Immigration Categories

A brief description of corporate immigration categories by assignment type follows.  The appropriate immigration category or status for your employees will depend on their specific details and on your company.  The most common category for corporate transfers in our experience is the TP4 Work Visa category.  For details on non-typical categories not listed below (investors, special programs), please contact your representative.

  • New HiresTP4
  • Intra Company Transfers Work VisaTP4
  • Highly Skilled Migrants Work VisaTP4
  • Short Term Work AssignmentsVary based on activities and nationality of the foreigner.

Typical Process Overview

The following process overview is applicable to the category TP4 “Temporary Work and Residence Visa”.  Approximate overall processing time from the time the first step is submitted to the time the employee is legal to work in Colombia is two (2) to four (4) weeks, which include essential post arrival documentation.  However, lead time for document gathering at the start of the process should be included when considering feasibility for the assignment start date.  In Colombia, the document gathering stage of the process can be labor intensive, as many documents must be legalized and translated into Spanish.  Emigra Worldwide can assist with key requirement gathering steps, if needed.  See Application Materials section below for further details.  Average processing time for each individual step is noted below.

Preparation Step:  Document Procurement & Legalization
Processing Time:  Dependent on case, but in general allow two (2) to four (4) weeks.  Additional time may be needed for documents originating outside the applicant’s country of residence.

Typical personal documents required include application forms, powers of attorney’s, birth certificate, marriage certificates, proof of blood type, and police clearances.  There is also a need to gather necessary corporate documentation as well.

Step One: Filing for a Temporary Work Visa in Colombia
Processing Time:  Approximately five (5) to ten (10) business days

For most circumstances, we would likely submit all application materials directly with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Colombia.  Once the application is submitted, approval is usually granted within five (5) to ten (10) business days.  Upon approval, the applicant will then have thirty (30) days to pay for the visa and receive a printout of the visa to enter the country under the TP4 category.  Upon entry the traveler will have fifteen (15) days to have the visa affixed in their passport and registered before the immigration authority, Migración Colombia.  Emigra Worldwide can assist with the visa being placed in the passport.  This step can also coincide with Step Two (2) below.

Important:  As of July 2013, applicants of TP4 Visa (“Temporary Working Visa”) are no longer required to submit Professional Board approval while applying for the Temporary Work Visa.  This professional board approval is still mandatory to legally work in Colombia whenever the foreigner will exercise a specific regulated profession, but it is no longer required to obtain the actual immigration status. Because of this, Professional Board Approval is now considered to be a labor requirement ONLY.  Please take appropriate measures within the organization to ensure that all labor requirements are met in addition to the immigration process outlined herein.

Step Two:  Visa Registration and Local Identification Card (“Cédula de Extranjería”)
Processing time:  Approximately two (2) to four (4) weeks

Within fifteen (15) days of arrival, the applicant and company must register the employee with Migración Colombia.  In addition to the visa registration, all visa holders over the age of seven (7) must make a request for a Foreigner Identification Card (“Cedula de Extranjería).  Both of these processes can be completed in the same day and will require a personal appearance at the authorities in Colombia.

Important: The company registration of the visa holder must be completed by the company in Colombia.

Typical Documents Obtained

Following the category Temporary Work Visa (TP4) described above will result in obtaining of the following immigration documents.  Typical validity is noted next to each document name.  For details on the renewal process, please see the next section, Renewal

  • TP4 Visa – Valid up to three (3) years
  • Local Identification Card – Valid up to three (3) years

Renewal

Renewals in Colombia are only renewals in the sense that they can be completed in country and can be filed no more than thirty (30) days before the current visa expires. However the TP4 visa process explained above is applicable for renewal.  Requirements and process remain the same whether it is a first time process or a second visa process applied for as a result of the current visa expiring.

Deregistration

To ensure that assignees leave Colombia after the expiration of their permission to stay and to monitor the number of foreign workers in the country, the government of Colombia requires all applicants to complete the following deregistration process upon departing the country:

  1. Company’s representative sends letter to Migración Colombia within fifteen (15) days of the termination of the labor relationship.
  2. The letter should include the name of the employee whose contract has been terminated.

Dependents

Dependent immigration status approval depends on the immigration status of the principal applicant.  Where the principal applicant is in Colombia under the immigration category Work Visa, the following rules apply for dependents:

  • Spouses – Legalized marriage certificate required. Letter of the principal holder committing himself/herself for all the expenses the beneficiary would be required.
  • Children – Children up until the age of twenty-five (25) are eligible for dependent status in Colombia.  They must provide a legalized birth certificate as part of their application materials. Letter of the principal holder committing himself/herself for all the expenses the beneficiary would be required.
  • Unmarried partners (Need to make a declaration before a Public Notary.  The document should be duly legalized).  Letter of the principal holder committing himself/herself for all the expenses the beneficiary would require.
  • Same sex partners (Need to make a declaration before a Public Notary.  The document should be duly legalized).  Letter of the principal holder committing himself/herself for all the expenses the beneficiary would require.
  • Non-traditional dependents (e.g. parents) Parents of the principal applicant are eligible to apply for a beneficiary visa.  Parents-in-Law are not eligible. Letter of the principal holder committing himself/herself for all the expenses the beneficiary would be required.
  • Work authorization granted?  Dependents are not authorized to work in Colombia; it is necessary for these individuals to apply for a work visa or any other type of Visa that authorizes to work in Colombia.  These visas may be requested and issued in Colombia.

Application Materials

Application materials vary according to the immigration category and the specifics of the case.  We will advise you in detail for your specific case, however general application materials for the TP4 Work Visa are noted below.

General application materials include: Application forms, powers of attorney, birth certificates, marriage certificates, any document showing blood type and police clearances.  There is also a need to gather necessary corporate documentation as well.

  • All documentation must be submitted in Spanish (and may need to be notarized or legalized prior to submission).  We can assist with document legalization if you need assistance.

Business Visitors

  • Name of visa granted:  Business Visa (NE-1 Visa)
  • Duration of stay:  Three (3) years but the holder cannot stay more than one hundred and eighty (180) consecutive days.
  • Business Visa holders cannot work and receive salary in Colombia.

Change of Status

  • A change of status from tourist or business visitor status is now available for most foreign nationals entering Colombia for work and residence.

Salary and Payroll

Salary and payroll requirements vary depending on the immigration category and on the specifics of the case.  In Colombia, there are minimum salary requirements in place.  Additionally, payroll location will affect the immigration process.  Please contact your representative for more details regarding your specific situation.

Qualifications

Qualification requirements will vary from case to case and will depend on the immigration category under which the application is made.  However, in general, the immigration authorities expect to see a certain level of education (depending on the proposed job in Colombia).  In some situations, a strong case may be made for applicants without a university degree provided their level of experience and industry-specific qualification is high.  Please contact your representative for more details.

Red Flags

In our experience, the following points are important to note at the start of the process.  If any of the situations listed below apply to you, contact your representative immediately for further detailed advice.

  • Absence of degree
  • Economists and Business administrative professionals should allow extra time to process the visa
  • Unmarried partners, etc.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

The Colombian government takes immigration non-compliance very seriously.  Penalties for non-compliance range from fines to deportation and even imprisonment.

Employee Penalties:

    • Immediate visa cancellation and deportation can be ordered by the Colombian authorities at any time if a foreigner is non-compliant with the terms of their visa.
    • Failure to register the visa within fifteen (15) calendar days of entering Colombia can result in a visa being cancelled or a fine may be incurred.
    • Overstaying in Colombia will result in a daily fine.

Employer Penalties:      

  • If a foreign worker is discovered without proper documentation, the Colombian employer will be subject to fines, increased immigration audits, and limitations for the hire of foreign workers in the future.
  • Failure to inform Migración Colombia of the registration and deregistration of foreign employees, may result in penalties.

 

For more details, please contact your representative.

Bilateral Agreements

  • MERCOSUR (Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Ecuador and Uruguay). A bilateral agreement with countries that are signatory parties to the MERCOSUR agreement allows citizens of those countries to carry out all kinds of activities in Colombia (including work), without having to obtain a specific Visa category for each of the activities to be developed herein. A streamlined residence process is available for MERCOSUR nationals.