Moving to Colombia?
Moving to Colombia
No matter how often you may have dealt with relocation paperwork, it bears repeating in every expat guide: getting the correct visas and permits is both important and complicated. This is also true when planning to move to Colombia. The latest modification to Colombian immigration law which came into force in 2015 did little to make it easier for expats-to-be to comprehend the endless permit and visa types. There are 21 different types of visa in Colombia, so if you are planning on moving to the country permanently it may be worth hiring an attorney.
For short stays of up to 90 days, there are a wide variety of Entry and Stay Permits (PIP) available to citizens of countries on the visa waiver list. They are stamped into the passport at the port of entry. It is possible to extend the duration of your stay by a maximum of another 90 days with a temporary stay permit (PTP), giving you the option of staying in Colombia for up to 180 days per calendar year. Please note that none of these permits allow you to take up paid employment. You may, however, use the time for a fact-finding trip or business meetings. If you happen to enter the country via Venezuela or Ecuador, make sure to have your passport stamped by immigration authorities, otherwise you may face a fine upon departure.
Different Visa Types of Colombia
Colombia has many types of visas, however if you are a national of a country which is not eligible for a waiver, or planning on working and living in Colombia for more than three to six months, only a few visa categories apply. Brief overviews of them can be found below, and for more in-depth information on all available visas, please refer to the website of the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
There are three general visa types under Colombian immigration law, each with their own subcategories: business visas, temporary visas, and resident visas.
Business Visas (NE)
This category generally applies to representatives or senior managers of foreign companies, who either have an interest in establishing or strengthening their business ties with Colombia and local businesses or with established offices or subsidiaries in Colombia. The NE visa is split into four subcategories and allows multiple entries over a certain period of time. It’s worth doing your research here as they are all quite different, both in how long the visa is valid for (ranging from 180 days to five years) and in how long each entry is allowed to last (spanning 180 days to four years). Expats who come to Colombia on this visa category are not allowed to take up remunerated employment.
Temporary Visas (TP)
This is the category most expats will want to look into when planning their move. There are 16 subcategories for all circumstances — however, chances are the temporary work visa (TP-4) is the one you are looking for.
The TP-4 visa is granted to foreigners with either an employment contract with a Colombian company, or who provide services to individuals or corporations in Colombia. It is valid for the duration of the employment contract up to a maximum of three years, after which it can be extended. It is worth noting that some professions and trades are regulated (e.g. medicine, engineering, biology, law, and more); you will be able to receive your TP-4 visa, but will have to get in touch with the corresponding regulatory body before taking up work. For a list of documents to hand in with your visa application, please see this overview provided by the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The TP-4 can be extended to include your spouse and children as well, and they will be issued a beneficiary visa. However, the beneficiary visa does not allow your spouse to take up any kind of paid employment.
Any type of temporary visa can be cancelled if you spend more than 180 days in a given calendar year outside of Colombia.
Resident Visas (RE)
If you have held one of seven applicable temporary visa types (including the TP-4) for five or more years, you can apply for a resident visa. If you held a T-10 spouse visa, then you only have to have the visa for three years before being able to apply for a resident visa. The main benefits of this visa category are its duration (up to five years) and the chance to take up any kind of employment. Resident visas must be renewed every five years.
How to Apply for Your Visa
Applying for your visa can be daunting, but there’s a lot of information out there to help you. Although the conditions for each visa vary, you can safely assume that you’ll at least need scans of both the main page of your passport and of the passport page with the latest entry stamp for Colombia. You will also need to pay a nonrefundable application fee and, once your visa is approved, a second payment is due for it to be issued. Check the requirements for your specific type of visa for more details — you’re unlikely to have an interview. It is possible to apply for a visa online, but you will have to visit one of the Colombian consulates or embassies to get the visa stamped on your passport if your application is successful.
Don’t Forget to Register
If your visa is valid for more than three months, you have to register with the Special Administrative Unit Migration Colombia (Migración Colombia for short) within 15 days of entry. You will then be issued a foreign identification card (cédula). You will need to inform them if you change employer or address.
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