Chile's president Sebastian Piñera showing signed law of residence

New Easter Island law of residence officially in effect

Today a new law of residence of Easter Island is officially in effect, which will apply more control over who settles down in this South Pacific island. The president of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, flew from the continent to personally celebrate the ceremony of this new law.

President Sebastian Piñera and governor Tarita Alarcon Rapu during immigration law ceremony
President Sebastian Piñera and governor Tarita Alarcon Rapu with other local and continental politicians during immigration law ceremony.

What is the new law about?

This new Chilean Law 21.070 is made to protect the tiny island of Rapa Nui from overpopulation. Starting today, in regards to coming over to live, for a continental Chilean this island is basically like any other foreign country.

For anyone that’s not a registered resident, maximum allowed stay is 30 days.

To become a resident, you have to have a child, grandchild or parent that is a resident already, or get a work contract for a local Easter Island company.

Tourism will be virtually unaffected, since the great majority of tourists stay not more than a week, as opposed to the impression under which the majority of the world’s news sources are.

Read more about Easter Island entry and immigration law.

Rano Raraku quarry twin moai statues with young boy
Rapa Nui, famous for its great moai statues carved by the ancestors of the current inhabitants, draws visitors from all over the world.

How did this happen?

The last years have been eventful. It started in 2015 with a political minority group called the Rapa Nui Parliament suddenly closing off roads with ropes, starting the 2015 roadblock conflict. Most rapa nui didn’t agree with the roadblocks and were happy when the conflict ended six months later. Still, it threw a spark in people’s minds, and there was more talk in local politics about autonomy, and the will of being able to control the island locally was heard more. The event had many consequences, just as anticipated by rapa nui historian Cristian Moreno Pakarati back in 2015.

The majority of Easter Island has been closed off. Sign says "CLOSED - Ancestral property".
A roadblock back in 2015 when main roads were suddenly closed.

During the coming years, rapa nui politicians debated the matter of creating immigration laws to protect the island from overpopulation and dilution of the rapa nui culture. The Convention 169, written to protect indigenous rights internationally, was used to start a petition to the government of Chile about the subject.

Meanwhile, the archaeological sites that had for decades been in control of CONAF, the “National Forest Corporation”, had been requested to be controlled by a local entity instead. In 2017, these wishes were granted when the president Michelle Bachelet gave back the ancient lands to the rapa nui people.

After a couple of years of being discussed and developed, and going through the process of validation in the Chilean government, it was finally approved by the Chamber of Deputies in May this year, which was the final step of validation.

Rapa nui protesting against Ma'u Henua
During the ceremony, locals were protesting against the current director of Ma’u Henua, urging the president to help out.

Why did this happen?

Rapa Nui is a very small island with its own unique culture and language, with only around 3000-4000 people being part of its native ethnicity. Since the island was annexed to Chile in 1888, outside influences have been strong – particularly the last five decades. At the same time, the islanders are doing their best to keep their traditions alive.

Easter Island has a unique culture with its own traditions, dances and language, carried on only by a few thousand people.
Easter Island has a unique culture with its own traditions, dances and language, carried on only by a few thousand people.

This island is an attractive place for Chileans to move to for its climate, legendary history, safety and economy, which is why now around half of the population consist of Chileans that have moved in from the continent. The amount of Chileans coming over will now be less. This will prevent diluting the culture more, and will help having a more sustainable society and prevent overpopulation.

What do you think of the recent events? Is it good and necessary, or unfair for Chileans not to be able to move to this part of their country’s territory? Please comment below!

Marcus Edensky

Marcus is owner of local Rapa Nui travel agency Easter Island Travel. He is one of the few foreigners that has learnt to speak Rapa Nui fluently. He is founder of local Easter Island newspaper Tāpura Re'o - the only newspaper written entirely in Rapa Nui language.

2 thoughts on “New Easter Island law of residence officially in effect

  1. Congratulations to the Rapa Nui people!!!.
    We really enjoyed our visit last year(2017).We stayed for 5 days but would love to stay a few more days to do some hiking.Thanks Marcus for keeping us up to date news of Rapa Nui…

  2. Bravo for all people of Rapa Nui! Cherish the unique culture and landscape of your fascinating island which I had the honor to visit in 2016. It belongs to you, nobody else.

Leave a Reply

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