Many foreigners make mistakes when applying for visas in Colombia. We provide a 2023 update and look at nine 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.
These visa 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.
Here are nine common Colombian visa mistakes in no particular order, updated for 2023.
1. Waiting Too Long to Get an Extension on the Tourist Visa/Permit
This has been 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 normally quite easy to extend a Colombian tourist visa to enable staying in Colombia for 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 passport. 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.
For example, if you arrived on January 1, 2023 you will have to depart at the 1st of April. But you could leave Colombia and come back next year 2024 in a “tourist visa” stamp for another first 90 days that can be extended for other 90 days.
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 over a week before the expiration date.
2. Not Obtaining Health Insurance When Applying for a Colombian Visa
Colombia requires health insurance when applying for Colombian visas for all visitors visas and for some migrant visas such as retirement and investment.
Many Medellin Guru readers have asked about health insurance needed for visas. And the insurance broker we partnered offers a relatively inexpensive travel insurance policy from ASSIST CARD that meets the health insurance requirement for Colombian visas.
3. 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 allowed time frame. If not, you will be liable for a big fine of up to seven times the minimum monthly salary in Colombia. The minimum salary in Colombia is $1,160,000 COP per month in 2023. So, the fine is up to 8,120,000 COP pesos in 2023.
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 consulate).
The visa agency we partnered with has helped many foreigners obtain visas including retirement visas, marriage visas, student visas, investment visas, work visas, resident visas and beneficiary visas.
Since the pandemic, visas are issued electronically, so it is no longer necessary to have them stamped in Bogotá.
4. 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.
Resolución 1296 suspended the terms of early termination of visas due to absence from Colombia. This resolution was suspended provisionally and until the end of the Sanitary Emergency declared by the Ministry of Health, the counting the time of absence from Colombia, as a cause of termination of a M or R visa. But this is no longer effective, so you have to be careful how much time you spend abroad so that you do not lose the validity of your visa.
5. 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 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 obtain documents.
6. 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 to 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.
7. 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.
8. 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 or two months in advance. We now recommend trying to renew visas two months in advance in case problems come up.
Some types of visas like the expertise visa can take much more time. And a retirement visa may require additional documentation.
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.
Also, don’t forget about renewing passports. We have a guided to renewing U.S. passports in Colombia.
9. Not Including All the Required Documents for a Colombia Visa Application
A common error with Colombia visa applications is not including all the required supporting documents for a visa application. We have an entire series of articles about Colombian visas, which include lists of the required documents for each visa type.
Keep in mind that the list of required documents for visas can change over time. For example, in 2023, Colombian visas now require an international medical insurance policy. This is a new requirement. On the Medellin Guru website we keep our Colombia visa articles up-to-date.
Also, when applying for a Colombian visa, it is important to ensure that the visa application has correct information. Incorrect details on the visa application, such as the name or passport number or date of birth not appearing as it is in the passport are common for self-submitted visa applications.
While it may seem obvious, some people tend to use information such as a nickname on a visa application that is inconsistent with the name on official documents or identify proof.
Using a Visa Agency to Avoid Colombian Visa Mistakes
It is possible to apply for a Colombian visa yourself online. Some foreigners prefer to apply for visas themselves but some run into issues when doing this.
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.
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 including knowing the current list of visa requirements for each type of visas.
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.
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.
- Bilingual team.
- 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 47 months, 655 visas have been successfully received by clients:
So, in total we had 780 clients of the Medellin Guru visa service in 47 months.
In addition, many more visas are in process – short, medium or longer term, depending on client needs.
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, videocall, 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-October 2022 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
- Popular Colombian Visas for Foreigners: Which Visa is the Most Popular?
- Coronavirus Impacts on Colombian Visas and Tourist Visas
- Visa Agencies: A Guide to Visa Agencies in Medellín and Colombia
- 9 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 2022 to ensure they are up-to-date and are being updated again in 2023. In addition, all visa articles on this website will be kept up-to-date as new details are disclosed.
The Bottom Line: 9 Common Colombian Visa Mistakes – How to Avoid Them
In this article we looked at nine 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.
The visa agency we partnered with has helped 780 Medellin Guru readers obtain visas and U.S. passport renewals without problems.
Editors note: updated on January 25, 2020 with current information for 2020 about Colombia visa mistakes.
Editors note: updated on March 15, 2020 with updated information and to add a common visa mistake of not including all the required supporting documents for a visa application.
Editors note: updated on May 5, 2020 with coronavirus updates to the visa process in Colombia and with information that the national quarantine in Colombia has been extended to May 25.
Editors note: updated on May 20, 2020 with information that the national quarantine in Colombia has been extended to May 31 and that international flights will be restricted until August 31.
Editors note: updated on September 13, 2020 to add the common mistake of not including health insurance when applying for a Colombian visa.
Editors note: updated on January 20, 2022 with current information for 2022.
Editors note: updated on March 11, 2022 with updated visa client numbers.
Editors note: updated on March 7, with updated information regarding new requirements