• Government Introduces Further Changes to Visa Regime
  • August 1, 2013
  • Law Firm: Fragomen Del Rey Bernsen Loewy LLP - New York Office
  • The Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a new law that has introduced further changes following the restructuring of the country’s visa regime in June. Highlights of the new law include electronic filings for all visas and additional requirements for work visas, change of status applications, a minimum passport validity for all visa applicants and a maximum age for dependents. All changes take effect immediately.

    Change of status permitted for all visas. Foreign nationals may now enter Colombia in tourist status and apply for business, residence or work visas in-country. Previously, all foreign nationals were required to obtain visas in these categories directly from a Colombian consulate prior to traveling to Colombia.

    Approval from professional entities no longer required for visa applications. Certain professionals (such as attorneys, businesspeople, engineers and scientists) have typically required an approval from the Colombian entity that regulates that profession in order to obtain work authorization. This approval will still be required to work in Colombia, but it will no longer have to be presented as part of the visa application.

    Additional financial requirements for work visas. Colombian sponsoring employers will have two additional financial requirements for temporary work visas under the TP-4 visa category. Companies will now need to present the previous year’s tax return and the previous six months’ bank statements with a minimum average balance of approximately USD 32,000. This amount represents 100 times the monthly minimum wage established by Colombian law. The MFA may waive this requirement or require fewer bank statements for newly-established companies.

    Maximum age for dependents established. Foreign nationals can sponsor dependent family members up to 25 years old, and over the age of 25 when the dependent is disabled and financially dependent on the principal visa holder. There was no previous rule regarding the age of dependents.

    Electronic filings implemented. The government has implemented streamlined electronic procedures for all visa and renewal applications submitted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in Bogotá or to a Colombian consular post. The former procedure required visa applications to be sent by mail to a Colombian consular post or filed in person by the applicant or third-party representative. Renewal applications were also filed in person at the MFA office in Bogotá by the applicant or third-party representative.

    The MFA will have up to four days to approve or deny an application following the electronic submission. MFA officials in Bogotá and consular officials abroad will, however, have increased discretion to request that the applicant appear for an interview. Applicants for renewals who require same-day processing can apply in person at the MFA in Bogotá.

    Thirty-day period to amend visa. Applicants will have up to 30 days to request the amendment of a visa issued with errors. If errors are not corrected within this time frame, the applicant will have to request a new visa.

    Minimum remaining passport validity established. All visa applicants will be required to hold a passport with a minimum remaining validity of six months. There was no previous requirement for remaining passport validity, though, in practice, most immigration officials required a minimum remaining validity of three months.

    Study allowed under certain visa types. Holders of the following visas will be authorized to study in addition to the activities authorized by their respective visa type: NE-2 (business related to the Pacific Alliance trade bloc), NE-3 (representatives of foreign government institutions), TP-1 (miscellaneous - family members of diplomats, crews of cinematography projects), TP-4 (temporary work), TP-5 (religious) and TP-7 (self-employed individuals, retirees and property owners). Previously, visa holders had to apply for a student visa to study in Colombia.

    MERCOSUR residence permit issued for longer validity. The MERCOSUR residence permit, introduced in March 2013, can now be issued for up to three years, up from two years. The residence permit is available to Argentine, Bolivian, Brazilian and Peruvian nationals.