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 and the United States do not need a visa to enter Colombia as a tourist for up to 90 days. However, if you are from Canada, you must pay a 191,000-peso entry fee. But this entry fee doesn’t apply to Canadians over the age of 79 or younger than 14.
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. 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’ll need a Colombian visa.
Colombia currently has three types of visas: temporary (TP), resident (RE) and business visas. Most expats living in Colombia have 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. Starting in December 2017, Colombia 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 current RE visa. The existing different categories of TP visas will become either M or V visas. The new Colombian visa scheme adds many categories of visas. I counted over 30 categories of visas.
The New Migrant (M) Colombian Visa
The most common TP visas used by expats such as marriage (TP-10), investment (TP-7), retirement (TP-7), work (TP-4) and student (TP-3) are all becoming M visas in November.
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 a 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 a 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 a TP-7 business investment visa.
- Have qualification or expertise to practice a profession independently. This is similar to the 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 TP-3 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 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 TP-7 pensioner or rentista visa.
The following table maps the new Colombian M visa options to the old TP visas:
More Details about M Visas
The biggest change for M visas compared to TP visas is that many of the new M visas will be valid for three years. Under the current TP visa rules usually only the TP-10 marriage visa is typically valid for up to three years. The other TP visas are usually good only for one year. So, a big benefit of the new M visas will be less often visa renewals.
The only 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.
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.
Furthermore, the requirements for the new M visas look to be the same as the requirements for the corresponding existing TP visa categories. Also, similar to the 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 New Resident (R) Colombian Visa
The new R visa, which will be offered in December in Colombia is essentially the same as the current 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.
- Investment of at least 650 times the minimum monthly wage in Colombia.
These are essentially the same categories as the exiting RE visa with the same requirements.
The current RE visa rules require TP-10 visa holders to hold the visa three years before becoming eligible for a RE visa. According to Resolution 6045, this will drop to two years for a M category 1 visa (marriage visa) before becoming eligible for a R visa.
In addition, similar to the existing RE visa, if you leave Colombia for more than two years with an R visa, the visa expires and is no longer valid.
The New Visitor (V) Colombian Visa
The new Colombian 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 to 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 intercorporate 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. In addition, the time permitted in Colombia with a V visa is limited to a maximum of 180 continuous (or discontinuous days) per year that cannot be extended for every 365 days.
So, a V visa is not of much benefit for a citizen from a country like Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States that do not need a visa to enter Colombia as a tourist and can extend a tourist visa to 180 days.
How to Apply for a Colombian Visa
You can apply for a Colombian visa in-person in Bogotá. 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. Also, it’s done online. You can apply for a Colombian 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. Also, sometimes an interview is required for Colombian visas, particularly for the marriage visa. When I received my TP-10 marriage visa in 2015, both my wife and I were interviewed in Bogotá. But I have talked to other expats with marriage visas that weren’t interviewed.
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 7:30am until noon.
I successfully obtained three Colombian visas on my own over the past five years. Also, I found the process relatively straightforward without much documentation required.
Using a Visa Agency
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.
You can find visa agencies in several cities in Colombia. For example, there are at least three visa agencies in Medellín:
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. Especially relevant, it is very important to register your Colombian 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 (up to 5,164,019 pesos in 2017).
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 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.
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. The visa costs in Colombia are lower than in many other countries in Latin America. Also, the Colombian visa process is streamlined with online applications and is relatively fast.
The Colombian visa changes that went into effect in mid-December 2017 are significant. We have covered the 2017 visa updates for six types of visas that are popular with foreigners:
- Colombia retirement visa
- Colombia marriage visa
- Colombia student visa
- Colombia resident visa
- Colombia work visa
- Colombia investment visa
In addition, all visa articles on this website will be kept up-to-date as new details are disclosed.
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Editors note: updated Canadian reciprocity fee based on a readers comment about the new fee on 2/7/2018.