There is no 'U' in Colombia-- The rudiments of obtaining a residency visa in Colombia
As much as I disdain essays that begin with the phrase, ‘your experience may be different,’ I have no choice here. Your experience obtaining a residency visa in Colombia may indeed be different. Here’s the latest info, and as the title indicates, it’s rudimentary.
You can visit Colombia as a tourist for up to 90 days. This may be extended for an additional 90 days, but the extension must be sought, it’s not automatic. In order to live in Colombia beyond 180 days, a residency visa must be obtained. Those 180 days are per calendar year. There’s no border run option in Colombia.
As of November 2017, there will be three visa classifications in Colombia. 1--V Visitor, 2--M Migrant, and 3--R Resident
1 V visas: A ‘V’ or Visitor visa is valid for up to two years. To qualify for a V visa, you must be involved in one of several categories of work, either research, education, internship, journalism, human rights or consultancy, plus a few others. In other words, the intent is not to reside in Colombia on a permanent basis.
2 Migrant visa: The M visa is what my wife and I hold. We must renew our M visa every three years. After holding it for five years uninterrupted, M visas will be changed to R, or Residency visas. (‘Interrupted’ means you’ve left Colombia for longer than 2 years.)
3 R or Residency visas: This requires having an M visa for at least two years, or marriage to a Colombian citizen, or be a returning Colombian, or investing at least 650 times the minimum wage, currently about $270.00/month, meaning the investment must be a minimum of $175,000.00 USD. This investment can be in real estate, a business for which you are qualified to invest, or various Colombian shares and/or annuities. No details here, or I’d very soon be off in the weeds.
How, Where, What, When to Apply for a Colombian Visa
There are consulates in several cities at which U.S. citizens may apply for a Colombian visa including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, Newark, New York, San Francisco, and Washington DC. The initial process is accomplished on line, and the visa itself is a passport stamp.
Documents required are (again, my experience), Social Security proof of income, marriage certificate, and passport pages as indicated. Our visas were issued based solely on my SS income, making my wife my dependent. This required us to obtain an Apostilled original of our marriage license, not just the copy we submitted. Thus my advice to anyone applying for a visa: DO NOT listen to anyone who says an Apostille is unnecessary. Always get documents Apostilled. I'd downloaded a copy of my SS proof of income from SS.gov, but found out much later that I needed an Apostilled copy. That took two weeks, and $200.00 I didn't need to spend.
Once you arrive in Colombia, take the documents to a local immigration office, or go directly to Bogotá with them. I recommend the latter, because the paperwork has to go there anyway. Here’s the address in Bogotá. Avenida 19 #98-03, Torre 100 Building, 3rd Floor. It’s open from 7:30 am till noon, five days a week. Check for holidays. There are 18 of them per year in Colombia, and during holidays, nothing much gets done.
There are legal firms that handle the visa process for you. We used one in Medellin, but soon realized it was unnecessary, and a bit spendy. Plus, the agency held our passports for a very long time, and it was not comfortable being without them. Always have current copies of your passport.
Don't Forget Your Cedula!
Once the visa is acquired, you have 15 calendar (not work) days maximum to apply for the Cedula de Extranjeria, or Colombian ID for foreigners. If you received the passport stamp from a consulate, you must register for the Cedula within 15 calendar days of entering Colombia, or risk a fine of up to $1,700 dollars. This registry must be done at an immigration office, because you’ll be fingerprinted, and your photo taken. The Cedula will be ready within two weeks, and it’s the size of a driver’s license. No more need to carry your passport around.
Immigration offices are located in the larger cities, Bogotá, Cartagena, Cali, Medellin, Baranquilla & Bucaramanga. The office in Medellin is located in the Belén Barrio, at Calle 19 #80A-40.
A Colombian residency visa currently costs $385.00 USD, plus a $50.00 ‘study’ fee, which includes translation. This fee is subject to change. Our fee was almost double this figure, thus our hesitation to recommend a visa agency. The process ‘should’ take about a week to ten days, but again, check for holidays and missing documents. And don’t listen to ‘experts,’ go to the source.