How to Get a Work Visa in Colombia

Main plaza in Santa Fe de Antioquia

Main plaza in Santa Fe de Antioquia. (photo: David Lee)

Editor’s Note: For more up-to-date information on obtaining a work visa, please visit this post published June 2013.

Falling in love with Colombia and its people is easy, staying here is a little more difficult.

Unless you want to visit the DAS office every month, the best way to stay in Colombia is to study, or work.

With a student visa, you need to find a university to study Spanish or another subject area, and then pay for your classes first.  Most schools require that you pay for half the classes you desire.

So, if you want to study for three months, you have to pay for a month and a half in advance.  And, if you want to study for more than 3 months, you have to pay more money for your visa because you also have to pay to receive a celula.

Other then that, the process is fairly easy.  The school can usually help you find someone to receive your passport and other documents in Bogota, bring your papers to the Embassy and then ship it back to you within 3 days.  Again, at an additional cost.

On the other hand, I have read a few blogs about the difficulties of getting a job in Colombia and the visa associated with it.  Maybe I was just lucky, but within a week of coming to Colombia, I was hired at a well-known private school along with 2 other Americans.

The school took care of almost everything required to get me a work visa in Colombia, including paying for all the expenses, like sending me to Panama for 2 nights, the hotel room, extra spending money, and taxis to and from the airports.

They set up an appointment with the consulate for me and provided me with all the paperwork I needed to apply for a work visa in Colombia, except for the apostilized diplomas.  This had to be done in New York, and was apparently quite a hassle according to my parents from who I had to request their services for the task.

The only thing left for me to do is go to the DAS office for my celula.

Required Paperwork

  1. Three 3 x 3 photos on white background
  2. Passport with at least 2 blank pages
  3. Copy of passport: information page and last page used
  4. Diplomas of Universities (needs an apostile – which is a hassle in and of itself)
  5. Contract from the job, provided by the company
  6. “Solicitud de visa” form SC-FO-15, provided by the company
  7. Certification of legal representation, provided by the company

Another incorrect statement I found online:  “If you are thinking about working as a teacher and you want a work visa you will need a teaching qualification. This rule is quite new. So, no teaching qualification, no work visa as a teacher.”

This is not true, as I do not have a teacher certification and I was just hired 3 weeks ago.  However, I have taught for a year in Peru which helped me during the hiring process.

Fees

  • $205 for the visa
  • $25 processing
  • $50 for the appointment

And, it is important to bring currency in the country you are going to.

My job gave me Colombian Pesos to use in Panama, but they didn’t accept them, and I had to change money at a very poor exchange rate, losing money for my school.

Editor’s Note: For more up-to-date information on obtaining a work visa, please visit this post published June 2013.

About Jessica

Comments

  1. That’s actually a benevolent employer if they paid for your trip to Panama to pick up the visa. I’ve heard of some institutes in Bogota that charge teachers to sponsor their visa, and of course they’re on their own for travel. So that’s a good company!

    I’d add that, when renewing your work visa, you have to register the new visa with DAS immediately to avoid a fine. Also, employers will cancel your work visa effective immediately if you quit or get fired. My visa was cancelled less than a month after paying out the millions of pesos, and it was the third visa which would’ve been good for two years!

    P.S. It’s cedula with a ‘d’ (edit this out afterwards)

    • George Donnelly says:

      Good point. I think you have 5 or 15 days to register with DAS.

      When I quit teaching at a place in Medellin, I was already on the conyuge visa but the very nasty person in charge at the institute called the DAS on me anyway. The DAS called me and then apologized when I pointed out that my visa didn’t depend on my job.

    • How do you renew your work visa? What documents are required, how much time in advance of current visa expiration do you need to apply? Thanks.

    • David Ursprung says:

      I have a colombiana friend who once worked at DAS who tells me that a Panameña can get a work permit as a domestic employee for a private individual. Anyone know if that’s still true?

  2. George Donnelly says:

    I had a similar experience. Once I went and applied for a job I was hired quickly and they took care of my paperwork. I had to fly back to the states to actually get the visa tho, which was a pain.

    There is a service which will take your document to the relevant office to get the apostille. I used it once and it worked fine. Can’t remember the name tho.

    You do actually need to prove idoneidad (suitability for the job at hand), or at least you did back in 2001. A college degree did the trick for me.

    I’ve gotten the conyuge visa and the resident visa now as well, but it’s been years. I don’t remember all the details. Within another year or maybe even less I will be eligible to apply for citizenship. Should be interesting!

    • Badarinath. says:

      I am from India, presently i am living in INDIA. I have been working as a truck driver for14 years in India I would like to chang my carrier in COLOMBIA how can i apply for truck driver job or work permit or permenent resident in COLOMBIA.

  3. Thanks for the info on the requirements. Hope the expense for the education is not that high. Colombia is one of my dream destinations. Three months is a short time. It is great because I could stay there and learn Spanish at the same time.

  4. Devin Quinn says:

    Hi Jessica,
    I enjoyed reading your article and I’m planning on traveling to Colombia in about two months to teach English. I have a University degree, a teaching credential, and I’m TESOL/TEFL certified. Do you know of any language institutes or school that are hiring? I just receiving an email from a company that is interested in me, but they did not offer to cover any of the visa expenses.
    I would greatly appreciate your advice.
    Best Regards,
    Devin

  5. Thanks for this helpful information. I’ve never had to get an apostle diploma before – is this something I can get before I leave for Colombia and just have with me?
    Cheers!

  6. Hi Jess,

    Thanks for your article. I’m a Canadian and am planning on going to Colombia in a few weeks. I already have a job lined up, and will soon have finalized my TESOL certification. I have a college diploma from a Canadian college, and this is my biggest concern, because I believe Colombia specifically requires a Bachelor’s Degree.

    Do you, or does anyone you know, think I would have any problems acquiring a work visa with my college degree?

  7. Margarita says:

    Hey thanks a bunch for putting down the costs of everything – just wondering if you wouldn’t mind saying the name of the school so that I can get ideas of where to apply? I have a list but just checking for the top ones :P Thanks so much!

  8. i have a question regarding getting a work visa, i dont have a college degree, would that get in the way of me getting a work visa. And i only have my TEFL certificate as far as teaching credentials go, is that enough? Thanks!

  9. This is excellent information. I find the visa information for a lot of countries in South America VERY confusing. I live in Brazil, a country which has 10 different consulates in the United States, each with different rules and regulations on how to get the different types of visas. Thanks for sharing!

  10. i have a question regarding getting a work visa while travelling to colombia on tourist visa . Is that possible to get work permitt visa on tourist visa ???

  11. Is that possible if a person is planning to travel in colombia on tourist visa that person is eligible to give an interviews into the companies on tourist visa or not . is that mandatory they ask first for work permitt visa ?

    • Ben Van Weelden says:

      On a tourist visa you can sit down for interviews without any problem. You’ll need a contract from your employer to get your work visa, so it’s basically impossible to get to Colombia on a work visa without a job.

      When you get your papers from your employer, you will have to leave the country and visit a consulate or embassy in order to get your work visa. You can renew your work visa in Bogotá before it expires.

  12. Great article! really useful de-coding. i didnt realise that i need an apostile/apostle? i also dont know what this means in this context? can anyone enlighten me? thanks

  13. Do you have any info on English teaching jobs in Cali?

  14. Hey, I have a TEFL qualification, and I’m planning to go to Medellin to teach english. I see that part D is ‘diplomas of universities’. Is it ok that I’ve never been to a university? What do I put for that section?

  15. Hey guys, I would really appreciate it if someone could answer a quick question for me:

    I am currently studying towards the 120 hour TEFL certification. Will this be sufficient on it’s own to get a Colombian work visa as I don’t have a degree?

    I have an offer of paid employment (dependant on getting TEFL certified) from a college where I am currently working as a volunteer.

    Basically, the college are happy only with TEFL certification but will the Colombian government be?

  16. Hi there Stewert, I’m currently in the same boat as you. I leave for Ecuador this Sunday. I don’t have my CELTA apostilled though as I’m having some difficulties with that.

    I’m curious as to whether or not you ended up getting your visa. I’m pretty nervous about this whole process!

    • Hi Sara,

      I gave up on the work visa route because I was informed my lack of a degree would be a big obstacle. By the way I ended up going to Ecuador for a day before re-entering Colombia to get another 90 day stamp in my passport. I wasn’t able to extend at the DSA office because I overstayed (and got a fine).

      Here is the good news:

      Bearing in mind you can stay for 6 months of the year on a tourist visa you only need a student visa for the other 6 months of the year. Therefore if you enrol at UPB you will need to pay for 3 months upfront to get the 6 month visa you need .

      You can keep flipping between a tourist visa and a student visa every 6 months to stay as long as you want. You need to study for 10 hours a week minimum.

      As far as I know UPB and EAFIT (which is more expensive than UPB and you need to pay for the whole 6 months upfront) are the only Spanish course providers in Medellin that have the correct status with the Colombian government to be acceptable for a student visa.

      Hope this helps.
      Stewart

      • I like the idea of flipping the tourist/student visas every 6 months. I didn’t even think about that as a strategy.

        And this also explains why UPB and EAFIT are the schools where all the foreigners seem to take their Spanish classes.

      • Update:

        After doing quite a bit of research I too decided not to attempt to get my work visa. I ended up trying to renew my student visa, which was denied. Since it was the expiration date of my current student visa, I chose to go back to the US for awhile. When I got back, I immediately called the Colombian consulate in San Francisco (I tried calling the ones that are in Ecuador and Venezuela as well, but they never answered). The woman told me that not only do I not need a degree, but that it also wasn’t necessary to have my CELTA apostilled. She told me that the most important for them was the business license, contract, and the letter of financial responsibility. I also didn’t know that I needed an application from the company’s end, which they scanned over to me. I mailed all of these documents to CA and they were mailed back within a week. Long story short, I am back in Colombia on a work visa.

  17. matthew says:

    Please Help!

    Me (matthew) and my partner (mauricio) are civil partners. He is colombian and I am from UK. We had the ceremony (Civil Partnership) in UK. We are currently preparing to hit the criteria to apply for a spouse visa for Mauricio (partner) to come to the UK. We should be applying in the next few weeks. We have been apart over 9 months although i visited for 3 weeks in december. This process is very hard and the requirements in UK are completely un-just, but we are hopefully nearly there and close for application. Once we have applied there may possibly be await for 5 – 12 months until we get an answer. We are both not prepared to be apart any longer, the distance and process has been heartbreaking and extremely difficult.
    While we wait for the outcome of the spouse visa for UK. Can I Matthew (in UK) go to colombia (bogota) to be with Mauricio and apply for resident visa? ? ?
    Does the civil partnership stand in colombia?
    Can I apply as soon as I have arrived?
    What is a Notaria?
    I need to work for money as Mauricio has a basic job. We will arrange to rent a small flat before i come, and I have been told I need a works permit.
    Is this process completed in a day? Does this enable me to work and study spanish?
    Will this effect the spouse visa application for UK? Or is it done separately?
    The key thing is I need to be able to work and i want to know if I can apply for different visas when one is pending?
    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Can I obtain a second passport as mine and Mauricio’s will be with application for uk spouse visa (applying out side uk) ?

    Will Mauricio need to show his passport for resident visa in colombia?

    Thank you,
    Matthew

    • Hi! is not that hard to get a job as a foreign in Colombia you can just do private english lessons as far as I’m concerned. A Notaria is the place you get your papers done from your birth certificate to a civil wedding, I don’t really know what would be the equivalent in the UK. Everything here gets done by paying and queuing so it is going to take time and money, you can always pay for a Spanish course in an University, I recommend you to get one in a Public University they’re good and quite cheap, like that you get your visa and time enough to look for a job.

      Good luck with everything!

      Pd, You get to stay for 90 days from your arrival to the country without needing anything but your passport (after that time you’ll have to pay a £25 fee that gives you 30 to 60 days to stay here) so if three months are not enough for you to sort it out, I don’t know how much time would you need man.

  18. Hello !
    if someone can give me advice, then please!

    Im a citizen of the Netherlands and soon will be moving to Colombia. I have a college degree (diploma) and the consulado told me that it is necessary to translate my diploma to spanish and apostille it..

    Now you wrote
    ”4. Diplomas of Universities (needs an apostile – which is a hassle in and of itself)”

    What are exactly the requirements? Translate my diploma here in the Netherlands into spanish, apostillize it and then go to Colombia? Do I need to legalize it or what more??

    Im planning to look for employment when Ill be in Bogota.

    • What you need to do is get it apostillized in the Netherlands FIRST, then get it translated to Spanish, and get the translation notarized. It will probably be cheaper for you to do the translation here in Colombia.

  19. i am an indian who is currently studying my masters in colombia. Now i am looking to find a job here in medellin as i was studying only part time.

    So how can i apply for work visa if i already have student visa valid for 2 years. Can someone please give suggest me how to lead in my case ?

    • As soon as you find a job that will sponsor a visa, you will need to apply for a work visa before you start working. You’ll just have to meet all of the requirements and when you go to the visa office just explain that you want to be able to work and that’s why you’re applying to change your student visa. I’m not entirely how they cancel a visa, but I know that it is possible and you go about doing it the same way you would in any other situation! Good luck!

  20. Hi,

    I have an indian passport working in UK, I want to shift to Colombia because my boyfriend is in Columbia. Could you please tell me how difficult it is to get a work permit in Colombia and is it really difficult to get a job without Spanish language?

    Thanks

  21. Hi I am a indian passport holder. I got employmnet offer from medellin. needs to apply visa this month.

    1. Can any one tell me what visa i need to apply to work there?
    2. Does apostile required for my certificutes ?. if yes. on what certificutes it is required.

    Apartment related question :-
    Any advance/security deposit needs to be given if i want to hire a apartment to stay there ?.
    Generelly how it works ?.

    • 1. You’d have to apply for a work visa, of course. I don’t have any further knowledge of these visas, but oftentimes, the hiring Colombian company can help people obtain the work visa. I would start there.

      2. See #1.

      Yes, if you plan to rent a furnished or unfurnished apartment you are normally required to provide a deposit, but this varies. It’s not always requested when simply renting a room. The Colombian from whom I’ve rented a room since 2010 does not require me or other renters to give a security deposit.

      Good luck!

  22. Really informative article on Columbia’s work visa and the comments very helpful for those looking a Language Teacher job. thanks!

  23. I will be going to Colombia in December, could anyone recommend me reputable English teaching schools/ programs in Medellin to apply to? I taught English in Thailand years ago and would love to do it again.

    Also, any other useful info about moving to Colombia would be much appreciated.

    Thanks!

    • Hi Nicole,

      I’m in the same boat, but arriving a month before you in November. I also taught in Thailand for a bit in 2010-2012 in Chiang Mai. Where were you? I just finished up my MA in California and I’m heading to Medellin as my next teaching destination (hopefully). Since we are both on a similar job search, I thought we might connect and share stories. :) E-mail me at karissa.ringel@gmail.com if you are interested.

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