Medellín has rapidly become not only a place to visit on vacation but also somewhere to live and work full-time. The emerging tech scene, entrepreneurial spirit, climate and transformed image all combine to make the City of Eternal Spring a fantastic place to work. While there’s an undeniable appeal of joining (or starting) a business here, the reality of finding a job in Medellín as an expat isn’t as straightforward. Yet, with a little research and navigation of the job market, working in Medellín is both possible and an incredible experience.
Whether you are specifically looking to relocate or have visited Medellín and decided to stay on a long-term basis, we answer some common questions to help you with the employment process:
Do companies offer visas?
The answer to this question depends on the company. Larger and more established companies – normally companies who are not headquartered in Medellín but have an office here – provide working visas for expat employees. Equally, Colombian companies that are accustom to hiring extranjeros also provide visas.
However, it is important to note that not many Colombian companies actively employee people who cannot already work in the country legally; this is because visa sponsorship is expensive and requires extra administrative work – something Colombian companies won’t do if they can hire a Colombian citizen for the same role.
With that being said, being a native speaker of a language other than Spanish can certainly work in your favor, and there are companies who are willing to pay the additional fees to secure foreign employees. Our advice is: if you don’t speak Spanish fluently – target non-Colombian entities that are registered in Colombia and have an international workforce; if you speak Spanish fluently – target both non-Colombian and Colombian entities. Always be upfront about your visa situation, tell companies how long you can legally remain in the country and how long you want to stay. You can then negotiate options or move on if visa sponsorship isn’t available.
Generally speaking, you will be asked to contribute towards the overall cost of your working visa, and the amount will vary based on the company and visa type. Most employers ask that the employee repay a portion of the visa via an automatic deduction from their monthly salary. It’s also worth mentioning that the cost of a cedula – a Colombian ID card that has to be obtained a maximum of 15 days after visa approval – is not included. The price for a cedula as of February 2019 is $196.000 COP.
If you are successfully granted a visa with your job in Medellín, remember that the visa is only valid so long as you are employed by that company. As soon as you stop working there, the visa expires and you will have to either switch to a tourist visa or leave Colombia.
What are some popular expat companies?
Founded by an American and Colombian, Espacio is an incubator committed to promoting Medellín as a center of innovation. The company is split into two, one side (Espacio) is a newsroom and the other (Pulicize) is a start-up PR agency. Roles here range from tech to content, sales to marketing, and employees are mostly expats, although Colombians are hired too.
Originally a Dutch start-up, Virtuagym now has offices in Amsterdam and Medellín. Virtuagym is fitness software and an app, consisting of tailormade workout plans, group challenges, nutritional tracking and more for both personal and business use. They currently have a team of 200 people working in sales, business development, marketing, tech and account management.
A managed service provider specializing in customer service/support and sales for growing businesses, CloudTask is based in Miami, Manila and Medellín. With the main aims of finding prospects and leads in B2B sales, the company attracts many native English speakers. Vacancies here are predominantly in sales, account management, customer success and recruitment.
Teaching at a school or college
Arguably the most accessible job for expats (plus the easiest and fastest way to get a visa besides volunteering) is to teach English at a school or college in Medellín. Some institutes may ask for previous teaching experience or a certificate in education (like a CELTA, TEFL, and TESOL qualifications), while others might only ask for a minimum contract agreement. The majority of schools and colleges will expect that you contribute towards your visa application. The following places hire expats and provide or help with visas:
Do I need to speak Spanish?
In short, no – you don’t need to speak Spanish to find a job in Medellín. As the city has become a hotspot for North American and European investment, more and more offices require native or advanced English language skills only. This, in turn, ties into Colombia’s mission to become a bilingual country, in the hope of increasing employment opportunities for locals, as well as to boost the country’s economy.
While not speaking Spanish won’t prevent you from getting a job in Medellín, it will likely hinder the process. The reality is, Colombia is not a bilingual country yet, and to be eligible for a larger scope of vacancies, knowing some Spanish will help. When it comes down to employers choosing the right candidate, someone who speaks both Spanish and English has a significant advantage. Furthermore – particularly in teaching or volunteering roles – job descriptions sometimes state that Spanish isn’t necessary when really, it is. To be able to communicate with employees, students or the community, at very least, a basic understanding of Spanish is needed.
What about working online?
Working online for companies in the U.S, Canada or Europe is common for a lot of expats in Medellín. The perks of being remote are that the salary is higher than the pay in Colombia, and you have greater flexibility with working hours and being able to travel. The most popular online jobs include: teaching English, developer, designer, social media, software sales and content writing/copywriting. Medellín is also socially adapting to people working online – there are often digital nomad meet-up events where freelancers can collaborate on projects, plus a wide selection of trendy cafes and coworking spaces across the city.
The downside of working online is that you probably won’t be eligible to apply for a work visa. If your company is registered in Colombia and can sponsor you one, great, you’re all set. If your company isn’t registered in Colombia, speak with your employer about your visa status – they may offer support. Alternatively, you could apply for another type of visa if you want to take Spanish classes (V student visa) or buy a property or start a business (M-6 investor visa).
Useful job-search websites
Have you found a job in Medellín or are currently looking? Share your story in the comments section.