Chile - Country Commercial Guide
Distribution & Sales Channels
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Using an Agent or Distributor

Using an Agent or Distributor

In general, foreign suppliers enter the Chilean market by appointing an agent, distributor, or wholesaler. Most are small-to-medium size firms. Several large firms handle different product lines and operate as wholesalers. Almost all the firms have their main offices in Santiago. The larger ones have branch offices throughout the country, including the free-trade zones of Iquique and Punta Arenas. Agent/representative commissions normally range from five to ten percent, depending on the product. For contract requirements, see the section in this report on Local Professional Services.

Chile is a relatively small market where relationships in the business community are key to success. The selection of a Chilean agent or representative is an extremely important decision for U.S. exporters and merits a thorough review of possible candidates, their qualifications, and capabilities. U.S. companies are invited to make full use of the wide range of market entry and partner search services offered by the U.S. Department of Commerce U.S. Commercial Service, and for agricultural exports, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

Establishing an Office

Within the framework of Chilean law, business entities can choose between a variety of different corporate forms, each with different legal and tax implications. Since tax treatment of the various forms of businesses in Chile is similar to the United States, the choice of entity type is often guided by U.S. tax considerations. As of this writing, a bilateral tax treaty between Chile and the United States has been negotiated and ratified by the Chilean Congress and U.S. Senate and is awaiting further action by both Chile and the United States prior to implementation. For more information, please see the chapter on Investment.

There are two ways to incorporate a business in Chile: via traditional means with a Chilean attorney (for all corporations), or via self-service online. The process of working with an attorney to form a corporation is relatively inexpensive and takes about seven weeks. The direct costs are approximately $1,700 for legal fees (depending on business sector) and $750 for expenses such as notary public, commercial registry, and the official gazette publication. Chile has no minimum local participation requirement, and the inclusion of local partners is guided only by commercial considerations.

The Ministry of Economy created an online portal ( to help individuals create a business in 24 hours. The portal provides information, facilitates the procedures, and helps companies obtain the certificates and the benefits of the state. There is no charge to create a business via this portal. The only expenses are associated with the use of the Advanced Electronic Signature (FEA by the Spanish acronym). Those who do not have an FEA can sign electronically through a notary. The cost of obtaining the FEA is an estimated $41 for a year and the portal has a list of providers of that service.

There are several types of companies that can be registered: limited liability corporations, individual limited liability corporations, joint stock companies, public limited corporations, and reciprocal guaranty corporations.

Regardless of whether you work through an attorney or online, the first step for any U.S. citizen, corporation, or entity wishing to establish a business in Chile is to present a declaration of intent to invest at a Chilean Consulate. This intent form should state the nature of the business and the capital to be invested, while simultaneously requesting a Chilean Permanent Residence Visa. This visa confers official residence status on the company, which is necessary to conduct commercial activity in Chile.

For the latest Investment Climate Statement (ICS) which includes information on investment and business environments in foreign economies pertinent to establishing and operating an office and to hiring employees, visit the U.S. Department of State’s Investment Climate Statements website.


As of 2020 (latest information available), there are approximately 300 franchises in Chile, with more than 7,000 stores throughout the country. Franchises are located primarily in the Santiago Metropolitan Region, with additional representation in the Valparaíso and Bío-Bío regions. In Chile, 82 percent of franchises originate from five countries: Chile, the United States, Spain, Peru, and Argentina. These franchises are distributed among five sectors: (1) the food industry (39 percent), including restaurants, coffee shops, and ice cream shops; (2) services (23 percent), including healthcare providers, fitness centers, real estate, financial services, hotels, and car rental; (3) apparel (17 percent), including clothing and footwear; (4) commerce (14 percent), including shops that sell sweets, tea, coffee, pharmacies, cosmetics, and other goods; and (5) education (7 percent), including technical institutes and test-prep institutes.

Despite the uncertain and complex scenario during the pandemic, franchises in Chile have increased. In 2020, new franchises entered the market, and existing franchises grew seven percent in corporate owned stores and 20 percent in new franchise stores. The franchise industry in Chile was responsible for nearly 70,000 jobs in 2019, however, that number decresed by 7 percent in 2020.

In a 2019 survey on sales, 58 percent of the companies said their sales have decreased, 38 percent increased, and 4 percent have remained unchanged. Retail industry sales have increased the most with a 30 percent increase while the food industry has decreased by 50 percent. The digital transformation has been key to the success of franchises during this period. The survey also states that the investment payback period decreased from 25 months in 2016 to 22 months in 2020.

Chile does not have specific franchise laws. Franchise companies operating in Chile are subject to the same general Chilean trade laws as all companies. Royalties and fees are subject to a withholding tax ranging from 15 to 35 percent and contracts are usually for five to ten years. U.S. companies are encouraged to register their trademarks prior to entering the Chilean market. Chile does not have a franchise association, however, there is a franchise committee under the Santiago Chamber of Commerce that organizes the only franchise trade show in the country, FIF Chile.

A major challenge for franchises in Chile is identifying local investors interested in obtaining a master franchise. A small group of established local companies owns the master franchises in the principal sectors making it very challenging for new concepts to find new investors and enter the market. For those franchises committed to entering the market, it is recommended to utilize newspaper advertisements and contact a franchising consultant. Other challenges include securing financing, finding affordable locations, and recruiting employees.

Franchises with low initial investments (in the range of $100,000-200,000) have stronger market potential compared to concepts requiring larger investments ($500,000 or more). The average initial investment in Chile is $232,000. Chile has a conservative and risk averse business culture that is cautious about large, upfront investment for unproven concepts until the franchisor has a track record of success in other markets.

Opportunities include wellness & personal care, green products & services, children and elder care, education, home maintenance, products & services for pets, real estate, and experiences.

For more information, please contact the U.S. Commercial Service Chile Commercial Specialist Macarena Marin.

Direct Marketing

In 2023, marketing trends in Chile showcased a significant focus on digitization, which encompassed the integration of social media platforms and artificial intelligence. Another noteworthy trend was responsible consumption, emphasized through the concept of “slow marketing.” This approach centered on advocating for consuming less but with a greater emphasis on quality.

The gaming industry, once a niche market in Chile, had evolved into a substantial and vital segment. This transformation presented an incredible opportunity to tap into this burgeoning market. The wellness sector also gained prominence, prompting brands to show how their products promotte healthy habits to attain better physical and mental health outcomes.

Sustainability also plays a crucial role in the marketing landscape, with consumers becoming increasingly conscious of the environmental impact of various products.

The exchange of products in Chile is more complicated due to value added tax (VAT) considerations. Most store policies will provide store credit, rather than cash refunds, with exchanges within a certain time period. The larger department and grocery store chains do provide cash refunds. Credit card penetration in Chile has grown in the past few years. According to the Superintendency of Banks and Financial Institutions, 98 percent of people 15 years or older has a credit or debit card issued by a bank or store.

Joint Venture/Licensing

In Chile, joint ventures and licensing arrangements require the participation of a legally-established local partner who can be responsible for Chilean legal and tax obligations. The various administrative, commercial, profit distribution, and other issues involved in the association are established in contracts drawn up between the partners in accordance with Chilean law and tax regulations.

Chilean law affords substantial flexibility in the structuring and implementation of joint ventures (JV). They can be structured as a contractual JV or a corporate JV, whether a company or partnership, and the parties may enter into one or more contracts to further structure their relationship.

While purely contractual, JVs are legally possible. The parties typically form a new legal entity, become partners or shareholders in an existing legal entity, or a combination of both.

The types of legal entities most used in JVs are closely held corporations (sociedades anónimas, SA) or stock companies (sociedades por acciones, SpA).

Express Delivery

Express delivery services between the United States and Chile facilitate swift and efficient transportation of goods, fostering international trade and economic cooperation. When shipping from the United States to Chile, express delivery options such as FedEx, UPS, and DHL offer reliable and expedited shipping solutions. This is especially crucial for businesses looking to export products, as well as individuals sending time-sensitive parcels or documents. These services often provide tracking capabilities, ensuring that senders and recipients can monitor the progress of their shipments in real-time, as well as customs clearance assistance.

One of the key advantages of express delivery between the United States and Chile is the reduced transit time, with packages often arriving within a matter of days. This rapid turnaround time is especially beneficial for e-commerce companies looking to expand their customer base across borders, as it enables them to offer competitive shipping options.

In Chile, ChileExpress is the leading private company in the courier market and express shipping services. Customers can send products and documents to the United States with door-to-door service with transit times starting from three days. Please note that the weight restriction for this service is up to 2.5 kg for documents: up to 70 kg for parcels.

Chile uses the Harmonized System (HS) and requires a complete description for all shipments entering the country. The description must include the value of each commodity and the HS number. Customs entries are submitted by a customs broker, either electronically or by submitting copies of the required documents. However, those who import non-commercial goods valued at less than $500 can handle customs entry without a customs broker. Commercial forms issued to both local importers and exporters are as follows: commercial invoice, certificate of origin, bill of lading, freight insurance, and packing list. All imports require a license; however, most goods receive an import license without an issue.

Imports are subject to duties and taxes which must be paid in order for customs to release the goods. An “ad valorem” custom tariff is imposed on most goods and “specific” duties (based on the quantity) are imposed on specific types of goods. The uniform “ad valorem” tariff of six percent applies to most goods. However, alcoholic beverages, pyrotechnics, and tobacco products are subjected to different tariffs. Imported automobiles are also subject to a luxury tax. Regarding import taxes, a value added tax of 19 percent is assessed on the value of the imported goods plus the customs duty.

Any merchandise can be imported, except those that are expressly prohibited by current legislation, such as used vehicles and motorcycles, asbestos in any of its forms, pornography, and toxic industrial waste.

The product to be imported, due to its nature, may be subject to approval, authorization, or control by the Chilean customs, therefore, it is necessary to obtain the approval in advance from the respective agency.

Further details of these limits and restrictions for customs can be found on each delivery firm’s websites.

Due Diligence

Due diligence is a recommended step as part of any decision to engage in business with a foreign company. U.S. exporters who would like to request background on a prospective business partner should consider the International Company Profile (ICP) service offered by the U.S. Commercial Service. Information on this and other U.S. Commercial Service services is available on the U.S. Commercial Service website.