The Colombian visa for permanent residency is simple to obtain but the process may be complex. The new series of visas introduced in 2013 are clear in their purpose and application requirements. The on-line process is less clear. Officially the country is the Republic of Colombia but it is usually referred to as, simply, Colombia. As with many South and Latin American countries and also the Caribbean countries it is useful to be fluent in Spanish. Any deficiency in this capability will make the employment of a local attorney necessary for visa application purposes. From this point the application process for the Colombian visa is certainly not a “DIY” (Do It Yourself) operation. A list of Colombian lawyers is available here. The Government department concerned with visa applications is the Ministerio de Relations Exteriores among others which may be principally or peripherally involved depending upon individual circumstances.
Taxes and renewal fees for the Colombian visa are high compared with many other countries but the qualification income is roughly in line with most other places. Unusually it is not quoted as a fixed sum but is stated to be a multiple of the Colombian minimum monthly income. Currently it is three times the minimum monthly income or about $US600 per month. Life pensions from government sources are heavily favoured by the Colombian authorities. It may be difficult to get private annuities or pensions accepted.
Once issued the Colombian visa is renewable annually for the first four years. After this it can be converted to a “Qualified Resident Visa” which is also known as a “Permanent Visa”. Permanent residents can apply for citizenship after five years. Those married to a Colombian citizen or who have a child with a Colombian citizen may apply after two years.
The government web site has the most useful pages but not in the English language. The Colombian visa that retirees will seek is the TP7 visa. The details of this Colombian visa and the RE (Resident visa) are specified at this site where a list of available visas is shown. Although in Spanish clicking on the Tramites y Servicio tab on the top menu and then selecting "visas" on the subsequent drop down menu will lead to a page with "Classes de Visas" available on the left menu. This page has a list including the TP7 and RE visas. Clicking on these selections opens the information about these visas. Unfortunately this is all in Spanish. A translation into English is available at the Government site. However, the Visas y Tramites Internacionales site is in English. It is merely necessary to scroll down the page to see the required visa details. Access at this site to necessary details is probably easier. Confirming comparison with the Government site is possible to counter omissions and to avoid losses in translation at the Government site.
Although the above mentioned page provides much process details it does not specify precisely what documents need to be provided to support the application for the Colombian visa. The details given are reproduced below:
TP 7: For the foreigner who wishes to enter Colombian territory for the following activities: Retiree, partner or owner of a business, to receive medical treatment and for the foreigner who is accompanying the one getting medical treatment; owner of a property in Colombia or for the exercise of professions or independent work activities.
Note: If you personally attend the visa office for your application you will not need to take photographs, these will be taken on site.
The fees payable are also specified with the above details. They are not presented here. The final line of the “Payments” section provides the reason for this:
Note: Please verify the payment methods with the nearest Colombian Consulate.
The amount of the charges will also vary over time. In addition to the list of Colombian representation round the world the foreign embassies hosted in Colombia may also be useful.
Visiting the "Formulario Visas" page as mentioned above leads to an application form that must be completed genuinely and fully before access to the next page is granted. It may be that the necessary documents are specified during the application process. If so it would seem to be at an inconveniently late time.
Reference to a lawyer’s site does help so far as a list of necessary documents is concerned. The Visas y Tramites Internacionales site is very comprehensive and is available in both Spanish and English. It provides details of tourist and business visas. This detail will be useful so far as “Golden Rule” (make no irrevocable moves to settle without visiting a country at least once) visits to Colombia are concerned. Scrolling down the page provides access to the lawyer's charges and the documents required to support visa applications as appropriate.
It can be fairly deduced that the full range of civil documents will be necessary. These will vary according every applicant’s circumstances. Examples of such documents are birth certificate, marriage certificate, divorce decree, death certificate, passport, confirmation of income statement, police clearance certificate and any other document which establishes identity, civil status and the applicant’s law abiding position in both Colombia and other countries. It is also not clear in what “quantities” the documents will be required nor the extent of the authentication each will require.
There is no doubt that the your attorney will be aware of just what is required depending upon your personal circumstances. However, this may limit the opportunity to keep costs to a minimum. Visas y Tramites Internacionales is very up front with regard to its fees and also provides details of government fees on its site.
A further reason exists why your attempt to limit charges may be thwarted. In an attempt to curtail identity theft the Colombian government will not accept documents that are more than 90 days old (ie after being newly issued by the appropriate authority). Since some documents may have to pass through a number of “authentication” processes so there is no point in obtaining them too early. The application of an apostille endorsement to an “old” document does not “renew” it nor make it acceptable to Colombian authorities.
Immigration attorneys will be aware of the order in which documents must be produced, to whom they must be presented, to which processes they must be subjected (apostille, legalization, notary, translation) and where such action(s) must be taken. There is more dependence upon an attorney for Colombian applications than is the case in many other countries. Cost reduction action is therefore diminished. This makes it even more imperative to obtain detailed costing estimates from a number of lawyers before employing one.
The TP7 visa must be renewed annually. After holding one for five years it is possible to apply for a permanent residence visa. This Colombian visa, the RE visa, is valid for five years. Details of the visa and how to apply for it can be seen in the same way that details of the TP7 visa were displayed on the Visas y Tramites Internacionales. Together with the requirements and charges, a list of recommendations is also provided. The details provided on the web site are not, this time, reproduced here because of the ease of viewing on the above site and the repetitive detail on points already made for the TP7 visa. Although in Spanish reference to the government web site may be necessary to confirm, independently of your lawyer, current charges. In this respect the government site will always be current.
The outcome of an application for permanent residency in Colombia is no less uncertain than is the case for applications to other countries. It is possible that greater detail may be available on the internet than has been given above but the effort of finding and confirming its reliability is unnecessary since the services of a lawyer is almost a necessity. There is a greater need to rely on the services of an attorney but this should ensure a satisfactory result. For any individual the important point is to ask questions of everybody whenever possible. There is an FAQ page on this lawyers site and the experience of others is always interesting and useful
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