2017 UPDATE: OBTAINING A COLOMBIAN RETIREMENT VISA

The Colombian Retirement Visa is intended for retired persons receiving retirement income. And it is easy to get with few requirements. The visa also known as the Pension Visa (or TP-7 visa) is also relatively inexpensive – costing just $263 including the processing fee.

Most noteworthy, Medellín is gaining a reputation as a top foreign retirement location. Several publications including BusinessweekU.S. News and Huffington Post have called the city a great retirement location. The city is attracting more retirees with its near perfect “eternal spring” climate, a relatively low cost of living and good healthcare with eight of Latin America’s 44 top-rated hospitals.

But Colombia has many climate options and some retired expats living in Colombia prefer the cooler climate of Bogotá. While others prefer the warmer climates of Cali or Cartagena.

Colombian Retirement Visa Requirements

To qualify for the Colombian retirement visa you need to demonstrate income of at least three times the minimum monthly salary in Colombia, which is 727,717 pesos per month in 2017. This means you would need monthly income of 2,183,151 pesos ($749 – using 2,915 pesos to 1 USD exchange rate) per month to qualify for the visa.

The minimum monthly salary in Colombia increases each year. In 2017, the minimum salary increased 7 percent. But the government also tends renew retirement visas for people that qualified under lower amounts in previous years.

Note that the Colombia government is known to prefer official government pension certifications, such as from the United States Social Security Administration. It will be more difficult to get approved with private pension plans or savings accounts.

The Visa Process

The visa process in Colombia is fairly easy and it’s done online.  You can apply for a Colombian retirement visa online here. This application will require scans of all the below required documents in PDF files plus the photo in jpg format. A detailed guide for applying online is found here.

Documents required:

  • Copy of the first page of your current passport where your personal data is displayed.
  • Copy of the page of your passport where the last stamp of entry or departure of Colombia is located.
  • If you’ve had a previous Colombian visa, a copy 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, which 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 3cm width X 4cm height, max size of 300kb jpg file for online application.

After the visa approval, you need to travel to Bogotá to get the visa in your passport.  Visas 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.

But if you don’t want to travel you can use a visa agency.  A visa agency can handle the online application. And it will courier your passport to Bogotá to get the visa in your passport. There are several visa agencies in Medellín.

The TP-7 Colombian retirement visa is typically issued for a duration of one year and permits multiple entries into Colombia. It will need to be renewed each year. After five years of having a TP-7 visa this can be converted to a resident visa, which is good for five years.

You can also get 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 Proof of Pension

This should be an apostilled proof of pension letter. For the United States Social Security Administration (SSA) this is the SSA Benefit Verification letter. To get this letter the easiest method is via the SSA web site.

You will want 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 on the top menu bar, click to open this page, 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 can be printed.

Next step is to get an apostille for this letter. An “apostille” is a form of authentication attached to a document so it is certified for legal purposes for use in other countries. The SSA Benefit Verification Letter is also a federal document so it must be authenticated by the U.S. Department of State.

There are several agencies that offer apostille services in Washington, D.C. including Washington DC Apostille and Apostille Courier Express. But these are fairly expensive services that cost $189-195.

An apostille can be also be ordered directly from the U.S Department of State via mail or in-person using a DS-4914 form, which costs only $8, more information is available here. The average processing time for mail-in requests is approximately five to seven business days from the date of receipt. You will need to include a self-addressed prepaid envelope, which will be used to return your apostilled letter. Tracked mail delivery such as Fedex or UPS is also recommended.

Once you have the apostilled SSA Benefit Verification letter keep in mind it needs to be dated within 90 days for the visa application. The SSA Benefit Verification letter should also be translated into Spanish. Trámites Internacionales Inter-Col is one company in Medellín with official Colombian translators that can translate into Spanish at a cost of about $12 per page.

If you are getting your retirement visa in Bogotá there is another option for proof of pension.  Several expats have successfully used a ‘proof of income’ letter received from the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá. To receive this ‘proof of income’ letter in Spanish from the embassy, email the following request to Federal Benefits Unit at the embassy with three attachments:

To FBU unit, U.S. Embassy Bogota:

I am writing to request a Social Security benefits letter confirming my benefit amount, translated into Spanish. I need it for submitting my documents to Colombia for a TP-7 retirement visa.

Attached is the information I understand that you require:

1) Privacy Act Form DS-5505
2) Social Security Benefit letter
3) Passport details page

My Colombian address and phone number is on the form DS-5505.

Please email me if you need any additional information.

Thank you very much,
(your name here)

The U.S. Embassy will send the ‘proof of income’ letter back to you via courier that you can use with your TP-7 Colombian Retirement Visa application.

Getting a Colombian Cedula

After you have successfully received your Colombia Retirement Visa you will have a maximum of 15 days to register your visa with Migración Colombia to get a Cedula de Extranjeria (Colombian ID for foreigners). This must be done in-person.

Migracion Colombia
Migracion Colombia

It is important to register your 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 (over $1,700).

To register your visa and apply for a cedula this must be done at one of the Migración Colombia offices. You can find offices in major cities in Colombia.

  • Bogotá – Calle 100 #11B-27
  • Medellín – Calle 19 #80A-40, Barrio Belén
  • Cali – Avenida 3 norte # 50N-20
  • Cartagena – Carrera 20 B # 29-18, Barrio pie de la Popa
  • Barranquilla – Carrera 42 # 54-77, Barrio El Recreo

A complete list of Migración Colombia offices is found here.

Documents needed:

  • Original passport
  • Photocopy of biographical page of passport
  • Photocopy of your visa
  • Photocopy of blood test showing your blood type (or if you have a previous visa, photocopy of your cedula)

You will need to make an appointment with Migración Colombia to register your visa and apply for a cedula.  This appointment can be done online here or via the phone at 018000510454

The current cost of a cedula is 183,000 pesos, which can be paid for using a credit card at the Migración Colombia office.

Conclusion

The Colombian Retirement Visa is relatively easy to get but is strictly intended for people who are retired and drawing retirement income. Steps outlined above show how to get a Colombian Retirement Visa yourself based on the current procedure. But you can also utilize visa services; if for example, you don’t want to travel to Bogotá to get the visa.

There are currently 17 different types of visas available to foreigners in Colombia.  However, the procedures and requirements can change so it’s important to have professional help when looking to acquire a non-tourist visa. FAR International, the largest foreign-owned real estate firm in Medellin, offers a wide range of client services including Visa Services.

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