Which Colombian Visa is Best for Me?

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Which is the best Colombian Visa for me?

Colombia offers many different visas, which enable you to stay in the country for a year or more. Colombian visas come in two different types – temporary (TP) and resident (RE) visas.

The TP visas are typically good for 1-3 years depending on the type, while the RE visa is good for five years. Both TP and RE visas can be renewed.

Citizens of many countries including the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom do not need a visa to enter Colombia as a tourist for up 90 days. However tourists from Canada must pay a 160,000 peso entry fee.  The Colombian “tourist” visa can be extended by another 90 days at any Migración Colombia office in the country.

So without a formal visa you can stay in Colombia a maximum of 180 days per calendar year. We previously looked at extending tourist visas here. If you overstay your allotted time on a tourist visa, you will be required to pay a fine before leaving the country.

So if you want to stay in Colombia for more than 180 days, the question becomes “which Colombian visa is best for me?”

The Most Popular Colombian Visas

Colombia offers about 20 different visas and subtypes of visas, of which about seven are commonly used by expats. The following are reportedly the seven most commonly used Colombian visas by expats:

  1. Student visa (TP-3) – for the foreigner who enters Colombia to engage in an academic program. We previously looked at getting a student visa in Colombia in detail here.
  1. Work visa (TP-4) – for the foreigner who has a job in Colombia.
  1. Retirement visa (TP-7) – for the foreigner who receives a retirement income such as a pension from a public or private company or the government (Social Security). The requirement is a minimum of three times the minimum wage in Colombia. The minimum wage in 2016 is 689,454 pesos per month, so the minimum retirement income is only $676 per month at the current exchange rate of 3,061 pesos. We previously looked at the Colombia retirement visa in detail here.
  1. Rentista visa (TP-7) – for a foreigner who receives a non-pension income from outside Colombia from a public or private company. The minimum income is 15 times the minimum wage in Colombia or about $3,379 per month.
  1. Investment visa (TP-7) – for a foreigner who invests in property or a business in Colombia.  For property investments, Colombia requires an investment that is more than 350 times the minimum wage in Colombia or more than $78,833. For business investments, Colombia requires an investment that is no less than 100 times the minimum wage in Colombia or no less than $22,523 currently. We previously looked at the Colombia investment visa in detail here.
  1. Marriage visa (TP-10) – for a foreigner who has a Colombian spouse or permanent partner. The TP-10 visa is typically good for three years. We previously looked at the marriage visa here.
  1. Resident visa (RE) – There are four common options for obtaining a Colombia resident visa, which include:
  • (a) Having a TP visa for a certain time – after holding most TP visas for an uninterrupted minimum time of five continuous years or for a TP-10 visa (marriage visa) for a minimum of three years.
  • (b) Qualified resident – this is available immediately for expat parents of Colombian children.
  • (c) Resident investor – This visa option requires that you make an investment in Colombia of more than 650 times the minimum wage in Colombia or more than $146,405.
  • (d) Returning Colombians – In some cases, Colombians living abroad were required to renounce their Colombian citizenship when becoming citizens of their host countries. This visa provides residency when these Colombians return to Colombia.

After having an RE visa for five years (or two years if married to a Colombian), you can apply to become a citizen of Colombia. Colombia permits dual-citizenship as does the U.S. and many other countries.

The benefits of becoming a dual Colombian citizen is there will be no more time and cost of visa applications and new cedulas as well as being able to travel to a few countries that U.S. citizens can’t travel to without a visa such as Brazil and Russia.

Each Colombian visa has detailed requirements that are spelled out on the Colombian Cancillería website found here.

Less Common Colombian Visa Options

Colombia has several additional visas that aren’t as frequently used by foreigners including:

  • Volunteer for NGO or non-profit (TP-4) – for the foreigner that wishes to enter Colombia as a volunteer for a non-government organization (NGO) or a non-profit organization recognized as such by the Colombian government.
  • Medical treatment (TP-7) – for the foreigner entering Colombia to receive medical treatment that would typically take longer then the 180-day tourist restriction.
  • Academic, scientific, artistic, etc. assist and/or participate (TP-12) – for the foreigner entering Colombia to assist and/or participate, with or without work contract, in academic, scientific, artistic, cultural and sports events and/or to present an interview for a selection process for public or private entities, a business academic program, commercial or business contacts and journalistic coverage.
  • Technical assistance (TP-13) – for the foreigner who wishes to enter Colombia to provide technical assistance in his/her area of expertise, with or without a work contract with a public or private entity.

Migración Colombia office in Bogotá

Getting a Colombian Cedula

After you have successfully received your Colombian 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.

It is extremely important to register your visa within the allotted time or you will be liable for a fine of up to seven times the minimum monthly salary in Colombia (about $1,577).

Only visas of greater than three-month duration require a cedula. Short duration visas don’t require a cedula but still must be registered.  In addition it is not possible to get a cedula with a standard tourist visa.

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

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

A complete list of Migración Colombia offices is found here.

Documents required:

  • Your original passport
  • Copy of the data page from your passport (bring 2 to be safe)
  • Copy of visa (bring 2 to be safe)
  • Original visa (in your passport)
  • Photocopy of blood test showing your blood type if this is your first cedula
  • Filled out application form, which is found online here or in the Migración Colombia office

The cost of a cedula is currently 162,000 pesos, which can be paid by credit card or debit card in the Migración Colombia office.

Having a Colombian cedula ID will make your life easier in Colombia. Just about every bank in the country will require a cedula to open an account. A cedula will also make it easier to open accounts for cellular services and triple-play TV, Internet and phone services.

The Bottom Line

Colombia has many temporary (TP) visa options for foreigners who wish to stay in the country for a longer period than the standard 180-day maximum during a year as a tourist.

Deciding which Colombian visa is best for you really depends on your individual situation. Are you looking to study? Are you retired? Are you making an investment in Colombia? Do you have a job in Colombia? Are you married to a Colombian?

Obtaining a visa in Colombia is relatively easy and you don’t need to be in Colombia full-time to maintain it. You can apply for a Colombian visa in-person in Bogotá or at a Colombian consulate in another country. Or you can use a visa service, which are available in each of the major cities in Colombia.

Resident (RE) visas are the most challenging type of Colombian visa as for most expats they require several years with a temporary (TP) visa first unless you are a parent of a Colombian child or invest sufficient funds to qualify as a resident investor.

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