Colombia’s retirement visa is intended for retired persons receiving a retirement income. This retirement visa is relatively easy to get with a low-income requirement and only a few documents needed. Medellín in particular in Colombia is gaining a reputation as to top foreign retirement location.
The Colombia retirement (pension) visa is currently known as the TP-7 visa. This visa is valid for only one year and must be renewed each year. However, Colombia is in the process of changing its Colombian visa rules, which goes into effect on December 15, 2017.
So, starting on December 15, 2017, a Colombia retirement visa will change and be known as a Migrant (M) visa of category 11 (an M-11 visa). The major change of the M-11 retirement (pension) visa compared to the TP-7 visa, is that the M-11 visa will be valid for three years. So, you won’t have to renew as frequently.
In addition, if you have an existing TP-7 retirement visa, it doesn’t change to a M-11 retirement visa until you renew. Also, you are not permitted to work in Colombia with a TP-7 retirement visa or the new M-11 retirement visa.
The cost for the M-11 retirement visa is $282 USD, which is higher than the previous TP-7 visa that cost $263. So, the new Colombia retirement visa price is a bit higher. But you won’t have to renew the retirement visa as often. So, it is actually cheaper when you factor in renewals.
Medellín: A Top Foreign Retirement Location
Medellín continues to attract more foreign retirees with its low cost of living, “eternal spring” climate and good healthcare with seven of the top 49 hospitals in Latin America. And the city has been described by a number of publications including U.S. News and Huffington Post as a top foreign retirement location. Also, we have looked at 11 reasons why Medellín is considered a top foreign retirement location.
In addition, Medellín has been touted for many years as a top foreign retirement location by the foreign retirement publications. I have lived in Medellín for over seven years. And each year it seems that I see more foreign retirees in the city. While I’m not retired, I previously wrote about 27 reasons why I chose to live in Medellín.
Many of these 27 reasons are attracting foreign retirees to Medellín, particularly the climate, low cost of living, good public transportation and good and inexpensive healthcare. But there are also some downsides to living in Medellín that should be considered by foreign retirees looking at moving to the city.
Income Requirement for Colombia Retirement Visa
The income requirement for the new M-11 visa is the same as the current TP-7 retirement visa – your income must exceed three times the minimum wage in Colombia. The minimum salary in Colombia is 781,242 pesos per month in 2018. So, you would need an income of only 2,343,726 pesos per month ($782 USD the exchange rate of 3,000 pesos to USD) to qualify for this retirement visa.
The minimum monthly salary in Colombia increases each year. For example, in 2017, the minimum salary in Colombia increased 7 percent. But reportedly the Colombian government tends to renew retirement visas for people that qualified under lower amounts in previous years.
In addition, Colombia prefers official government pension certifications like from the U.S. Social Security Administration. It reportedly can be more difficult to be approved with private pension plans.
How to Apply for a Colombia Retirement Visa
You can apply for a Colombia retirement 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 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.
Documents required for M-11 retirement visa are the same as the TP-7 retirement visa:
- Photocopy of the first page of your valid passport where your personal data is displayed.
- Photocopy of the page of your passport with the last stamp of entry or departure of Colombia is located.
- If you’ve had a previous Colombian visa, a photocopy of this visa.
- Proof of pension: certificate issued by government, public or private company, foreign entity or diplomatic or consular mission from the country that the foreign national receives the retirement funds. This shows that the applicant receives a monthly stipend of no less than three times the current legal minimum monthly salary.
- Passport style face photo with a white background, sized at 3 cm width X 4 cm height, maximum size of 300 kb jpg file for online application.
After receiving the online visa approval, if doing this in Colombia, you need to travel to Bogotá to get the visa in your passport.
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.
Proof of Pension Required
The proof of pension for the visa needs to be apostilled. For a pension from the United States Social Security Administration (SSA) this proof of pension is a SSA Benefit Verification letter. To get this letter the easiest method is via the Social Security web site.
To get this SSA Benefit Verification letter on this site, you will need to create an account, found on the left side of the SSA’s main home page: “my Social Security”. Create an account, log in and go to your Benefit & Payment Details link found on the top menu bar. Then, click on this, and the middle of the page you will see “Get a Benefit Verification Letter”. Click on this link and it will open your SSA Benefit Verification letter, which you can then print.
After you have this SSA Benefit Verification you need to verify this. One way is to get an apostille for this letter to use it in Colombia. An “apostille” is a type of authentication that is attached to a document so it is certified legally for use in other countries. The SSA Benefit Verification Letter is a federal document so the only place you can get it authenticated is by the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C.
An apostille can be ordered directly from the U.S, Department of State via mail or in-person using a DS-4914 form. And this costs only $8 with details available here. The average processing time for mail-in requests is approximately five to seven business days from the receipt date.
Furthermore, you will need to include a self-addressed prepaid envelope, which will be used to return your apostilled letter. A tracked mail service like UPS is recommended. Note that Fedex is not accepted for return mail.
There are several agencies that offer apostille services in Washington, D.C. including Apostille Courier Express, US Authentication Services, and Washington DC Apostille. These services range in price from $55 to $195 and the processing time can vary.
Once you have the apostilled SSA Benefit Verification letter, keep in mind that it needs to be dated within 90 days for the Colombia visa application. In addition, the SSA Benefit Verification letter should be translated into Spanish. Intercol Trámites Internacionales is a company in Medellín with official Colombian translators that can translate into Spanish, which I have used in the past.
An alternative to the apostille is a benefits verification letter from the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá. This letter is sometimes called a “budget letter,” a “benefits letter,” a “proof of income letter,” or a “proof of award letter”. To request a benefits verification letter at the U.S. Embassy, you need to request “notarial and other services” and get an appointment.
On the day of your notary appointment you will need to present:
- Original or copy of valid U.S. passport
- Documentation from Social Security, Veterans, private pension from the current year indicating the amount you receive or bank statements from the last three months showing the monthly amount you receive
- The $50 notary fee.
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 retirement 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 four visa agencies in Medellín:
- Intercol Trámites Internacionales
- Visas y Trámites Internacionales
- Extranjería & Migración en Colombia
Getting a Colombian Cedula
After you have successfully received your Colombia retirement 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 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 5,468,694 pesos in 2018).
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 migrant (M) retirement visa for five years you are eligible to receive a resident (R) visa. And after having an R visa for five years 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.
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 Colombia Retirement Visa
Colombia’s retirement visa is relatively easy to get with a low-income requirement. But it’s only intended for people who are retired with a retirement income. Furthermore, if you are planning to get a Colombia retirement visa soon, it would be better to wait until December 15, when the new M-11 visa is scheduled to available, as this new visa will be valid for a longer duration of three years.
The Colombian visa changes that went into effect in mid-December 2017 were significant. We covered the 2017 visa updates for a total of seven visas that are popular with foreigners:
- Colombia retirement visa
- Colombia marriage visa
- Colombia student visa
- Colombia resident visa
- Colombia work visa
- Colombia investment visa
- Colombia beneficiary 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 on December 16 2017 with the cost of the new retirement visa.
Editors note: updated on December 31, 2017 with the new 2018 Colombia minimum wage information.
Editors note: updated on August 18, 2018 to add the Extranjería & Migración en Colombia visa agency located in Medellín.
Editors note: updated on September 8, 2018 with information about how to get a benefits verification letter from the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá.