first starting to explore the market. We watch as they introduce their product/services, advance through the sales process, overcome the inevitable obstacles that arise, and finally, success (hopefully!). Nothing is more exciting than seeing our clients win work after a long sales cycle.

The mood quickly changes from celebrating the well-deserved win to trying to figure out how to execute the work. Many of the solutions today being sold to mining companies are technical in nature. It is common for foreign companies to bring technical staff from abroad to assist with the implementation.  Understanding how to obtain Chilean work permits for your foreign workers, the time frames to do so, and the various other considerations, are all important questions that need to be answered by companies when developing their implementation plans. Even more important are those little pieces of practical advice that you just do not know until you are in the middle of the process.

Below we provide some practical advice related to bringing in foreign workers:

Important Considerations

  • How long will the workers be in Chile?
  • Will the worker need to come multiple times over an extended amount of time?
  • Who is the client and do they have any special requirements?
  • Where will they be working (at altitude in the Andes)?
  • Do they need to bring special tools from their home country?

The above questions are relevant to understand which visa is best suited for the circumstances and whether there are any tax considerations. For example, a foreign company may have a contract with a mining company that requires workers at the mines site for an extended amount of time. As per Chilean tax law, a company is found to have permanent establishment when they are providing services in-country for more than 183 days of any given year. In this case, the foreign company would be liable to pay corporate taxes the same as a local company.

Understanding who the client is and where the work will take place is important as many mine sites, especially those at altitude, may require that the workers have medicals before being allowed to enter the mine site. Additionally, many mining companies, have specific employee accreditation processes that may extend the time your workers are in Chile but not on site. For example, BHP uses Deloitte´s and once all the documentation required is submitted, it can take 2-3 days before it is approved.

Lastly, if there are any special tools or equipment coming with the workers, it is important they are claimed through customs and the proper procedures are taken. We have had many clients who are ready to go directly to the mine site but their equipment is stuck with customs until the import taxes are paid and the proper import procedures are taken. So it is important to know if your instrument needs to pay tax or not and if you need to declare the same or not when entering the country.

Work Permits

Practical Tips:

  • The Department of Immigration and Migration in Santiago is extremely busy. The wait times can be anywhere from a couple of hours to a half day. If the workers are going someplace other than Santiago, it can be much quicker to do the process in another city where the immigration office is less busy.
  • Once the work permit has been granted, one must pay the corresponding fees through a money order issued by the Department of Immigration and Migration, which is canceled at any Commercial Bank in Chile.
  • The tourist card and the work permit are sacred documents, you always need to keep them with you. They look like a simple receipt but it’s your ticket to enter and exit the country and your permit to work.

One Year Temporary Visa for Professionals

Practical Tips:

  • If the worker will be in the country for more than 183 days, they will be considered residents of Chile for tax purposes. They will need to pay personal taxation on the income that is derived as Chilean sourced. This needs to be addressed for the sake of the employee and there are a few strategies that can help alleviate this issue.
  • Labour insurance –  All workers independent of where they are from, need to have work insurance. If the worker will come here for a short period of time, be sure to have in place an international insurance that covers not only general medical issues but also labor health issues. If the worker is going to be in Chile for longer then you will have to comply with the health regime used in Chile, all the applicable insurance, and its mandatory payments.
  • Health and Pension: If you have a professional or technical degree, you can be exempted from paying these to a Chilean institution and instead of being able to maintain your home regime. However, it is vital that you bring the certificates from your home country proving the existence of these coverages, otherwise you will be having to pay them in Chile.  The certificate must indicate that you are covered in health, old age, disability, and death.

Where can we help?

  • HGG can assist by helping you understanding if there are any tax consequences for the company or employees.
  • We can provide strategies on how to minimize taxes (where possible) and implementing the plan.
  • We can support your staff with the work permits, visas, and accreditation with the mines.

Harris Gomez Group is a Common Law firm, with offices in Santiago, Bogotá, and Sydney. We also have legal teams in Mexico, Peru, Brazil, and Argentina.

Over the last 16 years, we have been supporting foreign companies with their growth in Latin America. Many of our clients are technology companies, service providers and engineering companies that focus on the mining, energy and infrastructure markets.

To better understand how we can support your management team in the Region, please contact Cody Mcfarlane at cmm@hgomezgroup.com