Between 2014 and May 2021, 14,215 investor visas have been issued. Of these, 53% have been issued to Chinese nationals. This number coincides with the increase in Chinese investments in Chile.
Chinese interest in Chilean investment continues to grow. The latest investment was the purchase of CGE by the state-owned Chinese company, State Grid, for US$3 billion. The process was approved by the National Economic Prosecutor’s Office (FNE) and is about to be finalized. This purchase will make it the largest player in the Chilean electricity distribution sector, with more than half of the clients in the market. The same firm bought Chilquinta last year for US$2.23 billion.
This increased interest in doing business in Chile has led to a direct increase in investor visas. According to figures from the National Migration Service, between 2014 and May 2021, 14,125 investor visas have been issued. Of these, 7,543 have been issued to Chinese nationals, which is equivalent to 53.4%.
How many investor visas did Chile issue?
The figures show that in 2014, 825 investor visas were issued to Chinese nationals, and in 2018 this reached a peak of 1,325. In 2020 this number dropped to 653. Ecuador follows far behind with 1,444 and Venezuela with 1,246. In 2021, Chinese nationals have received 135 of the 317 visas granted in this category.
The investor visa is valid for one year, but can be renewed for another year or the holder may apply for a permanent residence visa. The director of the National Migration Service, Álvaro Bellolio, explains that as this visa is a temporary visa, it can be transformed into a more common type of visa such as a professional visa, a visa subject to a work contract or another type of visa. However, as this visa is tied to economic support, most apply for a permanent residence visa before the expiration of the first investor visa.
What are the advantages of the investor visa?
Álvaro Bellolio explains that the advantage of this visa is that it has fewer requirements than other stricter types of visas, such as a visa subject to a work contract. This is because the investor visa application does not need to be supported with a notarized contract or certain contractual clauses relating to travel. In addition, it allows the holder to apply for a permanent residence visa after only one year. He points out that this type of visa is “of great interest to the HR departments of Chinese companies investing in our country, and for the collaboration with ministries that promote investment, such as the Economy, Public Works, Mining and Energy.”
“In general, the Chinese government -and its culture- tends to have a high turnover among its executives,” explains Álvaro Bellolio. He added, “For investor visas, in most cases, you apply for an investor visa when there is already a company established in Chile (such as construction, banking, technology and telecommunications companies). However, it can also be requested for new businesses.”
The profiles of those who opt for these visas in the early stages of an investment are mainly executives and professionals for specific projects or consultancies. Álvaro Bellolio said, “Usually in the early stages of investment there are more executives, but once established, the demand is for the rotation of executives every 2 or 3 years, together with professionals for specific projects or consultancies.”
Interest in Chile
The arrival of Asian investors in Chile is not a recent phenomenon. It started at least five years ago, coinciding with the highest number of investor visas issued to Chinese nationals between 2016 and 2018.
Mauricio Benítez, International Director of BDO Chile and academic at the University of Santiago, affirms that there are three main sectors that they look to invest in: natural resources, focused on non-conventional renewable energy; construction, with a focus on concessions; and the financial industry.
Álvaro Bellolio explains that “China has had a growing participation in Latin America, and Chile is no exception. Technological and infrastructure developments are a priority for the Asian giant, and given Chile’s needs in these strategic matters, they have already been investing in our country for several years, with favorable results for both nations.”
How much has China invested in Chile?
In 2019, according to figures from InvestChile, the total value of projects arising from Chinese investment rose 167%, to US$4.85 billion. The number of projects increased by 55%, with 31 initiatives registered as of the end of 2019. Accordingly, China positioned itself as Chile’s main foreign investor, leaving behind the United States and Canada.
In 2020, the trend continued upward until the end of the first half of the year. The portfolio of projects originating from China totaled US$4.47 billion, excluding the US$3 billion plus committed for the purchase of CGE. Despite this, last year it finished again in third place with a total of US$3.89 billion.
To learn more about visas in Chile and investment opportunities, see the following article.