Why Retire in Colombia?
According to the Global Retirement Index, Colombia is one of the top 10 places to retire in 2023. This country has increasingly become a popular choice for retirement due to its attractive combination of affordability, natural beauty, and rich cultural heritage. Colombia boasts a significantly lower cost of living compared to many Western nations. When it comes to statistics, the cost of living in Colombia is 63.8% lower than in the United States.
Colombia's diverse geography offers retirees a range of environments to choose from, whether it is the bustling urban life of cities like Medellín or the tranquil charm of picturesque towns like Villa de Leyva. Moreover, the country's warm climate, beautiful beaches on both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, and lush mountainous landscapes provide plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities and a high quality of life.
Colombia also has various visa options tailored for retirees, including the Retirement Visa (M-11 Visa - Pensionado o Rentista), which facilitates a seamless transition to permanent residency. This gives retirees peace of mind and a clear legal path to spending their golden years in this diverse and welcoming country.
Colombian Retirement Visa Benefits
The Colombia Retirement Visa permits foreigners with a stable pension income to live in Colombia for up to 3 years or longer, enjoying the following benefits:
- Residency and Citizenship
The retirement visa grants you Colombian legal residency, allowing you to live in the country for a specified period. After 5 years as a holder of an M-11 Visa, you are eligible to apply for a permanent resident visa. After another 5 years, you can apply for Colombian citizenship.
Once you obtain Colombian citizenship, you gain the right to vote in national elections and enjoy all the privileges of a full-fledged citizen. In addition, dual citizenship is recognized in Colombia, allowing you to maintain your original nationality alongside your new Colombian citizenship.
- Tax Benefits for Retirees
Colombia has a territorial tax system, which means that if your income is generated outside of Colombia, you may not be subject to Colombian income taxes on that foreign income. If retirees reside in Colombia for more than 183 days in a 365-day period, they are considered taxpayers and may be required to pay taxes on their worldwide income the following year, depending on double taxation treaties with the country from which they receive income.
However, it is important to note that Colombia offers various tax deductions and incentives specifically tailored for retirees. These can include reductions in property taxes and exemptions on certain types of income.
- Access to Healthcare
You may be eligible to enroll in Colombia's healthcare system. It has made significant progress, particularly in urban centers like Bogotá and Medellín, where modern hospitals and clinics provide quality care at a fraction of the cost in Western countries.
In addition to urban centers, Colombia's healthcare system is continually expanding its reach to rural areas, ensuring more equitable access to quality healthcare services across the country. Many healthcare providers in Colombia also offer affordable health insurance plans, making it accessible to a broader range of residents.
- Pensioner Discounts
Some establishments in Colombia offer discounts to senior citizens, including reduced fares for public transportation, lower entrance fees to attractions, and discounts at certain stores. Additionally, many restaurants also provide special menu offerings at reduced prices for pensioners.
These pensioner discounts aim to support the elderly population in Colombia and encourage them to enjoy various activities and services during their retirement years. Seniors can take advantage of these benefits by presenting their national identification card, known as the "cédula," to prove their eligibility for these discounts.
- Expat Community
Colombia has a growing expatriate community, particularly in cities like Medellín and Cartagena. This can provide a supportive network of fellow retirees from around the world. Expat groups often organize social events, language exchanges, and cultural activities, making it easier for newcomers to integrate into the local community.
Moreover, expat communities in Colombia often share valuable information about navigating the local healthcare system, finding accommodation, and other essential aspects of expat life. These networks can be a valuable resource for retirees seeking to make the most of their experience in Colombia.
- Ease of Travel
Colombia's central location in South America is a convenient base for exploring other countries in the region. The country has a well-developed transportation infrastructure, including modern airports, highways, and bus networks, which further facilitate travel within Colombia and to neighboring countries.
Colombia's diverse geography offers a wide range of travel experiences, from exploring the Amazon rainforest to enjoying the beautiful Caribbean coastline or visiting historic cities like Cartagena. With numerous travel agencies and tour operators available, planning and booking trips to various destinations within and beyond Colombia is relatively straightforward.
- Family Reunification
The main visa holder can request a beneficiary visa for eligible family members, including spouse or permanent partner, children up to 25 years of age and children with physical or mental disabilities.
Furthermore, Colombia's family reunification policies also extend to parents of the main visa holder, allowing for a comprehensive approach to bringing families together. This flexible visa option can be a significant benefit for retirees who wish to live in Colombia while having their loved ones join them.
Colombian Retirement Visa vs Brazil
In South America, Colombia and Brazil Retirement Visas are the most popular options for foreign retirees. Below is a comparison table of the Colombian Retirement Visa and the Brazilian Retirement Visa.
Colombian Retirement Visa Requirements
The Colombia Retirement Visa (M-11 Visa) is designed for foreigners with a stable source of income, specifically derived from pensions granted by either a State or a private pension fund. This type of visa is subject to specific requirements that ensure the financial stability of the visa holder. Criteria for M-11 Visa eligibility are as follows:
- Source of Income
The applicant must receive a retirement or periodic income that is verifiable and credited.
- Monthly Pension Amount
The pension payment in favor of the applicant must be equivalent to or exceed 3 times the current legal monthly minimum wage*, which is COP 3,480,000 (USD 774*).
- Alternative Income Certification
In lieu of a pension, the applicant may provide certification from a recognized public entity or private company, endorsed by the respective government, indicating a monthly income of no less than 10 times the current legal monthly minimum wage*, which is COP 11,600,000 (USD 2,578*).
- Employment Restrictions
Holders of the Retirement Visa are not permitted to work within the national territory of Colombia.
- Clear criminal records
The applicants are obliged to have clear criminal records from the country where they resided during the last 3 years.
- Residence Requirements
In order to keep and renew your Retirement Visa, you have to spend at least 180 days in Colombia every year.
*The minimum monthly wage is COP 1,160,000 in 2023.
*The exchange rate is COP 4,500 per USD 1 at the moment of writing.
Colombian Retirement Visa Documents
To obtain a Colombia Retirement Visa, you must provide the following documents:
- Certification issued by a competent entity or diplomatic/consular mission from the country where you received the pension. The amount should be no less than 3 times the current legal monthly minimum wages accredited in Colombia;
- Certification from a public entity or recognized private company, specified by the respective Government. The income paid or drawn in your name must be no less than 10 times the current legal monthly minimum wages;
- Police clearance certificate issued by the authority of the country where you resided for the last 3 years;
- Medical certificate obtained from either the Colombian authority or the health authority of your country of origin. It should confirm your psychophysical well-being.
- Health insurance with coverage against all risks (accident, illness, maternity, disability, hospitalization, death, or repatriation) for the duration of your stay.
- Passport photocopy of the first page displaying your biographical data. It can be either in color or black and white;
- Passport page with the most recent entry stamp. If you are outside Colombia, provide a copy of the page with the most recent exit stamp (if applicable);
- Photocopy of previously issued visa (if applicable);
- Digital visa photo with a white background. Ensure it is in jpg format, with a maximum file size of 100 Kb. You should not wear earrings, hats, or white shirts.
Please make sure that all supporting documents meet the necessary apostille or legalization requirements. An official translation is required if the documents are not in Spanish.
Colombian Retirement Visa Application Process
The Colombia Retirement Visa application process offers three distinct options: within Colombia, outside its borders, and online. The following steps make up each process:
Colombian Retirement Visa Online Application Process
Step 1. Apply for a Visa Online
The first step in any process is to complete the online form on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website and upload scan copies of all required documents in Adobe PDF format, as well as a passport photo in JPEG format.
Step 2. Pay Visa Fees
Before the application is submitted, you are required to pay a study fee of USD 55.
Step 3. Get Approval and Pay the Issuance Fee
It takes approximately 1 month to obtain visa approval. You have to pay the fee of USD 271 for issuance of the visa.
Step 4. Receive Your Visa
Once the visa has been approved, you need to have it stamped in your passport at the nearest Consulate or enter Colombia and visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bogota.
Colombian Retirement Visa Application Process within Colombia
This procedure applies once you have entered Colombia with a valid tourist visa or your retirement visa has been approved online.
Step 1. Visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bogota
You need to travel to Bogotá to get the visa stamped in your passport by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Step 2. Submit Application (if applicable)
If you are a tourist visa holder, you will be required to complete the visa application form and provide the required documents, which may include your passport, proof of pension or retirement income, police clearance certificate, health insurance, and any other supporting documents.
Step 3. Attend an Interview or Appointment
You may be required to attend an interview or appointment. This is an opportunity to verify your documents and ask any additional questions.
Step 4. Collect Your Visa
When your application is approved, you will be able to pay the USD 271 issuance fee and pick up your visa.
Colombian Retirement Visa Application Process Outside Colombia
This process applies if you prefer to apply for the retirement visa from your home country or any other country outside of Colombia.
Step 1. Contact the Colombian Consulate or Embassy
You need to schedule an appointment with the nearest Colombian consulate or embassy in your home country.
Step 2. Gather Required Documents
It is important to prepare all the necessary documents, including passport, proof of pension or retirement income, police clearance certificate, health insurance, and visa application form.
Step 3. Submit Your Application
You should present the documents and application form to the consulate or embassy for review and pay the fees.
Step 4. Get Your Visa
The consulate or embassy will process your application. This could take several weeks. If approved, you will be notified by the consulate or embassy. You will need to return to collect your visa.
Colombian Retirement Visa for US Citizens
If you are a US citizen applying for a Retirement Visa in Colombia, there are two crucial things to know. You have to provide proof of pension from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and address tax matters.
To obtain a proof of pension from the SSA, you will need an SSA Benefit Verification letter. The quickest way to get this letter is through the website of the Social Security Administration. You should simply create an account, log in, and go to the Benefits & Payment Details link in the top menu bar. There, you will find the option to "Get a Benefit Verification Letter." Clicking on this link will open your SSA Benefit Verification letter, which you can then print.
Once you have your SSA Benefit Verification, it must be apostilled for use in Colombia. You can do this in Washington, D.C. at the US Department of State. Make sure the letter includes a legible signature, printed name and title, and agency seal on official letterhead. If it lacks a signature, the Department of State will not affix an apostille.
In terms of tax implications, it is worth noting that Colombia does not tax foreign-earned income, including Social Security benefits from the United States. Once you have obtained your retirement visa in Colombia, you will be required to file a tax return and pay taxes in the United States.
Colombian Retirement Visa for Canadian Citizens
For Canadian citizens seeking a Retirement Visa in Colombia, a critical requirement is the provision of proof of pension from the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP). This proof serves as a crucial component of your visa application and demonstrates your financial stability during your retirement in Colombia.
To obtain this documentation, you must be at least 60 years old and submit a request for an official letter or statement that verifies your pension status on this website. This letter will be delivered in 28 days. Having this proof ready will help to speed up the visa application process and contribute to a smoother transition to retirement life in Colombia.
Once you have secured your proof of pension from the Canadian Pension Plan, it is essential to apostille this document. In Canada, this process is typically handled by the provincial or territorial authority responsible for authentications.
When it comes to taxes, it is worth highlighting that Colombia does not levy taxes on income earned from Canadian foreign sources. This means that Canadian retirees can fully enjoy their pension income in Colombia without the burden of additional taxation. However, seeking advice from a qualified tax advisor or professional is recommended to gain a comprehensive understanding of your tax responsibilities in both countries, as well as to ensure strict adherence to relevant regulations.
5 Tips How to Get a Colombian Retirement Visa from Golden Harbors
Based on our experience, moving to Colombia on a Retirement Visa begins with meticulous attention to details and thorough research. The following are the main factors to consider:
- Research Visa Requirements
Start by conducting extensive research on the specific requirements for a Retirement Visa, such as age restrictions, financial requirements, health insurance, and other documentation. You must demonstrate a stable monthly income from a pension or retirement account. Ensure that you meet all requirements before beginning the application process.
- Complete the Visa Application Accurately
Fill out the Colombian visa application form accurately and honestly. Make sure your information matches the supporting documents you will submit. Be prepared to answer questions about your income, background, and reasons for retiring in Colombia during the visa interview.
- Prepare Up-to-Date Documents
If you are planning to apply for a Retirement Visa in Colombia, all your documents should be recent, not older than 3 months. Start this process early to deal with any potential issues in time. Also, double-check that all documents are genuine and come from the right authorities. Before sending them to Colombia, get them notarized or apostilled, depending on your home country's rules. If you are already in Colombia, consider asking someone you trust back home to help you get copies of the needed documents.
- Secure Your Renewal Well in Advance
To ensure a smooth visa renewal process, make sure to submit your application at least 1 month prior to expiration. Sometimes, you will need to gather papers from places in other countries. If you do not start early enough, you might have to rush and pay for an emergency extension called a Salvoconducto (which is only for special cases). You will also have to go to the migration office multiple times and feel very stressed and frustrated. Try to avoid all that trouble.
- Legal Assistance
Consider seeking advice from immigration experts or legal professionals who specialize in visa applications, especially if the process seems complex or if you have specific concerns.
Golden Harbors Team can provide you with peace of mind, knowing that you have a dedicated professional working to facilitate your transition to retirement in Colombia. Our expertise can make a significant difference in the success of your visa application, allowing you to focus on the exciting prospect of starting this new chapter in your life.
Colombian Retirement Visa FAQ
Is SSDI ok for Retirement Visa Colombia?
The Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) is ok for a Retirement Visa in Colombia. For retirement eligibility, you must provide proof of Social Security (SS), Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), or Pension.
Can I pay a Colombia Retirement Visa fee with a credit card?
Yes, you can pay a Colombian Retirement Visa fee with a credit card if you apply for a visa in your home country. If you submit your application in Colombia, you must pay in cash at the visa office's GNB Sudameris Bank branch. Debit and credit cards are not accepted. You can also use Nationwide Servibanca ATMs or make the payment through PSE. For the last one, you must have a Colombian bank account with an online payment option.
Can I rent an apt in Colombia with a Retirement Visa in Colombia?
Yes, you can rent an apartment in Colombia with a Retirement Visa. A Retirement Visa in Colombia grants you the right to reside in the country for an extended period of time, and you are allowed to engage in legal activities, including renting property. When renting an apartment, you will likely be required to provide standard documentation such as identification, proof of income, and potentially a security deposit. Additionally, it is always a good idea to have a clear understanding of the terms of the lease agreement, including the duration of the lease, rent amount, and any additional charges or responsibilities.
Can you participate in the national healthcare system with a Retirement Visa in Colombia?
Yes, you can participate in the national healthcare system with a Retirement Visa in Colombia. If you hold a Colombia Retirement Visa, you are eligible to participate in the national healthcare system, known as the Sistema General de Seguridad Social en Salud (General System of Social Security in Health). To enroll in the healthcare system, you will need to register with a Contributory Health Insurance Provider (Entidad Promotora de Salud - EPS). The EPS is responsible for providing and coordinating your healthcare services.
How often do you have to renew a Retirement Visa in Colombia?
A Retirement Visa in Colombia is issued for a period of 3 years and can be renewed an unlimited number of times. After 5 years of being a Retirement Visa holder, you can apply for a permanent resident visa. You can submit an application for Colombian citizenship after 10 years of residency.
What are the top alternatives for a Colombia Retirement Visa in Latin America?
If you are considering retiring in Latin America and are exploring alternatives to a Colombia Retirement Visa, there are several other countries in the region that offer attractive retirement options. They are as follows:
Brazil provides a Temporary Visa to foreign retirees who can demonstrate a monthly income of at least USD 2,000. The visa is issued for up to 2 years and is renewable.
You may be eligible for an Ecuadorian Retirement Visa if you have a pension or other form of retirement income of at least USD 1,275 per month. This visa is valid for 2 years, but you must stay in the country for at least 6 months per year to maintain your residency.
You can become an Argentine resident by applying for a Retirement Visa, which is intended for older people with a pension or other guaranteed income of more than USD 2,000 per month. It lasts 1 year and can be extended.
For the Retirement Visa, you must provide bank statements proving that you consistently earn at least USD 2,500 per month. The duration of this visa in Costa Rica varies by application and starts at 1 year.