One of the best tourist hotspots in South America, Colombia has always been a favorite holiday destination for Americans. The country’s relatively short travel distance from the USA and its tropical landscapes attract many American tourists, who account for about 20% of the total foreign visitors to Colombia, as per the latest data provided by its government.
Here’s what citizens of the US need to know about traveling to the fifth largest country in Latin America.
Most international travelers who are planning to visit Colombia need proper legal permission from the country’s government. A Colombia visa is a travel authorization granted by the government of the country to foreign travelers. However, citizens of the US are exempt from getting a Colombia visa for short-term visits.
American citizens with a legally valid US passport can enter and leave Colombia without a visa. They do not require a visa for trips related to tourism, and business, provided their stay does not exceed 180 days in a calendar year. However, they have to ask for an extension within the first 90 days of arrival in the country at the Colombian immigration authority.
Travelers staying longer than the permitted period of legal stay will not be allowed to leave the country without paying a fine. In certain cases, travelers arriving in the country without a return flight ticket may be denied entry by immigration officials at the port of entry. US travelers are encouraged to contact their nearest Colombian embassy or consulate to get the most current information about Colombian visas for Americans.
Travelers with both Colombian and US citizenship must carry their US and Columbia passports. All Colombian citizens, irrespective of their dual citizenship, must carry their Colombian passports to enter or leave the country. US citizens with dual citizenship must carry their US passports to return to America. So, travelers with both US and Colombian citizenship are highly encouraged to carry both their passports while traveling between these two countries.
American travelers preferring to enter Colombia via road must do so through an official border crossing. Those using unauthorized borders to enter Colombia will have to pay heavy fines or, in some cases, will have to serve jail terms. It is to be noted that the Colombian borders are off-limits to US citizens who are employed in various US government services. If a US passport is lost or stolen in Colombia, the traveler should inform the Colombian national police, who will record it on their official website. The US citizens who lost their passports must obtain a new passport to leave the country.
Citizens of the US do not need a Colombia visa to travel to the country for short visits related to tourism or business. However, they are required to apply for a visa if they are planning to study, work or retire in that country.
Americans who wish to get admission to educational institutions that offer primary, secondary, undergraduate, or postgraduate courses in Colombia should apply for a student visa through the nearest Colombian mission. The type M category student visa is valid for three years. Similarly, US citizens who wish to work long-term in Colombia need a type M category Colombia visa for work. Americans who wish to spend a good part of their retirement life in Colombia, too, need a type M category retirement visa. M (migrant) category visas are granted to foreigners who wish to live in the country for a longer period of time for various purposes, including education and employment.
The embassy of Columbia is located at Massachusetts Ave NW in Washington DC. Applicants for a Colombia visa can contact the embassy via telephone, email, and fax during business hours between 9 am to 6 pm from Monday to Friday. The staff at the Colombian mission in Washington can be reached over a phone call at (202) 387-8338, or a fax message at (202) 232-8643. The embassy offers various services to Colombian citizens and foreigners in the US, including visa and passport processing, document notarization and legalization, and emergency travel authorization and document issuance.
Apart from the embassy in Washington DC, the government of Colombia has ten consular generals in the US in Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Beverly Hills, Boston, Orlando, Newark, Houston, Coral Gables, and San Francisco.
Americans who are planning to apply for long-term visas, including those in the M category, should apply for them through a Colombian diplomatic mission in the US. They are advised to do proper research before starting the application process. Visa applicants need to complete an online application form and submit it at the nearest Colombian mission along with all the required documents, including the passport.
The supporting documents may vary based on the type of Colombia visa for Americans. For example, US citizens applying for a Colombian work visa will have to submit the original contract with the employer along with a contract summary in a specified format. They also need to provide the employer motivation letter and bank statement of the employer and applicants. US applicants for a Colombian student visa should submit the original certificate of admission from an authorized educational institution and proof of funds to support themselves during their stay. This includes sponsorship documents and bank statements.
Similarly, a US citizen who wishes to spend his/her retirement life in Colombia should get a retirement visa by submitting documents to prove a pension granted by the US government or a private company in the US and a copy of health insurance.
Prominent visa types issued by the Colombian Embassy are visitor visa (Type V), migrant visa (Type M), and resident visa (Type R).
Type V Visas: These are short-term visas issued to foreign citizens for tourism, business, participating in sporting, cultural, or religious events, medical treatments, journalism, and providing technical services. This visa is granted for single and multiple entries, and the validity varies between one week to three years. Note that foreigners arriving on this visa are not eligible to apply for a long-term residency visa.
Type M Visas: These are migrant Colombia visas granted to foreign nationals who plan to live in the country for a long time. This visa is typically issued to foreigners who are not eligible to apply for a resident visa, including the spouses of Colombian nationals. Foreigners who wish to study, work and spend their retirement life in Colombia have to get this visa.
Type R Visas: These are resident visas issued to foreign nationals who wish to settle in Colombia permanently. Foreigners who are in possession of a migrant visa continuously for at least four years, who have a Colombian child, or who plan to invest a substantial sum in the country’s real estate can apply for this visa. This visa is issued for five years and can be renewed.
Applying for a Colombian embassy visa is relatively easy if applicants are aware of the procedures and documents to be submitted. To expedite the application process, applicants can complete the application form online. During the application process, they can select the visa and payment types. After this, they have to request an appointment at a Colombia mission near them through the official website.
On the day of the appointment for their Colombian embassy visa, applicants need to personally appear at the embassy to take their photographs and register their biometrics, such as fingerprints and signatures. They have to present all the documents, including their passport and valid citizenship card. Note that it is not necessary to bring their photographs. After submitting the documents, the embassy will inform the applicants about the status of their visas via email. Once approved, they can collect the visa from the embassy itself.
Colombia is a popular tourist destination among Americans due to its tropical landscapes and short travel distance from the USA. US citizens can travel to Colombia for tourism or business without a visa for up to 180 days in a calendar year. However, those planning to study, work, or retire in Colombia need to apply for a visa. The Colombian embassy in Washington DC, along with ten consular generals in the US, offers various services, including visa and passport processing, document notarization and legalization, and emergency travel authorization and document issuance. Proper research and document submission are crucial to expedite the application process and obtaining a Colombian visa successfully.