- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Colombia Guide (PDF)
Depending on their nationality and the purpose of their stay, expats may need to get a visa in order to enter, work, study or live in Colombia. Expats should ensure they know which type of visa is required. Colombia offers many different categories of visas. Most of these enable foreigners to stay in the country for one year or more.
Colombia’s visa rules changed late in 2017. Visas can now be classified under three broad umbrella categories: Visitor (V), Migrant (M) or Resident (R). There are more than 30 subcategories that are divided under each umbrella category. It’s important that expats understand the new visa rules before applying for a Colombian visa.
Visitor visas for Colombia
Citizens from many countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France and South Africa do not need a visa to enter Colombia as a tourist for up to 90 days. Expats should consult their local Colombian embassy to find out whether they need a visa or not.
The visitor visa is aimed at foreigners who are going to Colombia for tourism purposes or to do business, participate in academic exchange and studies, do an internship or volunteer. The visa also applies to expats who are being transferred for work by an international company or those who are travelling for a working holiday.
Migrant visas for Colombia
The migrant visa is intended for foreigners who want to visit Colombia for short trips or to stay in the country temporarily. The visa is available to expats who want to live in Colombia and establish themselves, but don’t meet the requirements of the resident visa.
This visa covers what in the past would have been marriage, work, retirement or student visas. Expats who are a spouse of a Colombian national, adopted parent or child of a Colombian national, employed full time, a businessperson, investor, retiree or landlord could all be eligible for this visa.
The migrant visa is typically valid for three years. However, this depends on the purpose of the visit. If a visa holder leaves Colombia for more than six consecutive months, the visa will expire.
Resident visas for Colombia
The resident visa is for expats who want to establish themselves permanently in Colombia. If a foreigner has held a migrant visa for longer than two or five years (depending on the category of the visa), they may become eligible to apply for a resident visa. This visa is also available to expats who have invested significantly into the Colombian economy.
Resident visas are valid for up to five years and allow the visa holder to take up any kind of employment in Colombia.
*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.
►For more on employment in Colombia, see Working in Colombia
"I actually more or less did the visa process myself at the job I got immediately after my volunteer year. It wasn’t too bad, but you do have to make sure you have all the documents in order. Fortunately, everywhere else I have worked have taken care of it for me. For places that hire foreigners, that should generally be the case. Those coming for retirement or to open a business should check out the requirements carefully to be sure they meet them."
Check out the rest of American expat Adam's interview with Expat Arrivals about life in Colombia here.
Are you an expat living in Colombia?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Colombia. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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