Historically, Chile has had an average immigration rate of 0.35 percent for each thousand inhabitants, while emigration from the Andean nation has consistently been among the lowest in Latin America.

Familia alemana en Temuco, 1893
Familia alemana en Temuco, 1893

A period of mass immigration from Germany began in 1848, supported by the Chilean government and with the aim of populating the southern regions of the country. With time, the German immigration influenced the cultural composition of much of southern Chile, mainly in the provinces of Valdivia, Osorno and Llanquihue. Other people from Europe and the Middle East arrived in Valparaiso especially, as well as to the north and south extremes of Chile in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These included Austrian, British and Irish, Croatian, Spanish, French, Greek, Italian, Dutch, Polish, Russians, Swiss, Jews and Palestinians.

In 1953, the government of President Carlos Ibáñez del Campo created the Department of Immigration and established regulations for this.

Legal immigration from neighboring countries to Chile has become the most important. Between 2004 and 2010, this increased by 50% to an estimated 365,459 people. According to the 2012 Census, nationwide there are 339,536 people born abroad, primarily from Peru (103.624), Argentina (57 019), Colombia (27 411), Bolivia (25 151) and Ecuador (16 357).

While emigration has declined over the last decade, in 2005 records showed 487,174 Chileans were residing outside of Chile, representing the 2.99% of the estimated total population of the country in that year, a total of 16,267,278 inhabitants.Of the total of Chilean expatriates, 43.33% were in Argentina, 16.58% in the United States, 5.61% in Sweden, 5.21% in Canada and 4.80% in Australia.

Within the country, the mobility of the population has increased in recent decades, causing a mass migration from the rural areas toward the big cities of the country. However, in the regions of South-central Chile more than 80% of its population was born in the region and stayed there – as in the Biobio, where this statistic reaches as high as 86.11% -in the Metropolitan Region this number is 71% of the population, and in the extreme regions, only 55% —as in the Magallanes and Antártica Chilena.