Editor’s note: This article was reviewed and updated by Mariana Goéz in January 2020. For questions, you can send her an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear readers, on August 2, 2017 the Ministry of Exterior Relations released (full text here) broad changes/reclassifications to the Colombian visa program. All in all, we perceive the changes as positive and most of the changes are designed to clarify and simplify not complicate. Mariana and I have gone through the 21 page article/resolution in great detail and it is with pleasure that we summarize what we think are the most important changes/updates for Medellin Living readers. As always, never hesitate to send us an email or visit us in our offices if you have any doubt about your immigration status in Colombia.
Here is a summary of the 10 most important changes that we have seen:
1) There now only exist 3 visas for foreigners instead of almost 20 previously (high-five!)
– The “V” or Visitor visa
– The “M” or Migrant visa
– The “R” or Resident visa
Note: many of the requirements for each of these visas are exactly the same as before, they have now just categorized many of the old “TP” visa types into the V and M types respectively.
2) Visitor visas – not much changed here; there is a new type of “working-holiday” visa and cultural interchange/study visas with up to 2 year validity, but overall the same max 180 day rule applies to visitors in Colombia for most work and leisure/tourism purposes.
3) Migrant visas – obtained via marriage, investment (via SAS or real property based on minimum wages of the current year – 100 MW for SAS/ 350 MW for Real Property), new business formation, and certified pension income. Now, ALL “M” visas with a 3 year duration (big news!), where previously the durations ranged from 1 year. This is very positive in my view as it cuts down on the annual paperwork/trip to Bogota for these types of visa holders.
These visa holders must be aware that once the visa is granted they CANNOT be out of the country for more than 180 continuous days, otherwise, the visa will ve automatically canceled.
4) Resident visas – no real change and exactly the same application requirements as always. Usually obtained via SAS or real property investment of 650 minimum wages of the current year, which will change every year.
A clarification is that the “R” visa holder should possess his/her cedula de extranjeria and should not be absent from Colombia for more than a 2 year continuous period.
5) Student visas – in general, Cancilleria seems to be tightening up on student visas. Specifically, only granting the visa for the term of the studies and NOT for the standard 3 year term, and also requiring bank account statements in the name of the applicant showing sufficient funds for their visa period.
(Google Images photo)
6) Other Migrant “M” visa exclusions:
– those “M” visa holders who applied with pension income, cannot work in Colombia
– those “M” visa holders who applied with foreign investment, cannot work in Colombia
– dependant visa holders (spouses, etc.) cannot work in Colombia
– if you are sponsored by a company, you must only work for that company
7) Pension visas – no change, just certify about 3 minimum wages of the current year/month in pension income to apply.
8) Marriage visas – the Colombian person you are marrying must present a written and notarized letter authorizing you to seek the marriage visa. This is most definitely due to abuse and “arranged” types of marriages to random Colombian nationals/”friends”.
9) Interviews – there is a specific mention of the use of interviews at the leisure of the Cancilleria when it is deemed necessary to validate any information in person about the foreigner’s activities in Colombia. We have definitely seen the number of interview requests increase and can help prepare for them.
10) Bank account verification – for many applications, a specific statement that bank account statements could be requested to validate sufficient financial resources to support oneself in Colombia. This might sound strange coming from a developing country but my hypothesis is that it is probably targeted at Venezuelan immigration attempts more than anything.
11) While not explicitly called out in this latest article/update, we have also seen an uptick in the amount of information (and interviews) being requested for holders of “business/start-up” visas to ensure that their companies are actually being used to conduct business in Colombia and not just for the purpose of obtaining a visa. We have assisted recently a number of new clients who had previously had issues in order to get their books in order and properly presented.
Once again, we think the changes are all good. The high-quality visa applications are being rewarded with longer renewal terms and the lower quality types or those subject to abuse are now subject to more documentation. If I or my partner and immigration specialist Mariana Goez (email@example.com) can be of any assistance feel free to drop us a line or schedule a meeting with me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) to discuss further.
Juan Jose Giraldo
Casacol Legal Team