Colombia offers many different categories of visas, which enable you to stay in the country for a year or more. In addition, Colombia changed its visa rules in late 2017. Most noteworthy, the new visa rules went into effect on December 15, 2017. So, it’s important to understand the new visa rules before applying for a Colombian visa.
Citizens of several countries including the Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and many other countries do not need a visa to enter Colombia as a tourist for up to 90 days.
If you are a tourist from Canada, you used to have to pay a reciprocity fee of 201,000 pesos – but were exempt from the fee if older than 79 or younger than 14. However, this reciprocity fee was eliminated on May 1, 2019.
A Colombian “tourist” visa isn’t a formal visa. It’s just a stamp in your passport. Furthermore, a “tourist” visa can be extended by 90 days at any Migración Colombia office in the country or online. We previously covered how to extend a tourist visa in Colombia.
However, without a formal Colombian visa, your stay in Colombia is limited to a maximum of 180 days per calendar year. So, if you want to stay longer than 180 days you will need a Colombian visa.
Colombian Visa Types
Colombia previously had three types of visas: temporary (TP), resident (RE) and business visas. Most expats living in Colombia before the visa changes in late 2017 had TP or RE visas.
According to Resolución 6045 (Resolution 6045) of 2017, released by the Minister of Exterior Relations on August 2, 2017, Colombia changed its visa rules in 2017. And starting on December 15, 2017, Colombia officially changed its visa classifications and now has three types of visas:
- Visitor (V)
- Migrant (M)
- Resident (R)
The new R visa is essentially the same as the previous RE visa. The previous different categories of TP visas became either M or V visas. Also, the new Colombian visa scheme added many categories of visas with a total of over 30 categories of Colombian visas under the new visa rules.
The Migrant (M) Colombian Visa
The most common TP visas used in the past by expats such as the marriage (TP-10), investment (TP-7), retirement (TP-7), work (TP-4) and student (TP-3) visas changed to M visas in December 2017.
According to Article 17 of Resolution 6045 there are 11 different conditions (categories) of the new M visas:
- Be a permanent Colombian national’s spouse or partner. This is essentially the same as the former TP-10 visa.
- Be a Colombian national’s father or son by adoption.
- Be a national of one of the States party to the “Agreement on Residence for nationals of Mercosur, Bolivia and Chile”. This is essentially the same as a TP-15 visa.
- Be recognized as a refugee in Colombia according to the current regulations. This is essentially the same as the former TP-9 refugee visa.
- Have permanent employment in Colombia or long-term, by virtue of a labor relationship or contracting of services rendered with natural or legal person domiciled in Colombia. This is essentially the same as a TP-4 work visa.
- Have constituted or acquired participation in the capital stock in a commercial company valued at least 100 times the minimum monthly wage in Colombia. This is essentially the same as a former TP-7 business investment visa.
- Have qualification or expertise to practice a profession independently. This is similar to the former TP-13 visa.
- Come to Colombia as religious, missionary or religious in formation of a church or religious denomination, duly recognized by the Colombian State. This is similar to a TP-5 visa.
- Be admitted or enrolled in primary, secondary or a higher education program at an undergraduate educational institution in Colombia. This is essentially a former TP-3 visa. Also, note that studying Spanish is now considered a Visitor (V) visa.
- Have registered foreign direct investment in Colombia for real estate valued at least 350 times the minimum monthly wage in Colombia. This is essentially a fromer TP-7 real estate investment visa.
- Receive a pension for retirement or receive periodic income from a creditable legal source. A pension must be at least three times the minimum monthly wage in Colombia or income must be 10 times the minimum monthly wage for a rentista visa. This is essentially a former TP-7 pensioner or rentista visa.
The following table maps the new Colombian M visa options to the old TP visas:
More Details about Colombia M Visas
The biggest change for M visas compared to old TP visas is that many of the new M visas will be valid for three years. Under the pervious TP visa rules usually only the TP-10 marriage visa was typically valid for up to three years. The other TP visas were usually good only for one year. So, a big benefit of the new M visas are less often visa renewals.
The most common duration exceptions for the new M visas are for work visas (category 5) and student visas (category 9). These may be valid for a shorter duration than three years based on the length of employment contracts or length of studies. Also, the business investment visa (category 6) may be valid for a duration shorter than three years.
M visas of categories 1 to 4 above will have an open work permit, which allows visa holders to carry out any lawful work activity in Colombia. So, if you have a marriage visa you can work in Colombia.
Also, the M work visa (category 5) or practicing professional (category 7) can work only for the position, entity or profession with which the visa was granted. And the M business investor visa (category 6) can only work for the company in which the visa holder is a partner or shareholder.
Especially relevant, if you have a M visa in categories 8 to 11 above, you are not permitted to work in Colombia. So, you can’t work if you have a religious, student, real estate investment or retirement visa.
Furthermore, the requirements for the new M visas are similar to the requirements for the corresponding former TP visa categories. Also, similar to the old TP visas, if you leave Colombia for more than six consecutive months with a M visa, the visa expires and is no longer valid.
The Resident (R) Colombian Visa
The new Colombia resident visa (R visa), which in Colombia is essentially the same as the previous RE (resident) visa. There are five categories of R visas:
- Returning Colombian – In some cases, Colombians living in other countries were required to renounce their Colombian citizenship when becoming citizens of their adopted countries.
- Is the father or mother of a Colombian national by birth.
- Has held a M visa category 1 to 3 above continuously and uninterrupted for two years.
- Has continuously and uninterrupted held for five years a M visa category 4 to 11 above. Or continuously and uninterruptedly held a beneficiary visa of type R for five years.
- Investment of at least 650 times the minimum monthly wage in Colombia.
These are nearly the same categories as the previous RE visa with the same requirements.
The previous RE visa rules required TP-10 visa holders to hold the visa three years before becoming eligible for a RE visa. According to Resolution 6045, this dropped to two years for a M category 1 visa (marriage visa) before becoming eligible for a R visa.
In addition, similar to the previous RE visa, if you leave Colombia for more than two years with an R visa, the visa expires and is no longer valid.
The Visitor (V) Colombian Visa
The new Colombian visitor visa (V visa) can be granted for 16 different activities as follows:
- Carry out direct transit in one of the airports of Colombia and destined to a third country. This is similar to one option of a TP-2 visa.
- Visit Colombia for leisure, tourism or cultural interest purposes. This is similar to a TP-11 visa.
- Conduct business negotiations, market studies, plans or procedures of direct investment and constitution of commercial society, negotiation, conclusion of contracts or commercial representation.
- Participate in an academic exchange program, advance training in art or trade, or undertake different studies in a primary, secondary or undergraduate higher education program.
- Attend medical consultation, intervention or treatment or accompany the person who attends consultation, intervention or medical treatment.
- To carry out administrative and/or judicial proceedings before entities or authorities in Colombia. This is similar to one option of a TP-8 visa.
- Enter and work in Colombian jurisdictional waters as a boat crew member or offshore platform. This is similar to one option of a TP-2 visa.
- Participate in an event as a lecturer, exhibitor, artist, athlete, jury, contestant or logistical staff.
- Perform an internship.
- Volunteer in development cooperation projects or in the promotion and protection of human rights.
- Perform audiovisual production or digital content.
- Perform journalistic coverage or stay temporarily as a foreign media correspondent.
- Provide temporary services to a natural or legal person in Colombia.
- Hold a position in a Colombian branch of a company with presence abroad, by virtue of inter-corporate transfer of personnel.
- Coming as a foreign government official or foreign government trade representative, on a mission that does not imply accreditation to the Colombian government.
- Visit Colombia under holiday-work programs agreed by Colombia with other States through treaties in force.
In addition, there are seven additional categories of courtesy visas where a V visa may be issued. For example, one category of courtesy visa is for artistic, technical and foreign production personnel who enter Colombia for projects of production and filming of foreign cinematographic works.
A V visa may be valid for up to two years, taking into account the activity proposed by the foreigner.
How to Apply for a Colombian Visa
You can apply for a Colombian visa online. In addition, you can obtain Colombian visas at Colombian consulates around the world. In the U.S., Colombia has consulates located in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, Newark, New York, San Francisco and Washington DC.
The Colombian visa process is fairly easy as it’s done online. You can apply for a Colombia retirement visa online here. This application will require scans of all required documents in PDF files plus the photo in jpg format. In addition, a detailed guide for applying online is found here.
After receiving the online visa approval, if doing this in Colombia, you need to travel to Bogotá to get the visa in your passport. Or if at another country you can get the visa put in your passport at a Colombian consulate.
Visas in Colombia are issued at the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores office in Bogotá. This is located at Avenida 19 # 98-03, Torre 100 Building, 3rd Floor. It’s open from 7:30 am until noon.
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 the biggest challenge with doing a Colombian visa yourself is not benefiting from the experiences of a a visa agency, which has processed hundreds of visas and knows exactly what is needed for each type of visa.
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 Bogtoá.
So, for my latest visa received in 2018, a Colombia resident visa, I used a visa agency. And I found the experience painless and now highly recommend using a visa service over doing a Colombia visa application yourself. The bottom line is with a visa agency you are less likely to run into problems and you can avoid a trip to Bogotá.
Using a Visa Agency for a Colombian Visa
If you are in Colombia and not located in Bogotá and you don’t want to travel, you can use a visa agency to obtain a Colombian visa. A visa agency can handle the online application. And it will courier your passport to Bogotá to get the visa in your passport.
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.
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.
Getting a Colombian Cedula
After you have successfully received your Colombian Visa you have a maximum of 15 calendar days to register your visa with Migración Colombia to get 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.
Due to being photographed and fingerprinted this must be done in-person at a Migración Colombia office.
Especially relevant, it is very important to register your Colombian resident visa within the allotted 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 828,116 pesos per month in 2019. So, the fine is up to 5,796,812 pesos in 2019.
To register your visa and apply for a cedula this must be done at one of the Migración Colombia offices. You can find Migración Colombia offices in major cities in Colombia.
- Barranquilla – Carrera 42 # 54-77, Barrio El Recreo
- Bogotá – Calle 100 #11B-27
- Cali – Avenida 3 norte # 50N-20
- Cartagena – Carrera 20 B # 29-18, Barrio pie de la Popa
- Medellín – Calle 19 #80A-40, Barrio Belén (the entrance is on the other side of the building on Calle 19A)
After having an R visa for five years (or after having for two years if married to a Colombian) you can apply to become a citizen of Colombia. And you won’t have to give up your existing citizenship. Colombia permits dual-citizenship, as does the U.S. and many other countries.
Latin American and Caribbean nationals are eligible to apply for citizenship in Colombia after shorter time frames of only one year as a resident or two years if from Spain.
Once you become a dual citizen with Colombian citizenship, you will no longer need to deal with visas anymore. Also, you will be able to travel to some counties as a Colombian citizen without a visa such as Russia and Brazil, which require a visa for U.S. citizens.
To become a citizen, Colombia requires a citizenship test, just like the U.S. does. You will be required to pass a test related to Colombian history, geography and the constitution. Also, a basic Spanish oral test is required. Those who have a bachelor’s degree from a Colombian university or are over 65 years old are exempt from these tests.
Medellin Guru’s Comprehensive Visa Series
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:
- 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. In addition, all visa articles on this website will be kept up-to-date as new details are disclosed.
Also, “How to obtain a Colombian visa?” is one of the most common questions asked by expats. So, we included this question in our list of Medellín frequently asked questions (FAQ).
The Bottom Line: Obtaining a Colombian Visa
Colombia has many visa options for foreigners who wish to stay in Colombia for a longer period than the 180-day maximum per year as a tourist.
In addition, obtaining a Colombian visa is relatively easy with fewer documents required than many other countries. Also, the visa costs in Colombia are lower than in many other countries in Latin America. Furthermore, the Colombian visa process is streamlined with online applications and is relatively fast.
I successfully obtained four different Colombian visas over the past several years – two student visas, one marriage visa and one resident visa. And in my experience, the process for each visa was relatively easy and each took less than three weeks to obtain.
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Editors note: updated on 2/7/2018 with Canadian reciprocity fee based on a readers comment about the new fee.
Editors note: updated on January 3, 2019 with the new 2019 Colombia minimum wage information.
Editors note: updated on February 25, 2019 with information that the Colombian entry fee charged to tourists from Canada will be eliminated on May 1, 2019.
Editors note: updated on April 16, 2019 with the most current information about Colombian visas.