Chile has found itself on the receiving end of an exodus of sorts from Spain. Young, educated Spaniards are facing unemployment rates of around 51.4 percent at home, and are increasingly looking abroad for economic opportunity.
And Chile – with its booming economy and low unemployment figures – seems to be one of the most popular destinations for these talented individuals.
El Mostrador, a Chilean online investigative news outlet, profiled several of these hardy young souls, most of whom found success in their newly adopted country.
“I had to leave Europe because of the economic crisis. I first looked to the U.S., but gaining a visa is difficult. Then I looked to Latin America, where countries are growing,” said the recently arrived Gerard Cornejo, explaining why he came to Chile.
The Chilean government is receiving these immigrants with open arms – Labor Minister Bruno Baranda has come out saying that labor shortages in the mining, construction, and agriculture sectors, in particular, need urgent filling by immigrants.
Along with a business environment on the keen look-out for young talent, and unlike in the U.S and other developed countries, obtaining a visa in Chile is easy. Workers just require a contract from a local company, entitling them to a temporary working visa.
After two consecutive years of employment, workers are entitled to permanent residency, and in another three years, naturalization and a Chilean passport.
While it is impossible to know exactly how many Spaniards have gone down this path, as registration at the Spanish consulate is voluntary, it is clear that this number is rising.
There are currently 48,031 registered Spanish people living in Chile, and 464 work visas were granted between January and October in 2011, up from 388 in the year of 2010.
And as good news trickles back to Europe, the those numbers appear set to continue rising.
Marga González-Calvo is an architect who came to Chile five months ago, found work and encouraged her older brother, a wine-maker, to follow her example.
“For us, Chile is a really good place to be right now, because it has economic stability and there is a lot of work,” said González-Calvo. “Every Spaniard that wants to work should come here.”