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.
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:
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)
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.
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.
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.
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
Documents for Work Visa (V)
Applying for a Migrant Work Visa (M) for contracted employees
Note: digital signatures may not be accepted if any documents require signing. Applicants should check.
Documents for Visa M-5
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.