Colombia’s economic growth makes it an attractive location for companies looking to scale in South America. If your company is taking advantage of this opportunity, you’ll need to obtain Colombia work visas for all international employees. However, not all companies have the time or expertise to efficiently get a work visa in Colombia.
Types of work visas in Colombia
Colombia most recently changed its visa rules in October 2022 to create several additional visa categories. Visa options include:
- Visitor “V” type visa: Meant for visitors entering the country without permanent establishment
- Migrant “M” type visa: Perfect for those who want to enter Colombia and live there temporarily
- Resident “R” type visa: A visa for individuals establishing themselves in Colombia permanently
- Technical visa: A 2-year visa for international employees to provide specialized technical assistance in Colombia for 180 continuous or cumulative days in a 365-day period
- Digital nomad visa: A visa for individuals employed outside of Colombia to live and work in the country for up to 2 years
M visas are the most common among expats for reasons such as marriage, investment, retirement, work, and studies. Individuals must meet certain requirements to obtain an M visa, such as having a spouse or partner who’s a resident of Colombia, maintaining permanent employment, or coming to Colombia as a missionary. These visas are typically valid for 3 years. However, certain exceptions exist, such as category 5 work visas and category 9 student visas, which can be less than 3 years, depending on the length of employment and studies.
Requirements to obtain Colombia work visas
The requirements for a working visa in Colombia vary by visa type. With that said, most require a job offer from a local employer to start. Once the employee and employer sign a contract, they can start the application process. In addition to the employment contract, applicants will need a letter of motivation from the employer, 6 months of bank statements, a photocopy of their passport, and a passport-style photo. Although the visa application process is online, visas are issued in person at the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores offices in Bogota.
In October 2022, Colombia implemented stricter requirements for visa applications including:
- A 6-month validity requirement for applicants’ passports.
- Proof of medical insurance for most visa types.
- An apostilled or legalized translated bachelor’s degree diploma for M visas.
- Applications filed internationally must be submitted from the country where the applicant is a citizen or holder of a residence permit.
After holding an M visa for at least 5 years, individuals can receive an R visa. Once an individual holds an R visa for 5 more years, they can apply to become a citizen of Colombia. Since the country permits dual citizenship, individuals won’t need to deal with visas or give up citizenship in another country. This option also provides Mercosur trade block benefits, as members don’t need a passport or visa to travel around the region.
When employees need a working visa, they must fill out the application form for the type of visa they require. They can register online on the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores website by uploading all relevant documents. Once the application gets filed, reviewed, and approved, applicants must follow the authorities’ directions for payment.
Employers must provide:
- Bank statements corresponding with the 6 months before the visa application.
- Proof of average monthly income of 100 times the legal monthly minimum wages.
- The previous year’s income statement.
- A certificate of suitability for the applicant.
- Relevance of the employment contract.
- Academic support of the visa applicant
In October 2022, Colombia increased the processing time for visas. Employers can expect a longer wait for work and residency permits.
Other important considerations
Every individual with a visa good for more than 3 months needs to apply and obtain a Colombian Identity Card at a regional office. They must obtain the card within 15 days of entering Colombia or 15 days after their visa was issued. They’ll need a copy of their passport and M visa.
Keep in mind that obtaining the Colombian Identity Card requires an appointment either online or in person. All applicants must file the right documents, pay the fee, then go to the office to pick up the physical ID card.
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For this particular location, G-P may offer support in processing certain work visas and permits. Contact us today to assess your specific needs.