efe-epaSantiago

Chilean President Sebastian Piñera on Monday presented a proposal to modernize the country's immigration law to include the regularization of immigrants' status, requiring Haitian citizens to have tourist visas and granting special entry permission for Venezuelan migrants.

Piñera said that the aim of the reform and other administrative measures he announced is "to guarantee safe, orderly and regular" immigration to the country, where - according to official figures - about one million foreigners reside, representing 5.5 percent of the population.

"Chile has been, is and will continue being an open and welcoming country for immigration ... but we need a modern immigration law that will be at the level of the highest international standards and that is in accordance with our current situation as a country of opportunities," the president said at a ceremony at the government headquarters.

The president noted that the current immigration law, implemented in 1975 by the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship, is "absolutely incapable" of providing an answer for current challenges.

The bill, which must be approved by Parliament, is comprised of elements included in another initiative Piñera put forward in 2013 during his first term in office and includes "many elements" of the bill presented last year by the government of former President Michelle Bachelet.

The administrative measures, which will not require congressional approval, include a "gradual process of extraordinary regularization" for some 330,000 foreigners without criminal records who are in an irregular residency situation and who entered the country prior to April 8.

He also announced that, starting April 16, Haitian citizens must have a tourist visa with which they may remain in Chile for 30 days.

The arrival of Haitians in Chile has skyrocketed from 1,649 in 2014 to 73,098 in 2017, making this the fastest-growing immigrant community in the country.

The great majority of those people entered on tourist visas, which allow them to remain in Chile for 90 days, but they have overstayed their limit and are now in the country illegally. With the new requirements, Haitians will have to request a tourist visa at the Chilean consulate in their country to be allowed entry into the South American nation.

Regarding Venezuelans, Piñera said that a "democratic responsibility visa" would be created that may be requested at Chilean consulates in Venezuela starting on April 16.

Among other things, the document will authorize temporary residence for one year to Venezuelans.