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IMPORTANT LEGAL BULLETIN: Analysis of Proposed Changes to Current Visa Rules

Authors:

Alan Gongora, Esq. (NY)
Salome Isaza.

 

TOPIC SUMMARY

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has just published proposed changes to the rules governing how foreigners apply for visas in Colombia.  Below is a summary of the most significant changes.  Note that these proposed changes remain subject to public comments and additional amendments. We will be publishing additional analysis once a final version is approved by the relevant authorities.

THINGS TO CONSIDER

  • Note that this summary only aims to include what we believe to be key changes to the current visa rules. There are additional rule changes that, while substantive, we either do not believe are sufficiently significant to highlight at this time or believe may not be incorporated into the final rulemaking to warrant any mention.
  • Those of you who are current visa holders can expect the Colombian government to grandfather in current visa rules until your visa either expires or you change your visa. We will be confirming the exact impact of new rules to current visa holders once they are officially published.

CURRENT VISA CATEGORIES

For context, here are is a general summary of the current visa/permit categories applicable in Colombia for your reference:

  1. PIP/PTP Permits (up to 6 months)
    • Student Permits (i.e., short-term Spanish classes)
    • Medical Permits (short-term stay)
    • Tourist Permits (initial 90 days) (this is what many foreigners get when they get stamped at the airport)
  1. VISITOR (varies; does NOT lead to eventual residency)
    • Student Visa (i.e., short-term Spanish classes)
    • Work Visa (temporary)
    • Business Visa
    • Tourist Visa (applicable for citizens of countries who are not entitled to Tourist Permits)
  1. MIGRANT (up to 3 years; can lead to eventual residency after 5 years for most visa types)
    • Retirement/pension Visa
    • Annuity/ “Rentista” Visa
    • Marriage Visa
    • Company Owner Visa (investment in local business in excess of 100X minimum wage)
    • Property Owner Visa (purchasing property with value in excess of 350X minimum wage)
    • Work Visa
    • Independent Activities Visa
  1. RESIDENCY (5 years)
    • Based on:
      • holding a Migrant visa;
        1. accumulating 2 years with a Marriage Visa; or
        2. accumulating 5 years with other Migrant Visas
      • parent of Colombian national; or
      • foreign direct investment over 650X local minimum wage

NEW VISAS

Under the proposed rules, Colombia will be adding additional visas.  These may operate as completely new visas or may result from extracting specific activities from an existing visa type (example: creating Common Law Marriage Visa from current Marriage Visa).

  1. Visitors Visas
    • Nomad Visa
    • Independent Contractor Visa (for short-term projects)
    • Promotion of Internationalization Visa (primarily to promote innovation/scientific investigation)
    • Agricultural Worker Visa
    • Visas for volunteers/students affiliated with a religious entity
    • Visas for Permanent Journalists
  1. Migrant Visas
    • Investment Visa Based on Investment of 650X Minimum Wage (this currently merges with current visa based on investment of 350 X minimum wage)
    • Common Law Marriage Visa
    • Civil Marriage Visa
    • Parent of Colombian National Visa
    • Promotion of Internationalization Visa (primarily for postgraduate students)
    • Andean Visa (for citizens of the Andean Region including Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru)
  1. Resident Visas
    • Resident Visa for Venezuelans

KEY CHANGES TO EACH VISA TYPE

RESIDENT VISAS

  1. Foreign Direct Investment Exceeding 650X Minimum Wage
    • Proposed rules eliminate this visa type
    • Foreigners can still apply for a Property Owner Migrant Visa which will eventually allow them to apply for residency after 5 years
  1. Parent of a Colombian National
    • Proposed rules eliminate this visa type
    • Foreigners can still apply for a Parent of a Colombian National Migrant Visa which will eventually allow them to apply for residency after 2 years
  1. Prior Holder of a Migrant Visa
    • Civil Marriage Visa holders now need to wait 3 years before applying for residency (previously only 2 years)
    • Common Law Marriage Visa holders will now need to wait the full 5 years to apply for residency

MIGRANT VISAS

  1. Work Visas
    • You are now required to provide only 4 months’ worth of bank statements of employer instead of current 6
  1. Student Visa
    • Proposed rules eliminate this visa type
    • Foreigners can still apply for Student Visitors Visa applicable for primary education through university
  1. Annuity/“Rentista” Visa
    • Proposed rules eliminate this visa type
    • Foreigners can still apply for a Rentista Visitors Visa
  1. Retirement Visa
    • Proposed rules add substantial changes to required documentation including:
      • Medical Certificate
      • Mental/physical Fitness Certificate (we are seeing the Colombian government more focused on ensuring that applicants, and particularly veterans, do not suffer from mental health issues such as PTSD )
      • Criminal background certificate (currently unclear whether it will need to be issued in Colombia or by country of residence)
  1. Company Owner Visa
    • No major changes
  1. Civil Marriage Visa
    • Visa holders will need to wait 3 years to apply for residency (currently only 2 years)
  1. Common Law Marriage Visa
    • Documentation certifying Common Law Marriage status needs to have been issued at least 1 year prior to visa application (currently no restriction)
    • Visas are valid for up to 1 year (meaning that visa holders would need to reapply at least 4 times prior to applying for residency)
    • Visa holders now have to wait a full 5 years to apply for residency (currently only 2)
    • If Common Law Marriage is entered into in a foreign jurisdiction, rules of that foreign jurisdiction will apply (essentially, you cannot be approved for this visa is you entered into a common law marriage in a country where it is not recognized).

VISITORS VISA

  1. Nomad Visa
    • Need to show at least 3 months of income with at least 3 x minimum wage each month
    • Up to 2 years validity
    • Need to prove “nomad” status, meaning that you:
      1. work as an independent contractor;
      2. work as an employee where you are either a shareholder or owner of that employer; or
      3. work as an entrepreneur and manage a startup
    • Cannot be a resident of a country where a Tourist Visa is required
    • Documentation required include a traveler’s insurance policy, bank statements and other documents
  1. Rentista
    • Criminal background certificate will be required (currently unclear whether it will need to be issued in Colombia or by country of residence)

 

ADMINISTRATIVE CHANGES IMPACTING VISA APPLICATIONS

Below is a non-exhaustive list of proposed changes affecting the visa application process:

  • Response Times: a variety of changes that include the following:
    • changes to established deadlines to pay visa fees;
    • if your visa is cancelled you may not be able to apply for another visa for between 1 and 10 years depending on the circumstances;
    • if you visa application is “required” for more information/documentation you will have up to 10 days to respond but government will determine specific deadline; and
    • Colombian government will have up to 10 days to issue your digital visa (currently just 3 days which may affect those of you applying late and hoping to maintain continuity)
  • If your visa is rejected or cancelled you will need to apply from your country of residence
  • Colombian Government reserves the right to request interviews with third parties to substantiate information/documentation submitted in connection with a visa application
  • If your visa is rejected you will need to leave Colombia within 30 days (implication may be that you cannot then enter the country as a tourist that same year)
  • Visa stamping will no longer be mandatory unless it is requested by a government official
  • You will no longer be able to use Permits to Stay (“salvoconductos”) in order to maintain continuity towards a Residency visa (some applicants currently request these Permits while they are applying for a new visa in order to avoid becoming illegal in the country after current visa expires)
  • Colombian government will now be required to explain why your visa is denied (currently no direct obligation)
  • Renewing Residency Visas will now require that you update your visa stamp (currently you can just renew your local id card)

 

RELEVANT SOURCES

 

RELEVANT LEGAL/REGULATORY CITATIONS

  • Resolución 6045 DE 2017