This post is written from the perspective of a US Citizen visiting Colombia. The dates, information, and process should be similar for other Western countries, but please do verify the information for your own country of origin. This information is accurate as of Summer 2014.
Tourists entering Colombia are most frequently given a tourist visa and passport stamp that is valid for 90 days, though there are reports that it can vary at the discretion of the official processing your passport at customs.
That will afford you a full three months of exploring this beautiful country and all that it has to offer.
Tourist Visa Extension
But what happens when you come to Medellin, your plans get thrown out the window and you decide to stay for longer–which is exactly what happened to me, and what has happened with countless other visitors.
Luckily, Colombia permits tourists to stay up to 180 days per calendar year (or 180 consecutive days, more on that later), for approximately six months.
But in order to get the 90 day extension you will have to visit a Migracion Colombia office, which are located in all the major cities throughout Colombia. Here in Medellin the office is located in the Belen neighborhood.
The process of getting the extension is relatively painless if you have all the proper paperwork and documentation in order and on hand.
You must have the following documents and information:
- Your official passport
- 1 photocopy of your passport information page AND a copy of the page stamped with your arrival info.
- 1 standard passport photo — if you don’t have one on hand or one that you can print off, there are shops located adjacent to the offices that will be able to do this for you.
- Proof of onward travel has been reported as being needed by some. It wasn’t an issue for me, but you may want to bring something just in case or at least print off a potential bus itinerary from the internet.
- You will also need to have the name, address, and phone number of a Colombian who can vouch to knowing you.
Migración Colombia in Medellin
You arrive at the Migración Colombia office in Belen and go through the front entry gate where they will provide you with a visitors badge.
Entering the main office area across the courtyard you will encounter the reception desk where you can discuss the nature of your visit and they will look over your paperwork. Upon verifying that you have everything needed you will receive a number for the queue, along with a form to fill out with basic biographical information, and your Colombian reference who can vouch for you.
Then, in my experience, you sit around and wait and wait and wait.
One of the employees eventually took my passport and info. I waited around quite a while longer before the same gentleman called me into the back room where he took my digital fingerprints on a scanner.
I then returned to the waiting room to, you guessed it, continue to wait.
Finally I was called up to the main desk.
The employee never really asked me anything–not what I was doing, why I needed the extension, where I was staying, nor asked for proof of onward travel.
Though he did ask how I would be paying. The fee is approximately 80.000 pesos or $40, but the exact cost seems to increase incrementally year after year. Thankfully, Migracion Colombia now accepts credit and debit card payments which makes the process that much easier.
After swiping my card and dismissing me to go sit down and wait for a little while longer, a different man emerged from the back office with my passport and new stamp, offering another 90 days in Colombia.
All-in-all a pretty painless process, and one that would seem to go alright with minimal Spanish since they never really talked to me about anything.
Make sure to eat well beforehand, I was growing increasingly hunger and cranky in the 3-4 hours that I spent sitting around the office playing games on my cellphone.
The Migracion Colombia office, also still known by many as DAS, is located in the Belen neighborhood:
Address: Calle 19 80A – 40, Barrio Belén, Medellin
Phone: +57 (4) 345–5500
Office Hours: 8 am – 4 pm, Monday through Friday. Closed on national holidays.
The 180 Day Rule
There is some common confusion about the tourist visa here in Colombia relating to the 180 day rule. There are two scenarios that one will encounter.
Scenario 1: You enter the country early in the year in January and will be permitted to stay for six months (until July). You can NOT go on a visa run to Ecuador or another country and then reenter for an additional 180 days.
Scenario 2: You enter the country late in the year in November and will be permitted to stay for six months (until April of the next year). Because you are also limited to 180 consecutive days in the country, you CAN go on a visa run to Ecuador or another country–leaving Colombia for a minimum of 24 hours–and then return to Colombia for an extension. In this scenario you will have used four months of the six months allowed and would be given an additional two months to stay (through June).
If you were looking to absolutely maximize your time in the country with a tourist visa, you should plan to enter the country for the last sixth months of a calendar year, plan on making a visa run to another country (perhaps flying home for the holidays or just visiting another country), and then being able to stay for the first six months of the next calendar year. Effectively giving you one year in Colombia–albeit with a short jaunt out of the country in the middle.
If you overstay your alloted time on a tourist visa, you will be required to pay a fine before leaving the country.