Companies moving into the Colombian economy can expect to find a high standard of living at affordable rates and a beautiful place to live. It has many climates and an environment including tropical jungles, rocky mountains, white sandy beaches and the Amazon rain forest in the southeast. It is one of the world’s most bio-diverse countries. Economic growth also makes this an attractive destination.

Of course, as with any country, whether people want to visit or work there, documentation is required. Companies trying to handle the paperwork from thousands of miles away will find this problematic. However, the process can be straightforward with the correct information, provided all the governmental requirements are met. Hence, knowing which Visa is the right one for employees is essential.

Colombia offers a full range of Visas for visitors depending on their nationality, the trip’s duration and its purpose. Some countries’ nationals are Visa-exempt; others can apply for an eVisa. The rest must apply online or visit a Colombian embassy or consulate in their home country for the appropriate visa. Mercosur agreement countries can travel to Colombia without either a passport or Visa.

In 2017, Colombia overhauled its Visa system, which now falls into three types, i.e., Migrant (M) Residence (RE) and Visitor (V). Employees with a contract with a resident foreign company in Colombia must apply for a Work Visa in either the M or V category. Also, 2022 sees a new presidential election and new rules are expected. Other changes have been in the pipeline for a while.

Many companies look towards a Professional Employer Organisation (PEO) and Employer of Record (EOR), such as Bradford Jacobs, to set up their business, onboard staff and operate payroll to save time and money, including assisting their team with their immigration and work documentation. 

The different types of Visas and Work Permits for Colombia

Researching up-to-date information is vital when visiting, living or working in Colombia. The process and documentation are strictly regulated, so check what changes are coming online or are in the pipeline.

More than 90 countries are visa-exempt when travelling for tourism and business purposes for 90 days, with the possibility of renewing in Colombia for up to 180 days in 12 months. Others can apply online for the e-visa. Those nationalities which require a visa may be able to start the process online and then take the relevant documents to a local embassy or consulate, so check. 

Visas are divided into three types:

  • The visitor (V) is ideal for short visits to Colombia. The categories include Tourist visas, Student visas, Event or Convention visas, Business visas, medical visas, and work visas.

Their validity ranges from a week to two years. Tourist visas are generally for 30 or 60 days, but on request, they can be made for 90 days. These may be renewed in Colombia for another 90 days at the Office of Immigration Affairs (max. 180 days)

  • Migrant (M) includes Work Visa, Pension Visa, Annuity for Investment Visa, Business Owner Visa, and Property Visa, which are the main. Generally, for up to three years and in the case of a Work Visa, this depends on the length of the contract but no longer than three years. Also, the Mercosur Visa can be applied for by nationals from Mercosur economic bloc countries (founder and associate members)
  • Resident (RE) includes an Investors Visa and Qualified Visa (for those having lived in Colombia for three to five years) and others. Typically, the Residence stamp is for five years, after which holders apply for a Residence card without needing to renew the visa stamp.

The main Work Visas

After the changes to the visa system, one new requirement is the strict examination of applicants’ qualifications and work experience as required by the job offered, which also meets the relevant visa requirements. Employees need documented proof of their degree or qualification confirming professional, technological or specialist training for the role, where applicable. The Ministry of Education must validate degrees obtained outside Colombia.

However, for some professions, this is not enough as certain regulated professions may require Special Temporary Enrolment granted by the Professional Councils, in which case the employee requires a professional permit (i.e., a temporary professional license, permanent professional card, or a non-necessity certificate) to practice the profession. The employer needs to provide help.

Depending on eligibility, these visas permit people to work and live in Colombia.

  1. A work Visitor Visa (V) is a Temporary Work Visa for those who do not intend to permanently live and work in the country. This can be for up to two years for:
  • Employees on a contract for companies or institutions incorporated in Colombia
  • Non-contracted persons wanting to practice their professional or specialized work
  • Employees transferred from overseas to fill a specific position in a branch of their home company, receiving payment from abroad (Intra-Company Transfer)
  • Volunteers, missionaries, sports, cultural or artistic individuals who are paid for their activities

Generally, employees applying for their first temporary worker’s visa and working for resident companies or entities submit applications for their Work Visitor Visa at an embassy or consulate abroad. They may be able to start the process online, but documentation must be submitted in person. 

  1. A Migrant (M-5) Visa is for employees with a job and employment contract. It replaces the old TP-4 visa. The visa’s duration typically matches the contract up to three years. The company’s activity must match the employee’s experience, who must also have the relevant qualifications; since Ivan Duque’s presidency, immigration rules have been tightened, and qualifications and job experience will be scrutinized. Employees must have degrees, diplomas, or certificates translated into Spanish and notarized or legalized by the relevant authority, which depends on the profession or occupation. This visa allows multiple entries.

These visas are generally applied for online. All relevant documents need to be scanned and uploaded. Check if they can be digitally signed. All travellers will require a return ticket (with a return date within the limit of their visa), and at least one hour before leaving for Colombia, an immigration form (Check-Mig) has to be completed. A confirmation email was received to submit to border control.

Foreigners who have a Colombian Visa for longer than 90 days must register the visa online or with a Migracion Colombia Office during the first 15 days after arrival and receive a Foreigners ID Card. Fines are applied for non-compliance. After five years, holders can apply for a Residence Visa.

How to apply for Visas and Work Permits for Colombia?

Regime changes within Colombia mean that work documentation can be fluid. So, as a first step towards applying for any visa, check about changes in the rules, regulations, eligibility and required documents with a local embassy or consulate.

Applying for a Work Visitor Visa or Temporary Work Visa (V) for contracted employees

  • The first application for this visa must be made abroad through a local Colombian embassy or consulate. It can be started online, but documentation must be presented before a consular officer.
  • A job offer and employment contract is the most crucial factor when applying for a visa.
  • All documents need to be translated into Spanish by a recognized translator in Colombia and certified by a notary or apostille.
  • Note: if any documents require signing, digital signatures may not be accepted, and therefore, applicants should check.

Documents for Work Visa (V)

  • Passport undamaged and valid for six months upon arrival, with empty pages for the visa stamp.
  • Two passport-style photographs 3cm x 4cm taken within three months.
  • Downloaded, completed, and signed the employment contract summary form, which outlines all employment contract details. This is for information only and does not replace the contract. The employer signs it in front of a notary in Colombia and the employee in front of the consular officer; both parties agree to the contract terms.
  • Employer provides proof of business as a legal entity or incorporation documents called a
    Certificate of Legal Existence, certified within three months of the application.
  • Employer provides six months’ bank statements to show turnover and liquidity.
  • A regulated profession needs approval from the relevant authority or Professional Council. Qualifications need approval and verification. Employees must attain a professional card to practice their profession; non-regulated jobs must be certified by the Ministry of Education. Other employees require a letter from the employer saying they are experienced to work in the relevant position. Employers can organize this for employees.
  • Health insurance before you travel is recommended, although not mandatory. However, health insurance when you arrive is compulsory for all employees and legal residents.

Applying for a Migrant Work Visa (M) for contracted employees

  • The application can be made online, scanning and uploading all relevant documents. However, to receive the visa in the passport, the applicant must go to a local embassy or consulate where they reside.
  • A job offer and employment contract is the most crucial factor when applying for a visa.
  • All documents must be translated into Spanish by a registered translator in Colombia and certified by a notary or apostille.

Note: digital signatures may not be accepted if any documents require signing. Applicants should check.

Documents for Visa M-5

  • Photocopy of the biodata page of a valid passport.
  • Photocopy of any previous Colombian visas and, if relevant, the last entry or exit stamp.
  • Digital photograph for uploading.
  • Prove residence in the country they are applying from.
  • Summary of contract form (Resumen de contrato) from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, downloaded, completed, and signed. It does not replace the contract but must be signed by both parties before a notary in Colombia or a consular officer in the home country. If there are any disputes, the original contract may be requested.
  • Letter of Motivation from the company/employer regarding hiring employees, i.e., that they are a good fit for the company, why they are necessary for the business/sector/country.
  • Six months of the employer’s bank account statements show an overall average balance of more than COP 100 million (€23,600, US$25,440).
  • Any other documentation that shows the employer is eligible to sponsor foreign employees.
  • A regulated profession needs approval from a relevant authority in Colombia. Qualifications need approval and verification. Employees will receive a permit or license (professional card); non-regulated jobs are certified by the Ministry of Education. Other employees require a letter from the employer saying they are experienced in the position they have been employed for. Employers organize these ‘permissions or approvals.
  • Previous work experience in their occupation should be certificated, translated, and notarized if required for the job position.

When employees receive the Work Visa, they can travel to Colombia, but first, they must fill out an immigration form, the ‘Check-Mig form’, online before departure. Also, although this is a multi-entry visa, holders must not be out of the country for more than 183 days, or they will lose it.


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