Globe, Latin America, United Kingdom

“Roots 4”: Bureaucracy and other demons

Getting papers to work legally in Chile is a great difficulty for migrants. In this story, Queque reveals the problems that he faced and the endless waiting that puts his current work at risk. The Prisma’s Memoirs. January 2018.


Marcella Via


François is a Haitian who, like many compatriots, decided to leave Haiti to migrate towards a better future. He left for Chile, where he met with a friend who had already settled in Santiago.

Like the vast majority, François collided with a harsh reality that he had to accept. Having graduated in public administration, he expected to quickly find a good job. However, this expectation has not yet been fulfilled.

Desperate to find a job to survive, he began selling cakes that his mother, a baker, had taught him to make.

He settled in the subway and in the place that hosted him and sold the cakes that carried the flavour of Haiti, which earned the nickname “Queque”.

After this stage of selling cakes on the street, Queque got a job in a cleaning company and is currently a janitor in a building. He says that he is happy and that he likes Chile, and at the same time he feels that he is integrating.

In any case, even if he has a good job, Queque still does not have the necessary papers to be able to legally stay in Chile. In fact, he says he is worried because if he does not get these papers within a month, he will have to leave his job.

To obtain a work visa in Chile, migrants must go to the immigration office with a valid work contract. After countless hours of waiting, forming a queue that surrounds the grey building located in downtown Santiago, migrants who manage to access employees can apply for the visa.

Although Queque completed the pilgrimage to the immigration office many months ago, his visa has still not arrived, leaving him in a limbo between his daily work as a janitor and the condition of being an undocumented migrant.

To better understand Queque’s long wait to receive his visa, it is necessary to take a step back in time. Newly arrived in Santiago and anxious to regularise his situation in the face of his initial job failure, François relied on the words of a man who told him that to get a contract quickly, he had to go to the Plaza de Armas and pay a fee.

Unfortunately, the service turned out to be the result of an illegal activity that is dedicated to selling fake contracts to migrants for 60 thousand Chilean pesos. Queque is not the only immigrant who fell into the trap.

In fact, according to the newspapers Economía y Negocios and Emol Nacional, an investigation has been carried out, which reveals that this practice has sold more than 6,000 false contracts in the last two years. The main buyers are Venezuelans, Colombians and Haitians who, in most cases, ignore that the contracts are not valid.

Convinced of having complied with the main requirement to obtain the visa, migrants come to the immigration office that adds the contract to the tower of fake documents that has been growing since 2015.

Obviously, migrants who present this type of contract do not receive the papers. Moreover, they are marked in the office registry and their subsequent attempts are penalised with a longer wait, which may never end. According to Emol Nacional, this practice resulted in the expulsion of 17 migrants in 2016.

While the tower of fake contracts methodically stored in the immigration office is continually growing, the Chilean state has not yet submitted any proposal to stop the sale of false contracts in the Plaza de Armas.

This nefarious process leaves migrants in an endless wait, risking their working condition.

Queque has begun to look for another possibility of employment because he doubts that he will receive his visa on time. The lack of intervention by the state to end the illegal sale of employment contracts affects migrants, placing them in a precarious situation.

As migrants arrive in Chile and try to legalise their status, it seems that the state is more interested in taking care of an illicit business rather than protecting the rights of a vulnerable part of its population.

(Translated by Sidney Sims)  – Photos: Pixabay


Share it / Compartir:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *