Sam - How To Expat
Sam - How To Expat

Visa Requirements Colombia – How To Get A Colombian Visa

How To Get A Colombian Visa

If you’re thinking about being an Expat in Colombia it is very important to know what kind of visas are out there and what the requirements are for obtaining a visa.

In this article we will cover:

  • How to get a Colombian tourist visa (stamp) (with video)
  • Howto extend the Colombian tourist visa (with video)
  • How to get a long term visa in Colombia as an Expat (with video)
  • How long it takes to get a Colombian visa
  • How much the costs are
  • How you can obtain dual-citizenship

Here you find the new and updated information so you know what to expect when you want to apply for residency in Colombia.

Update To The Article:

Update May 1, 2019: Canadians do not have to pay the entry fee anymore since May 1, 2019

So a little disclaimer in the beginning, I did this process myself. I’m an Expat here in Colombia and went through the process myself. But the figures I will show you here and the processes can change without notice.

Examples Of How The Visa Changed

This is Latin America and things do suddenly change. Another thing is, requirements may not always be the same, you can go and apply for a residency one time and it will be a little bit different from when you apply the next time, this is Latin America.

What I can tell you on this blog post, are just official procedures and figures, again, this is Latin America and the gray zone is huge. So we know a lot of people that got visas in different ways, but we are surely not suggesting to do shady stuff, as especially Colombia is cracking down on many of those procedures.

Ultimate Guide How To Enter Colombia And How To Extend The Colombian Tourist Visa

Colombian Tourist Visa – Enter Colombia

Let’s start with how to get into Colombia in the first place, people from North America and Europe can get into Colombia without a visa.

Little Note: It’s common to talk about the “Tourist Visa” even though technically it’s not a visa. It’s just a stamp. Tourist visas are given to people from let’s say India and Egypt. You (as a person from a Western country) just get here, they stamp your passport with a 90 days visa and that’s it.
Sometimes I’ve read or heard people saying that they have just received a 30 day or a 60-day stamp, but usually, it should be 90 days.

Make sure when you are in the airport or wherever you come into Colombia that they give you a 90 days stamp. There will be a little section on the stamp which shows how many days your stamp is valid.

Extend The Colombian Tourist Visa

You can extend the Colombian tourist visa (stamp) inside of the country, you have to go to the immigration office in the city you are or extend it online.

I had to do it in person because the online application form didn’t work for me, I don’t know why it just didn’t work for me. So I had to go there in person. Since then, I heard from many people that sometimes the online Colombian visa extension works, sometimes it does not.

You just go there with an appointment, just give them your passport and some other documentation, and they will just extend the Colombian tourist visa (stamp) for another 90 days. This means, that it is possible to stay in Colombia for 180 days out of one year without a Colombian visa.

The documentation you need is:

For families with children, you need these additional documents

  • Birth certificate only for the child
  • Copy of the parent’s passport’s personal page (The page with the photo)

The process to extend the Colombian tourist visa (stamp) is quite easy, and even less of a hassle if the online form works.

Colombian Visa For Expats To Stay Longer Than 6 Months

If you want to stay longer than the maximum of 6 months per year, you have to apply for a Colombian Visa. The process for most visas is fairly simple and inexpensive especially compared to many other Latin American countries like Panama for example.

Colombia Visa Updates in 2017

You have to be careful when you research on the Internet, because the visa procedure changed in 2017 so you will find a lot of outdated information out there. This is the case when you read something like TP 7 or TP 10 or something similar to that. Those are all old information. There were like 20 types of visas you can get and now there are just 3.

Actual Colombian Visas In 2019

3 Different Types Of Visas In Colombia

  • (V) Visitor Visa
  • (M) Migrant Visa
  • (R) Resident Visa

Minimum Wage Calculation For The Colombian Visa

Before we start you have to know how the calculations work for different visa requirements.

This is how it works, the minimum wage here in Colombia is 828,116 COP (2019). When you exchangethat, it will be around 250 US dollars and then you multiply that by 3 because this is the requirement of the visa and this will be roughly 750 US dollars.

But be aware that the minimum wage will rise every year, meaning that every year your requirement to obtain a pension visa will increase a little.

The Colombian Visitor Visa – V Visa

The V visa which is the visitor’s visa, is for temporary work permits when you come here and you work for a foreign company, or this could be a volunteering visa. The only time we really come in contact with the V visa for our clients is for the student visa.

Student Visa In Colombia – V Visa and M Visa

There are two types of student visas in Colombia. One of them you can get from many different schools, for example, Spanish schools. This will get you the V-visa. This is a very common visa in Colombia.

A lot of people that are not able to get any of the other visas typically chose this one. In my opinion, it’s a very good visa for your first longer stay if you are not a retiree or have Social Security.

The other type of student visa is the M visa which will be given if you enroll in an academic program to get like a Bachelor in Colombia. This is less common, at least for our clients.

You have to be careful here, especially as a student, when you have an income. If you work for instance as an independent freelancer on the side or anything like that, after 183 days you most probably have to pay taxes here in Colombia or maybe register it. Just be aware of that.

The Colombian Migrant Visa – M Visa

The type of visa you would probably want to get is the M visa which is the migrant visa. This is the most common especially for Expats that are here or just started to come here.

  • Marriage Visa Category 1
  • Work Visa Category 5
  • Investment Visa (Business) Category 6
  • Expertise Visa Category 7
  • Student Visa Category 9
  • Investment Visa (Real Estate) Category 10
  • Retirement/Rentista Visa Category 11

M Visa – How Long Can You Stay Out Of The Country

With the M migrant visa you can stay out of the country for more than six months consecutively. If you can’t or don’t want to be so often in Colombia, you could just fly to Colombia inside of these six months. Stay here for one day and then the six months will renew itself for another 6 months. That means, that you can come to Colombia twice a year and your M Visa will stay valid.

M Visa – How Long Is The M Visa Valid

The migrant visa you have to renew every 3 years unless you have a work visa or a student visa.

Little Note: There are some instances when you have an investor visa or another visa who should typically get 3 years, but the immigration office is able to just give you 1 or 2 years. The max though is 3 years and this is how it is usually given but in no way guaranteed.
If you have the work or student visa in Colombia, the time that you can stay in the country is the same as the length of your work contract or your student program.

But I also heard from people that made a student program in Colombia for around six months, but they got the visa for one year. You have to check that with your school or with the attorney or whomever you do the process with.

Can You Work With The Colombian M-Visa?

This depends on the visa you have, you will find below the title of the visa and can find out if you can work with that visa in Colombia or not.

M Visa – How To Obtain The Colombian M Visa

Colombian Retirement Visa – M Category 1

With this type of visa, you can NOT legally work in Colombia.
For the pension/retirement visa here in Colombia, you need to prove that you have 3 times the minimum wage of Colombia which is around USD 750, as a monthly income from a pension or social security or anything like that. it can be also as a military pension, as long as it’s guaranteed for life. It does not matter how old you are.

Colombian Rentista Visa – M Category 1

With this type of visa, you can NOT legally work in Colombia.
A Colombian rentista Visa is if you don’t have a pension but you have a foreign income from a property rental, from stocks or anything like that. This has to exceed 10 times the minimum wage which is around USD 2500. 

We heard from many sources that the income from work abroad (like a job as a freelancer or for a US company) does not count. Although there is some wiggle room, how people still make it happen.

Little Note: If you read anywhere that it’s 15 times the minimum wage for the Colombian rentista visa. Then you found out dated information. They lowered that requirement in 2017. So it’s really 10 times the minimum wage.

Marriage Visa In Colombia – M Category 1

With this type of visa, you can legally work in Colombia, which is also one of the most common types of visas in Colombia.

A big advantage of the marriage visa, is that you can actually work legally in Colombia. Another advantage is that you can apply for the R (resident) visa after just 2 years of being a resident in Colombia, instead of 5 years like with the other M visas.

Marriage Interviews

What you have to know when you apply, about one-third of the people have to go through an interview in Bogota. So when you apply, they will most probably want to interview you as a couple.

In order to verify that you really are a couple and it’s not just a marriage to get the visa.

Colombian Work Visa – M Category 5

One of the other common visas is the employment visa. Of course, if you have employment here in Colombia you can get a visa for the time that you work here.
Either the company that will hire you will do the visa process for you or maybe you have to do it by yourself.

But most of the time, the companies will do the visa for you.

Colombian Business Investor Visa – M Category 6

With this type of visa, you can legally work in Colombia. But only for the registered company.
Another common visa type is the business investor visa. It requires you to invest in a Colombian company.

This can be your company or an existing company usually as a SAS company where you have to invest 100 times the minimum wage which is around USD 27,000.

The requirement is, that you have to invest money in a company. What you actually do with the company is up to you. Especially with that kind of visa there are a lot of misconceptions and a big gray zone, especially of the amount of money you have to invest in cash. There are some options like buying a car through your company and this will count as capital as well.

It’s very important that you talk to a specialist that can advise you on that.

Colombian Real Estate Investment Visa – M Category 10

With this type of visa, you can NOT legally work in Colombia. Another investment visa out there. In Colombia, it’s called real estate investment type, which is also on of the M types of the migrant visas. You have to invest 350 times the minimum wage of Colombia, which is around USD 90,000, in real estate.

Colombian Expertise (Independent Worker) Visa – M Category 5

If you have special expertise like an engineer, physician, architect you can apply for the expertise (Independent Worker) visa.

But let me tell you, this is very hard to get. If you are not an absolute specialist in a field like hard science, programming, finance or medicine just let it be.

I know it sounds like the easiest of the visas to get if you don’t have a Colombian spouse or a job in Colombia, unfortunately, this is too good to be true.

Another Way To Stay Long Term In Colombia

There is one little trick though, where you can still stay in Colombia for many years without having to get an M-Visa. If you can get an M-Visa do that, otherwise you should consider to do the trick. We talk about that special trick in our Medellin E-Guide.

The R Visa In Colombia

And then there is the R visa, so this will be a resident visa, this is the (most) permanent residency.

R Visa – How Long Can You Stay Out Of The Country?

With the resident visa, it’s the same thing. It is just for two years, means you can stay out of the country for two years, then before the two years expire you can come into the country for one day and the two years will renew again.

R Visa – How Long Is The Visa Valid?

The R-Visa is valid for 5 years. There are no visas in Colombia which are auto-renewed like the permanent residency visa in Panama for example. It technically is a permanent visa, but practically you have to renew it all 5 years anyway. (Don’t ask me… it does not make sense)

R Visa – How To Obtain The Colombian R Visa?

Most Expats that have an R Resident Visa did it with one of these 3 ways.
1. Held a marriage M visa continuously for 2 years.
2. Held one of the following visas for 5 years:

  • Work Visa Category 5
  • Investment Visa (Business) Category 6
  • Expertise Visa Category 7
  • Student Visa Category 9
  • Investment Visa (Real Estate) Category 10
  • Retirement/Rentista Visa Category 11
  • Beneficiary Visa

3. Got The Business Investor Visa

Colombian Business Investor Visa In Colombia – R Category

Yet you have to invest that money into that company you can get the visa also with the amount of 650 times the minimum wage which is around 170.000 US dollars.
Then you get the permanent so the R visa instantly and you just have to wait five years to get citizenship, if that’s your plan.

But you have to be careful with that big investment here in Colombia. There are many factors you have to look into. For most people, the M visa would be the better solution. You just have to invest 27.000 US dollars instead of 170.000 US dollars.

With the M Investor Visa after five years any way you will get the permanent residency. You can hold an M visa for a specific amount of time for the most visas it will be five years unless you have the marriage visa. In that case, you only have to wait 2 years in order to get permanent residency.

The Beneficiary Visa

The Colombian beneficiary visa is a big deal. The beneficiary visa aka. dependent visa, is for a spouse or a kid of a resident (not only citizen) here in Colombia.

If your partner, your spouse has a visa here in Colombia, you can be the beneficiary of that visa and don’t have to get another visa. That has more requirements to it than just being a beneficiary of the visa of your spouse/parent.

And if your spouse has an M visa, your Colombian beneficiary visa will be an M Visa too. It’s important to note that with the beneficiary visa you can’t legally work in Colombia.

How Long Does It Take From Start To Finish?

Usually from the time you start to apply for the visa till you hold it in your hands is extremely short. It takes around 2 weeks.

For the business investor visa; opening the company takes around 2-3 weeks and the visa takes another 2 weeks. Means, you are able to do the whole process in around 1 month.
In our experience getting the documents from our home country took the longest, so factor that in too. But besides that, it’s super fast.

Do You Need A Lawyer For The Colombian Visa?

Technically you don’t need a lawyer, but we advise everybody to use one. It makes your life easier, the fee of around USD 130 is very low and you can save a trip to Bogota because a lot of lawyers offer a stamping service to Bogota. Our trusted lawyer is Alan Gongora.

Cost Of Visas In Colombia

So what are the costs of these visas? In Colombia, everything is very inexpensive. The cost of obtaining residency is also very inexpensive compared to other Latin American countries.
The whole process incl. the lawyer’s fee is around USD 500 for these visas.

  • M – Marriage Visa Category 1
  • M – Work Visa Category 5
  • M – Expertise Visa Category 7
  • M – Student Visa Category 9
  • M – Retirement/Rentista Visa Category 11

The investor’s visas are a little more expensive because of additional Colombian documents that have to be provided and in the case of the Colombian business investment visa the cost of opening a company.

The complete prices for these visas are around USD 800-1000.

  • M – Investment Visa (Business) Category 6
  • M – Investment Visa (Real Estate) Category 10
  • R – Investment Visa

Our trusted lawyer can make you an official offer, is Alan Gongora. He is one of the most experienced lawyers in the country and has helped thousands of clients successfully getting a visa. Find out more about him here.

How To Obtain Citizenship

If you have the R resident visa, then you can obtain citizenship after five years (or after 2 if you are married to a Colombian). Although I heard the test is quite hard to master.

There are some exemptions like if you’re a citizen from Spain you can get that in two years, not five years and also when you married to a Colombian citizen you can get citizenship after two years and don’t have to wait five years to apply.

But be aware that if you’re a male you have to pay some kind of military contribution. Take a deeper look into that if you really want to get the citizenship, or you if you want to stay resident for that time being.

Conclusion – Obtaining A Colombian Visa

To get a Colombian visa is very easy if you have a pension, work here or are married to a Colombian. Otherwise, you either have to prove a big financial income, have to invest in real estate or in a business with a moderate/substantial amount of money.

Colombia is perfect for:

  • Retirees, military vets or first responders with a pension
  • Business people with capital
  • People that want to invest in real estate
  • Employees with a work contract in Colombia
  • And of course people that are married to a Colombian

It’s more difficult for:

  • Digital Nomads
  • Freelancers

Sam and Tacha
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