COLOMBIA – Major Changes to Immigration Rules
The Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has introduced a new law bringing major changes to immigration procedures, effective from 24 July 2013.
The key changes are as follows: change of status applications and online visa applications are now possible, additional requirements for work visas have been introduced, and an official minimum passport validity for all applicants and a maximum age for dependents have been established, among several other changes.
Post-arrival Change of Status for Visa Exempt Nationals
Visa waiver nationals are now entitled to apply for any visa within Colombia, i.e. applicants of any of the 77 nationalities who do not require a visa to enter Colombia as a tourist or visitor can now apply to change their immigration status once in Colombia. Previously it was necessary to apply at the Colombian Consulate or Embassy in the applicant’s country of residence or nationality. It remains possible to apply for temporary work and other visas from a home country consulate.
Online Application Possible
It is now possible to apply for any visa online, either personally or via a representative. Indeed, if using a representative, the visa application must now be made online.
Renewal applications which require same-day processing can be applied for in person at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bogotá.
New Evidence Required From Colombian Employer
An employer in Colombia sponsoring a work visa will now have to provide extra documentation in support of the application.
Specifically, the sponsor must provide the previous year’s tax return, and bank records showing at least 100 paid salaries of at least the national Colombian minimum wage (i.e. a total of at least COL $32000 at the current rate.)
Professional Permits No Longer Required For Visa Applications
Applicants with regulated professions (such as lawyers, economists, engineers and scientists) have typically required an approval from the Colombian entity that regulates that profession in order to obtain work authorisation.
This permit will still be required to work in Colombia, but it may no longer have to be presented as part of the visa application. This could potentially save several weeks of processing time. It is still recommended, however, that the relevant permit is acquired in case it is requested during the visa application process.
Maximum Age for Dependents
Applicants can sponsor dependent family members up to 25 years of age, and over the age of 25 only when the dependent is financially dependent on the principal visa holder and disabled. Previously, the law did not regulate the age of dependents.
Required Passport Validity
Visa applicants will be required to present passports with a minimum of six months remaining validity. Previously, there was no official minimum remaining validity for passports although, in many cases, officials required a minimum of three months remaining validity.
- Note that new legislation came into force 24 July 2013, which changes certain aspects of the immigration system.
- Note that visa waiver nationals can make change of status applications within Colombia, applications can be made online (and must be, if using a representative), extra documents are required from sponsoring employers, passports must have remaining validity of at least six months, and accompanying dependents must normally be 25 years old or less.
- Although the new law states that professional permits are no longer required for regulated professions, it is likely that these still may be requested on a case by case basis; it is recommended to obtain the relevant permit in any case.