Colombia Visa Changes Continue; Permanent Residents Can Avoid Bogota Trip
New rules adopted by the Colombian government allow long-time foreign nationals with existing, valid permanent residency status in Colombia to avoid the once-every-five-years trip to Bogota to renew the visa that’s already stamped inside your non-Colombian, foreign passport.
However, already-permanent, long-time legal residents here (editor’s note: I’ve been living here continuously for 14 years) still need to renew their “cedula de extranjeria” every five years, according to Migracion Colombia, the official Colombian government migratory agency.
Even despite elimination of the former requirement to renew your visa every five years, you still might find it useful to have that existing Colombia visa stamp transferred at Migracion Colombia offices in Bogota from your expired, non-Colombian passport to your new, non-Colombian passport. Several agencies here in Medellin can do that for you, enabling you to avoid that personal trip to Migracion Colombia in Bogota.
On the other hand, personal reports from some expats here indicate that the old Colombia visa stamp in your old passport (example: the old, expired USA passport that now has two holes drilled through it) has sometimes been accepted by Colombian immigration authorities whenever re-entering Colombia from a foreign trip. But to eliminate any doubts or worries, you might as well have your existing Colombian visa stamp transferred to your new, non-Colombian passport, whenever you have to renew that foreign passport.
As for your “cedula de extranjeria,” this document can be renewed at the Migracion Colombia agency office (formerly “DAS”) in the Belen neighborhood of Medellin, every five years.
Meanwhile, Colombia’s foreign ministry announced that other changes to visa regulations took effect in November 2017.
In that announcement (see complete text in Spanish here: http://legal.legis.com.co/document?obra=legcol&document=legcol_74fa455ce7e44df19296af36ef78d8e8), the Ministry clarified that it’s regrouping many different types of current visas into three main categories: visitor (V), migrant (M) and resident (R).
Many of the changes are superficial (changes of words or categories, but not meaning), but some clarifications are worth noting.
For example: “Visitors” for tourism, for investigating business opportunities, for contract negotiations and for sales representations are allowed stays of up-to-180 days, but such visitors cannot do local contract work.
However, “visitors” attending trade shows, sporting events, artistic events, doing film productions, executing journalism assignments, occupying temporary corporate assignments (for a non-Colombia-headquartered company) and performing certain volunteer projects are allowed to “work” at those assignments or events, according to the Ministry.
“Migrants” (those intending to become residents) who are married to a Colombian national — or parents of a Colombian-born adopted child — likewise can “work” in Colombia for up-to-three-years, and also can apply to become a “resident” after two years.
In addition, “migrants” that obtain a local work contract or become a partner in a commercial enterprise here can obtain a “resident” visa after five years.
For real-estate investors, “migrant” visas can be obtained by investing at least 350 minimum Colombian monthly salaries. The current Colombian minimum monthly salary — COP$738,000 – multiplied by 350 equals COP$258 million, or about US$88,000 at current COP/USD exchange rates and current Colombian legal salary minimums.
To obtain the visa, the real-estate investment must be accompanied by proof of free title (“certificado de libertad y tradicion del inmueble adquirido que pruebe titularidad”) as well as proof of registry of the foreign funds used for the purchase (“communicacion expedida por el Departamento de Cambios Internacionales del Banco de la Republica”).
For those seeking a “migrant” visa as a retiree, the applicant must show that a pension (such as Social Security or a private-sector pension) is at least three times the Colombian minimum monthly salary (COP$2,214,000 or about US$753). Alternatively, an applicant could get a “migrant” visa if receiving at least 10 times the minimum monthly salary (COP$7,380,000) if this income is from investments with regular payouts (such as annuities).
For “empresarios” seeking a “migrant” visa, the applicant must show a capital investment of at least 100 minimum monthly salaries (COP$73.8 million or about US$25,000). For “independent” professionals, a “migrant” visa can be obtained with bank records indicating earnings of at least 10 minimum monthly salaries over the prior six months.
Real-estate investors, commercial partners, contracted workers and pensioners with “migrant” visas can apply for “resident” visas after five years.
In addition, registered foreign direct investors (FDIs) investing at least 650 minimum monthly salaries (COP$480 million, or about US$163,000) can apply for a “resident” visa.
Foreigners married to Colombian nationals also will continue to qualify for “resident” visas, as in prior visa regulations. “Resident” visas are good for five years and are renewable.
First-time (and some renewal) visa applications are now processed on-line through the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores web-site (see: http://www.cancilleria.gov.co/tramites_servicios/visas).
Most expats in Colombia make a personal trip to Ministry offices in Bogota to obtain their visa, although some specialist agencies and lawyers here in Medellin offer to handle that process for you.