At the request of the Government of Chile, IOM, the UN Migration Agency has opened the first Visa Service Centre for Chile (CAVC) in Haiti, to help Haitian migrants find legal pathways to the South American country. The CAVC opened its doors in the IOM mission compound in Port-au-Prince on Monday, 20 August 2018.
As a result of increased immigration which reached nearly one million foreigners in 2017, the Chilean government instituted new migratory policies in 2018. Through the establishment of new visa categories which include Family Reunification Visas, Haitians can now travel safely and legally to Chile.
Earlier this month, IOM signed an agreement with the Government of Chile to provide administrative support services to assist Haitians wishing to join their families in Chile through the Family Reunification Visa. The CAVC opening is the direct result of this agreement.
The Family Reunification Visa was announced in April and became effective this month. The Chilean Chancellor Roberto Ampuero confirmed that as of 2 July 2018, Haitians in Chile with legal status can apply for a 12-month visa for family reunification with IOM’s support.
These changes in Chilean migratory policy were devised to find a solution to the wave of undocumented foreigners arriving in Chile over the last five years. Chile’s steady economic growth, political stability and relatively open job market has made it one of the more attractive destinations for regional immigrants in recent years. It’s evidenced by an influx of migrants, many from crisis-hit Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
By any measure, the influx of migrants to Chile has been significant. In 2014, there were fewer than 1,800 Haitian migrants in Chile. By April 2018, there were nearly 120,000, according to official figures. According to the Chilean judicial police, in the six months between 1 January and 26 July 2017, over 44,200 Haitians entered Chilean territory. It was a 75 per cent increase from the previous year and has shown no signs of slowing down without changes to the national migration policy.
Upon arrival, many Haitians find low-paid jobs in the labour market where Chileans are reluctant to work, particularly in construction, domestic service and agriculture.
In Port-au-Prince Haiti, IOM set up the visa processing centre’s facilities, systems, and human resources in under a week’s time. Processing capacity is up to 40 interviews a day or more, based on demand.