Many foreigners make mistakes when applying for visas in Colombia. We look at seven of the most common Colombian visa mistakes and how to avoid them.
I have lived in Colombia for over eight years and successfully applied for four different visas. And during this time, I have talked to several foreigners who made mistakes when applying for Colombian visas.
In addition, I have talked to several visa agencies in Colombia about the most common Colombian visa mistakes they have seen.
So, here are seven common Colombian visa mistakes in no particular order, updated for 2020:
1. Waiting Too Long to Get an Extension on the Tourist Visa/Permit
This is a very common mistake. Colombia offers instant tourist visas to citizens of many countries that are good for 90 days. These “tourist visas” are really just a stamp in your passport and aren’t really visas.
But it is quite easy to extend a Colombian tourist visa to enable staying in Colombia a maximum of 180 days in a year and we have an up-to-date guide to extending a Colombia tourist visa.
When you enter Colombia as a tourist, an immigration official will stamp your passport. And normally the official will write that it is good for 90 days. But this is at the discretion of the official and occasionally may be shorter.
Many websites incorrectly call this a “tourist visa: but it isn’t really a visa. It is a tourist permit that is just a stamp in your visa. It isn’t a visa and Colombia has many types of visas that require visa applications.
The current tourist rule is that you can stay in Colombia as a tourist for a maximum of 180 days in a calendar year (January 1 to December 31). In addition, you can’t stay for more than 180 days consecutively, even if this is across two years.
For example, if you arrive on November 1, 2019 you will have to depart at the end of April 2020, even though you were in Colombia in 2019 for less than six months. But you could leave Colombia for 24 hours and come back with a “tourist visa” stamp for another two months in 2020 and this resets the “tourist clock”.
If you overstay your tourist time limit, you will have to pay a fine before leaving the country. If you overstay you will need to go to Migracion Colombia less than 15 days before your planned departure and ask for a “salvoconducto“. In our guide to Colombia tourist visas we look at what do to when overstaying your tourist visa.
So, when you enter Colombia with a tourist visa you should keep track of the validity on the stamp in your passport. And if you plan to renew, you should do this about week before the expiration date.
2. Not Registering a Colombian Visa and Applying for a Cedula Within 15 Days
Once you receive an email approval of a Colombian visa, you have a maximum of 15 calendar days to register your visa with Migración Colombia and apply for a Cedula de Extranjeria (Colombian ID for foreigners). Or if you received your visa at a consulate, you will have 15 calendar days after you arrive in Colombia to register your visa.
Especially relevant, it is very important to register your Colombian visa within the allotted time frame. If not in time, you can be liable for a big fine of up to seven times the minimum monthly salary in Colombia.
The minimum salary in Colombia is 877,803 pesos per month in 2020. This means the fine is up to 6,144,621 pesos in 2020 (which is $1,826 USD at an exchange rate of 3,364 pesos to the USD) for not registering your visa in time.
In addition, only visas of greater than a three-month duration require a cedula. Shorter duration visas still need to be registered with Migración Colombia but don’t require a Colombian cedula ID.
Furthermore, we have a detailed and up-to-date guide to applying for a cedula extranjeria in Colombia.
The bottom line is that it’s important to register your visa and apply for a cedula within 15 business days of approval (or 15 days from arriving in Colombia if issued at a consulte).
3. Staying Outside Colombia Too Long When You Have a Colombian Visa
If you have a Colombian visa, it permits multiple entries into Colombia. But Colombian visas also have restrictions on how long you can leave Colombia without returning to Colombia.
For example, with a migrant visa (M visa) such as a retirement, work or marriage visa, if you are out of Colombia for a contiguous duration of more than six months without returning to Colombia, the visa expires and is no longer valid.
And for a resident visa (R visa), if you are out of Colombia for a contiguous period of more than two years without returning to Colombia, the visa expires and is no longer valid.
In the past year I talked to several different expats that didn’t know about this restriction. These expats left Colombia for too long and found that their visas expired and were no longer valid when they returned to Colombia.
So, these expats had to incur the expenses of re-applying for the visa they already had but let expire due to being out of the Colombia too long. This demonstrates that it is important to track your time outside of Colombia if you have a visa.
4. Using Old Documents for the Visa Application
Any document submitted with a Colombian visa application cannot be dated older than three months at the time of application.
So, if you have an old copy official copy of a birth certificate, marriage certificate, or other document, you can’t use it. You need a recent copy.
Why? In Colombia, some documents like birth certificates are living documents that change when you get married or get divorced. In Colombia, a long form birth certificate will be added to when you are married. So, you can find out if someone is married in Colombia from their birth certificate.
So, Colombia requires all documents submitted with a visa agency to be recent and dated within three months from the date of visa application.
If you are in Colombia it can be a pain to collect documents in your home country. But you can get friends or family in your home country to help.
5. Using Documents Without an Apostille for the Visa Application
Any documents issued by a foreign country need an apostille to be used with a visa application in Colombia.
An apostille is comparable to a notarization in domestic law. The apostille certifies a document’s validity for use in a foreign country.
To be eligible for an apostille, a document must be issued or certified by an officer recognized by the authority that will issue the apostille. In the U.S. the authorities that issue apostilles for state documents like birth certificates and marriage certificates is the Secretary of State of each state in the U.S.
Also, if a country is not party to the Apostille Convention or Apostille Treaty, you will need to get the document notarized before a public notary and will have a go to the Colombian consulate to sign the document before a Colombian Consul. For example, Canada is one country that is not party to the Apostille Convention.
You can see a list of countries that are party to the Apostille Convention on Wikipedia.
In addition, there are companies that provide apostille services to help get apostilles for documents. And the visa agencies in Colombia also can help get apostilles for documents.
6. Not Getting an Official Translation for Documents Not in Spanish
Documents submitted as part of a Colombian visa application that are not in Spanish need to be translated to Spanish for a Colombian visa application.
And this translation needs to be done by an official translator who will print the translation with the date of the translation.
In addition, all the visa agencies in Colombia provide services to translate documents with official translators.
7. Applying for or Renewing Visas with Insufficient Time in Advance
Keep in mind that you need to apply for or renew a Colombian visa at least one month in advance. And some types of visas like the expertise visa can take much more time.
In addition, don’t forget that you need time to collect and order documents needed for the visa application. Getting official documents from another country with apostille and translation can take weeks
If you don’t start this process with sufficient time in advance, it is possible to apply for and pay for a Salvoconducto, which is an emergency extension given in specific situations. But it’s better to start the visa process far enough in advance so you don’t need to do this.
Using a Visa Agency to Avoid Colombian Visa Mistakes
It’s possible to apply for a Colombian visa yourself online and travel to Bogotá to get the visa stamped in your passport. Some foreigners prefer to apply for visas themselves and travel to Bogotá to get the visa stamp.
I successfully obtained three Colombian visas that I applied for my own in the past that were good for a total of five years. But for my fourth Colombian visa I used a visa agency and found the process with a visa agency much easier than doing it myself plus I avoided a trip to Bogotá.
The biggest challenge with doing a Colombian visa yourself is not benefiting from the experiences of a visa agency, which has processed hundreds of visas and knows exactly what is needed for each type of visa.
Several visa agencies I have talked indicated that some clients come to them after running into problems trying to apply for a Colombian visa themselves.
Also, another big benefit of using a visa agency is that they offer services to courier your passport to Bogotá to get the visa put in your passport. So, you can avoid a trip to Bogotá. The cost of a visa service including the service to courier your passport to Bogotá can even be cheaper than the cost of a trip to Bogotá.
Medellin Guru has partnered with what we believe is the best visa agency in Medellín to offer Colombia visa services. Features of this service include:
- Online chat – get visa questions answered fast.
- Online quotes – get immediate visa quotes.
- Courier your passport to Bogotá to get the visa in your passport.
- Office in El Poblado in Medellín.
- Competitive price compared to other visa services.
The Medellin Guru visa service partnership was launched in March 2019. And in the first 10 months, 151 visas were successfully received by clients
We reviewed all the Colombia visa agency services in Medellín and found one agency that offers a more efficient visa service with more features and more comprehensive communications including online chat, WhatsApp, Skype, email and phone plus a low price and a convenient office in El Poblado.
Our visa partnership is an affiliate relationship (like the Amazon affiliate program). If you use our visa partner, Medellin Guru receives a small commission and you support the website. This is at no additional cost to you. The price remains the same, whether you use a button or affiliate link on this website or not.
Furthermore, the visa agency we partnered with offers visa services anywhere in Colombia. So, if you are located in another city in Colombia you can use this service.
Medellin Guru’s Comprehensive Visa and Passport Series
The Colombian visa changes that went into effect in mid-December 2017 were significant. So, on the Medellin Guru site, we have a comprehensive series of visa articles that are kept up-to-date and should answer most visa questions. These articles include:
- Colombia Visa Guide: Ultimate Guide How to Get a Colombian Visa
- How to Obtain a Colombian Visa with Up-to-Date Info – an overview of all the Colombian visas
- Visa Agencies: A Guide to Visa Agencies in Medellín and Colombia
- 7 Common Colombian Visa Mistakes: How to Avoid Them
We have looked in detail at the seven most popular Colombian visas used by foreigners:
Also, we have looked in detail at three additional Colombian visas, which are less popular for foreigners:
- Rentista visa (annuity visa) – for foreigners with a fixed income
- Beneficiary visa – for relatives of visa holders
- Expertise visa – for professionals
Furthermore, we have a guide to how apply for a cedula extranjeria in Colombia and a guide to using notaries in Medellín and Colombia. Finally, Medellin Guru has partnered with a visa agency to offer Colombia visa services.
All of our Colombia visa articles were updated in early 2019 to ensure they are up-to-date and are being updated in early 2020. In addition, all visa articles on this website will be kept up-to-date as new details are disclosed.
The Bottom Line: 7 Common Colombian Visa Mistakes – How to Avoid Them
In this article we looked at seven of the most common Colombian visa mistakes made by foreigners. These mistakes are usually due to not knowing the visa rules in Colombia or perhaps knowing the rules but not keeping track of time.
Several of the most common Colombia visa mistakes can be avoiding by using the visa services of a visa agency. While I was able to obtain three visas on my own in the past, I now recommend using a visa agency as you can avoid a trip to Bogotá and benefit from the experience of a visa agency.
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Editors note: updated on January 25, 2020 with current information for 2020 about Colombia visa mistakes.