If you are looking for a new place in Latin America to call a second home, Colombia might be the perfect destination for you. Not only is it a beautiful country with a rich culture and friendly people, but it also offers a range of residence permit options to those who want to stay long-term.
Colombia has recently gained significant popularity as a travel destination due to its remarkable turnaround in safety and image. However, in the 1990s and early 2000s, it was considered one of the most dangerous places in the world. Over the past decades, Colombia has shed its historical reputation for violence and instability, becoming known for its growing economy, developing business environment, and stunning natural landscapes. This transformation, coupled with the increase in adventure tourism and the growth of the hospitality industry, has made Colombia an attractive destination for tourists and investors.
Benefits of Colombian Residency
Colombia is one of the best places to live in Latin America. It has six international airports, land borders with Brazil, Peru, and Ecuador, and ports along both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. It is 3 hours away from Miami and 5 hours away by plane from New York. The time in Colombia is the same as the time in New York when New York is on standard time, which makes it a really convenient destination.
Obtaining residency in Colombia, whether temporary or permanent, comes with many benefits.
Residency can simplify your legal status in Colombia. It provides stability, allowing you to live in Colombia legally for an extended period, reducing the need for frequent visa renewals.
As a resident, you can legally work in Colombia without the need for additional work permits, making it easier to find employment or start a business. This is especially advantageous given Colombia's improving employment situation. Colombia's unemployment rate in 2022 was 10.73%, a 3.17% decrease from the previous year.
Affordable Cost of Living
Colombia is often considered one of the most affordable countries in South America. Housing, healthcare, and daily expenses are much lower than in many Western countries. The average cost of living in Colombia is 72% less expensive than in the USA.
Access to Social Services
Residency status typically grants access to Colombia's social services, including healthcare and education, similar to that granted to Colombian citizens. The healthcare system offers a mix of public and private options for foreign residents.
As a resident, you can open a bank account and access financial services more easily, making it convenient for managing your finances. Colombia also has a growing fintech industry, providing innovative digital financial solutions to meet diverse customer needs.
Residency often allows you to obtain a Colombian driver's license, which is useful for personal mobility. Colombian driver's licenses are valid for 10 years and may need to be renewed periodically.
Residency for the Whole Family
You are able to bring family members (spouse, financially dependent parents, and children) with you to Colombia. This enables the whole family to enjoy the benefits of living in Colombia.
There are various tax benefits to promote investment, economic growth, and social development. The tax system in Colombia is favorable, with low taxes and generous incentives for residents.
Path to Citizenship
Residency can serve as a stepping stone to Colombian citizenship, which comes with additional benefits such as voting rights and the ability to apply for a Colombian passport. Colombia maintains dual citizenship, which means that you are not required to renounce your current citizenship.
Residency Options in Colombia
In Colombia, your residency status could be temporary or permanent.
Temporary Residency is granted for specific purposes like investment, work, study, or family reunion and typically involves various visa categories such as the Migrant (M) Visa and Visitor (V) Visa. M visas are valid for up to 3 years, whereas V visas are for short or temporary stays in the country.
Permanent Residency, the Resident (R) Visa, is typically attainable after holding temporary residency (the M Visa) for a set period of time, usually 2, 3, or 5 years. It offers long-term stability, access to all social services, and a potential path to Colombian citizenship.
Temporary Residency in Colombia
When considering Colombian Temporary Residency, you should keep in mind the various options available, with the two main categories being the V Visa and the M Visa.
Any foreign national who holds a V Visa is granted the right to travel to Colombia temporarily. This allows them to stay for a specified period of time without planning to settle there permanently. There are numerous V class visa categories, including business, religious, digital nomad, tourist, and more.
The M Visa is designed for those who want to settle in Colombia permanently or for an extended period of time. The most popular categories of migrant visas are retirement, real estate, marriage, and business. Normally, migrant visas are issued for up to 3 years, but in order to extend the visa, you must stay in Colombia for 6 months every year. With this visa, applicants may bring their family members along with them.
Permanent Residency in Colombia
Permanent Residency (R Visa) in Colombia refers to the visa and legal status that allow foreign nationals to live and work in Colombia indefinitely without the need to renew their visa or apply for extensions. Basically, this type of visa is for foreigners who have lived in Colombia for a few years and want to stay there permanently.
People with an R Visa have a lot more freedom to work, invest money, buy and sell assets, and travel than temporary migrants and visitors. Moreover, they get full access to the national healthcare system and insurance programs.
There are several pathways available to obtain a R visa in Colombia, including the renunciation of Colombian nationality, temporary protection status for Venezuelan migrants, a peace process resident visa, and a visa for individuals with a significant history of residing in Colombia under a migrant visa. This article will go over each of these options in detail.
In order to keep your status as a permanent resident, you should reside in Colombia for more than 2 consecutive years.
Permanent vs Temporary Columbia Residency
This table below will provide you with a comparison between Permanent and Temporary Residency options in Colombia.
Permanent Resident (R Visa)
Temporary Residency (M Visa)
Typically 1 to 3 years, renewable
Continuous legal residence in Colombia for 2, 3 or 5 years; Renunciation of nationality; Peace process resident; Temporary protection status for Venezuelan migrants
Offer of employment or contract from a Colombian company; Investment in a Colombian business or property; Marriage to a Colombian citizen; Retirement visa (income and age requirements); or others.
Allowed, typically tied to a specific job or investment
Right to live and work in Colombia without time limitations; Access to healthcare and in social security; Ability to apply for Colombian citizenship after 5 years
Temporary right to live and work in Colombia for the duration of the visa; Limited access to healthcare and social security; There is no path to Colombian citizenship directly through this visa; it has to be converted to R Visa
Not to be absent from Colombia for a period of 2 years or more
Reiside in Colombia for at least 183 days per year
Every 5 years
Required before the visa expires, renewal conditions may vary by visa category
May require proficiency in Spanish
There is generally no language requirement
You should take into account that Permanent Residency offers indefinite rights and is suitable for those with strong ties to the country, while Temporary Residency provides flexibility for shorter-term stays for specific purposes.
How to Get Colombian Residency
Resolution 5477 of 2022 defines 4 main qualifying categories for Colombian Resident (R) Visas, each designed to cater to different types of travelers and individuals.
Renunciation of Nationality
The Renunciation of Nationality Visa is for individuals who have voluntarily renounced their Colombian nationality but wish to continue residing in Colombia. This category is intended for those who were previously Colombian citizens and have formally renounced their citizenship for various reasons. To qualify for this visa, you would typically need to provide documentation proving your renunciation of Colombian nationality.
Temporary Protection Status for Venezuelan Migrants
In 2021, in response to the mass migration of Venezuelans fleeing economic and political instability in their home country, Colombia introduced Temporary Protection Status (TPS) for Venezuelan Migrants. This status offers a legal framework for Venezuelan migrants in Colombia, providing them with legal residency and access to certain services. To obtain this status, Venezuelan migrants need to register with the Colombian government during specific registration periods. This status reflects Colombia's commitment to providing humanitarian assistance to Venezuelans in need.
Peace Special Resident Visa
Colombia has experienced decades of armed conflict, and as part of the peace process, a special residency category was created for individuals who played a role in promoting peace or were affected by the conflict. The Peace Process Resident Visa is intended for those who contributed to peace building efforts or were victims of the conflict. You would need to provide proof of your involvement or victim status as per Colombian law in order to apply for this visa.
Accumulated Time in Colombia with a Migrant Visa
If you have spent a significant amount of time in Colombia under a Migrant (M Visa) and wish to transition to a Resident Visa, you can apply for a Residency Visa based on your accumulated time in the country.
The specific requirements and conditions for this type of visa may vary, but generally, you should demonstrate that you have spent a considerable amount of time in Colombia under a migrant visa. Please see the table below for additional information.
Types of Colombia Residency Visas
As we mentioned earlier, there are three major categories of Colombian visas: Visitor Visa (V), Migrant Visa (M), and Resident (R) Visa. Each of these visas has its own subcategories.
Colombia Visitor Visa (V)
A Colombia Visitor Visa enables you to visit the country for a variety of purposes. It is a short-term visa that can be issued for:
Tourism and vacation;
Academic exchange program;
Inter-corporate transfer, etc.
Colombia (V) Visitor Visa is issued for a maximum of 180 days, but in some instances, it can be issued for up to 5 years. However, it does not lead to Colombian Permanent Residency or citizenship in the future.
Colombia Migrant Visa (M)
Alternatively, with a Colombia Migrant Visa, you can move to Colombia in a variety of ways, depending on the reason. A Migrant Visa is valid for a maximum of 3 years and can be renewed. As a M Visa holder, you may be able to apply for a Resident Visa after a certain period of time. There are 14 categories of Colombian M Visas that lead to Colombian Residency:
Provided to foreigners with degrees in basic or applied sciences, engineering, mathematics, and similar fields, whose profiles meet the country's priorities in its public and private internationalization plans; or for professionals in areas set by the Directorate of Immigration, Consular Affairs, and Citizen Services
* All required amounts are calculated based on the Colombian minimum monthly wage, which is COP 1,160 in 2023.
* And the exchange rate of 4,500 COP per 1 USD at the moment of writing.
What are the most popular Colombian Residency Visas?
Based on our experience and practice, most of our clients are interested in getting the following types of Migrant Visas, which open the fastest path to Colombian residency:
Business and Real Estate Investment Visa
Colombia offers a Business Visa (Visa M Socio/Propietario) for individuals who wish to invest at least COP 116,000 (USD 25,777) in existing businesses or establish a new company in the country. This visa is designed to promote foreign investment and economic growth. Foreign entrepreneurs can apply for this visa to start or expand a business in Colombia, creating job opportunities and contributing to the economy.
Similar to the Business Visa, the Real Estate Investor Visa (Visa M Inversion Inmobiliaria) is tailored for those who plan to make a significant investment of at least COP 406,000 (USD 90,222) in Colombia. This category targets individuals who are interested in investing in the real estate sector. The goal is to attract foreign capital and expertise to boost local industries.
Colombia provides Work Visas (Visa M Trabajador) for foreign nationals who have secured a job offer from a Colombian employer. This visa can be given to a foreigner hired by a Colombian company or to a person who wants to come to or stay in the country to do work on a permanent or long-term basis. A Worker's Visa can also be given to personnel transferred from abroad to fill a specific position in a Colombian company.
When the employer is a legal entity, it must demonstrate a monthly income of at least COP 116,000 (USD 25,777). In the case of a natural person, she must demonstrate a minimum monthly income of COP 11,600 (USD 2,577).
This visa category helps address skill gaps in the local job market by allowing skilled professionals from abroad to legally work in Colombia.
Pensioner’s (Retirement) Visa
Colombia offers a Retirement Visa (Visa M Pensionado o Rentista) for individuals who want to spend their retirement years in the country. To qualify, applicants typically need to demonstrate a certain level of guaranteed monthly income, such as a pension of at least COP 3,480 (USD 773) or a retirement fund of at least COP 11,600 (USD 2,577).
The goal is to attract retirees who can contribute to the local economy and enjoy the country's diverse culture and landscapes.
Visa for the Practice of Independent Work or Activities (Freelancer’s Visa)
A Freelancer’s Visa (Visa M Ejercer profesión o actividad independiente) may be issued to a person planning to enter Colombia to exercise a profession or perform professional activities independently. The average monthly income has to be at least COP 11,600 (USD 2,577). This option is good for freelancers or remote workers who wish to base themselves in the country while working for clients abroad.
It is important not to confuse a migrant Freelancer's Visa with a visitor Visa for Digital Nomads (Visa V Nómadas digitales). The last one is for those who provide remote work or teleworking services from Colombia, exclusively for foreign companies, as an independent or labor-related venture, or to start a digital content or information technology venture of interest to the country. You can’t get a Resident Visa under this category, as you can with a Visa for Freelancers.
Columbia Residency Application Process in 2023
The process for obtaining residency in Colombia can vary depending on the type of residency you are applying for and your specific circumstances. The general application process, based on the time spent in Colombia, has 8 major steps:
Step 1. Determine Your Eligibility
At this step, you need to determine the most suitable visa category based on your requirements and the length of your planned stay in Colombia.
Step 2. Gather Required Documents
Once you determine what visa type you need, you will have to collect the necessary documentation. A certified Colombian translator should translate and certify all documents.
Step 3. Submit Visa Application
Once the above steps are completed, you can now apply for a visa at the nearest Colombian consulate or embassy in your home country. You can also apply for a visa in Colombia if you are staying there legally (you must have a valid visa or visa-free status). You may apply for a visa at the following main Colombian diplomatic offices in the United States:
Some visa categories, for example, Work Visas or Visas for Freelancers, may require an interview.
Step 6. Wait for Approval
After submitting your application, you will wait for the Colombian authorities to process and approve your visa. The processing time is around 1 week.
Step 7. Travel to Colombia and Register with Immigration Authorities
Once your visa is approved, you will receive a visa stamp or visa approval notification. You can then travel to Colombia.
Within 15 days of your arrival in Colombia, you must register with the immigration authorities (Migración Colombia) to obtain your Temporary Residence Permit Card (Cédula de Extranjería). You will be required to attend a biometric appointment to provide fingerprints and other identification details.
Step 8. Apply a Permanent Resident (R) Visa
After living in Colombia for a specified period of time, you may apply for a 5-year Permanent Residence Permit Card. The application processing time takes 8 business days.
Required Documents to Get Colombian Residency in 2023
The following general documents are required for obtaining Residency R-type Visas:
Copy of your previous tourist stamps, extensions, and other visas;
Copy of your foreigner identification card;
Notarized letter confirming your monthly income;
Criminal background checks from your home country and any countries where you have lived in the last 5 years;
Doctor's letter certifying your good physical and mental health (for the pensioner visa);
Colombian medical insurance policy;
Migratory Movement Certificate issued by Colombian Immigration Service.
Additionally, you should prepare other documents depending on the specific category of Residence Visa.
Documents for Resignation of Colombian Nationality
Copy of the act of renouncing Colombian nationality;
Letter of naturalization in a foreign country or a document proving the acquisition of another nationality before 1991 (if applicable);
Letter explaining the means of subsistence you have abroad to remain in the country.
Documents for Special Resident Peace Visa
Certification issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace, stating the condition of having belonged to the FARC-EP, and having completed the process of laying down weapons and transition to legality;
Permanence Safe-conduct issued by the Colombia Immigration Special Administrative Unit that certifies the regular immigration status.
Documents for Temporary Protection Status for Venezuelan Migrants
Birth certificate (only for minors);
Declaration of the intention to stay temporarily in Colombia;
Permit the collection of biometric data.
Accumulated Time in Colombia with a Migrant Visa
Proof of source of incomes;
Copy of a residence permit (cedula de extranjeria);
Documents demonstrating previous M visa eligibility.
5 Tips to Become Colombia Resident from Golden Harbors Experts
Applying for Colombian Residency can be a relatively straightforward process if you follow the rules and requirements carefully. We will advise all our clients on the following tips to facilitate the immigration process:
Choose the Right Visa Type
Start by thoroughly researching the specific requirements for the type of Colombian visa you would like to apply for. Visa requirements can vary based on your nationality and the visa category. The Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website is a valuable resource for up-to-date information. You can also contact immigration consultants to get information on the best-fit option for you and the application process.
Proof of Urgency
If you have a valid reason for needing expedited processing, such as a job offer or family emergency, consider including a letter explaining your situation and requesting expedited processing. Immigration consultants can assist you with preparing a draft of the document.
Using Up to Date Documents for the Application
Any document submitted with a visa application for Colombia must not be older than 3 months at the time of application. Therefore, if you possess an outdated copy of your birth certificate, marriage certificate, or other official document, you cannot use it. You require the latest version.
Generally, there is no language requirement in order to apply for various types of Colombian residency. However, if you are not proficient in Spanish, consider taking language classes before or after getting residency in Colombia. This will not only help with the future permanent residency or citizenship application process but also with daily life in Colombia.
Consult an Expert
Consider consulting with an immigration attorney or consultant experienced in Colombian immigration processes. Golden Harbors can provide an expert guidance on document preparation and help you avoid common mistakes in getting Colombian residency and citizenship.
Residency in Colombia FAQ
Does Colombia Residency allow you to apply for Colombia Citizenship?
Yes, Colombia Residency allows you to apply for Colombia Citizenship. In general, you must have 5 years of Permanent Residency under your R-type visa. Citizens of Latin America and the Caribbean who have resided in Colombia for at least 1 year may apply for citizenship. Spanish citizens can apply for Colombian citizenship after 2 years of residency.
Will Colombia do a background check when applying for residency?
Yes, Colombia does a background check when applying for residency. Applicants for both Temporary and Permanent Residency are often required to provide documentation that demonstrates they have no criminal record in Colombia or their home country. These background checks are conducted to ensure that individuals applying for residency do not pose a security risk to the country.
How long can you stay while traveling to Colombia with Dual Residency?
You can stay for the duration of the validity of your residency visa while traveling to Colombia with dual residency. If you have dual residency status in Colombia and another country, you would generally be subject to the same rules and regulations as any other foreign visitor when traveling to Colombia. The length of your stay would depend on the type of visa.
How much does it cost to renew a Residency Visa in Colombia?
It costs COP 125 (USD 27) to renew a residency visa in Colombia. Nationals of the Schengen Area and Ecuadorians are exempted from paying the government fee for renewing their residency visas.
What are top alternatives to Columbia residency in South and Latin America?
Top alternatives to Colombian Residency in South and Latin America are residencies of Argentina, Chile or Mexico.
Chile does not have a minimum income requirement, but applicants should have a Chilean address and a passive income of at least USD 1,500 per month. Investors get a Chile Residence Permit that is valid for 2 years. After 5 years, they can apply for Chilean citizenship.
Foreigners can move to Argentina if they can show that they make at least USD 2,000 a month and buy or rent a home there. The Argentina Residence Permit is issued for 1 year. After living in Argentina for 2 years, you can apply for a Argentinian citizenship.
People can apply for a Mexican residency visa if they can show that they have made USD 2,500 a month for the last 6 months and have an address in Mexico. There is also a visa for people who invest at least USD 300,000 in property. A temporary resident visa is only valid for 1 year. It takes 5 years to obtain Mexican citizenship.
Residence Permit Advantages
Fast application processing
Global mobility and freedom
no residence limits. In order to maintain residence status, it is necessary to spend six months per year in Colombia
expansion, entry into the Latin American market, and access to development projects in Bogota, Cali, Barranquilla, and other cities
Global mobility and freedom
Option to purchase commercial and residential real estate with an annual return of up to 5%, and a return on initial investment in 5 years
The clear path to Colombian citizenship
residents can apply for Colombian citizenship if they have been in Colombia for 10 years
Global mobility and freedom
family members (spouse, financially dependent parents, and children) can apply for a residence permit together with the main applicant
Rights of a resident
a residence permit is issued with the rights to work, do business and study
Global mobility and freedom
Colombia has a favorable tax regime, with low taxes and generous incentives for foreign investors
Processing Time and Terms
Enter your estimated application start date for the Colombian Residence Permit and receive a clear timetable for each step
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Sign a service agreement with Golden Harbors, pay the initial service and due diligence fees, and fill out application forms
Prepare the necessary documentation for your chosen residency category
Open a bank account and make the investment
Apply for a visa at the Colombian Embassy or Consulate. The processing time will vary depending on the embassy or consulate handling your application
Visit Colombia and apply for a residence permit. Within two months, the Immigration Service will review the application and make a decision