2020 has been a year of challenges and changes. Concerning the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the process of obtaining Colombian visas, we have visualized numerous adjustments about; requirements, processing times and final responses from the government.
Although it is true that after Resolution 6045 of 2017, the visas requirements had increased, this year within the framework of the pandemic by Covid-19 and the State of Emergency, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs began to narrow the range of approvals much more, setting the bar higher when measuring and determining whether or not a foreigner is eligible to obtain a Colombian visa.
According to the statistics charted and published on the ‘Asuntos Legales’ web site, which are supported with the figures provided by the Foreign Ministry, between January and October 2020, more than 42 thousand visa applications were made, of which , more than half were required due to missing documentation. In addition, 13.7% of the requests were inadmissible and 1.7% were denied, which is a high figure compared to previous years. You can read more about visa denial in our article: “Attention! Visa Denials in Colombia”.
What have been the changes in the requirements for Colombian visas?
In previous articles, we have talked about some new requirements for visa processing, but here we want to collect everything new that foreigners have faced this year and the challenges that we have overcome from the expatgroup.co team, to help our clients to increase the probability of success of their visa applications and that they can finally obtain their legal stay in the country, which is one of our main objectives.
It is important to clarify that the MINISTRY has not included these new requirements in its resolutions and website officially; However, as specialists and according to the large volume of visas that we submit daily, we have realized these demands by the government and we want to share them with you below:
INTERNATIONAL HEALTH INSURANCE
The Colombian government is demanding international health insurance with coverage in excess of USD60,000 for young students and in excess of USD100,000 for adult foreigners with other purposes in the country. In this sense, it is important to keep in mind that not all insurances are accepted by the government, here we provide two of the best options in terms of international insurance, which have the endorsement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
This requirement has undoubtedly become essential for the applications of almost all visa categories, and even more so for type V visas and visas in general for those foreigners who do not have an active “Cédula de Extranjería”.
What happens to foreigners who do have an active “Cédula de Extranjería” and want to “renew” their visa?
For these cases, it is no longer enough to have an international health insurance certificate, but it is mandatory to demonstrate that the foreigner is affiliated with the General Social Security System (SGSS) of Colombia, and that is contributing correctly to health (Colombian EPS) based on her/his activity and the total monthly income received inside and outside the Colombian territory.
So the government will require to submit the updated certificate of the affiliation state to the EPS, as well as the last 6 duly settled social security contribution forms.
If you want to know more information on this particular topic, we invite you to read our specialized article: How to contribute to social security in Colombia if you are a foreigner?
VALIDATION OF DEGREES AND / OR CERTIFICATES OF SUITABILITY
For visas that involve the exercise of some professional and / or labor activity in Colombia, such as: The type M work visa or the type V visa for the provision of temporary services, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is requesting that the foreigner prove that is suitable to carry out this activity in the country, through degrees, certifications, recommendation letters, and even the validation of the title in Colombia through the Ministry of National Education.
One of the most recent requirements by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs within the visa application form is to provide users of all the social networks that the foreigner has. In other words, the government is interested in continuing to carefully review the information that appears in the networks profiles of those who apply for visas, as they do in the United States.
In some cases, the Foreign Ministry could to ask for detailed information about family, and even the house type where foreigners live in Colombia and abroad. The government may also inquire specific information according to the type of visa requested, thus seeking to examine the veracity of the information provided by the foreigner and their intentions in the country. For example, they could request photographs with dates, copies of lease contracts, evidence of trips made, an explanatory letter about the reason why the foreigner receives a pension, a letter where the foreigner explains the reasons why he/she wants to obtain the visa, medical examinations to verify the general state of health of the foreigner, among others.
What has happened to the visa processing times?
From our experience and that of our clients, we can say that previously, the Foreign Ministry took a maximum of 5 days to give an initial response to any visa application; However, they can currently go up to 15 days or more without receiving any type of response or request from the government, which increases anxiety levels on the part of foreigners, and in turn, takes away valuable time to fulfill additional requests to successfully complete the process.
Of course, the Foreign Ministry continues to respect the maximum margin of 30 calendar days for the visa application to be closed, either through a definitive response of approval, inadmission or denial, or through a tacit withdrawal due to lack of documents or simply due to lack of time to analyze the total information provided, thus forcing the foreigner to restart the process by paying the corresponding fee for the study again.
However, it is important to note that having good advice since the beginning can greatly speed up the processing time of visa applications and increase the probability of obtaining a positive response from the government. In addition, it is also true that through some consulates abroad, faster responses can be achieved and the reduction of possible complications during the process.
What is the bottom line around the government’s responses?
This year we went through a period of chaos where many visa applications were denied by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, leaving foreigners unable to reapply within 6 months. However, it is clear that the statistics improve when the foreigner obtains advice from experts on immigration matters and carries out the correct actions in line with current regulations.
At expatgroup.co we seek to provide professional support to the expatriate community in Colombia in order to minimize the risk and facilitate the entire process through support in the different phases: immigration advice to determine the correct type of visa to request, collection of documents, correction of inconsistencies, presentation of requirements and proper handling of time and information to obtain a timely response.
Finally, when the visa is approved by the government either from Colombia or through a consulate abroad, it is issued electronically. Please note that currently all Colombian visas are being accepted in electronic format for all purposes since the visa stamping service is suspended until further notice.
For this reason, the foreigner may request the “Cédula de Extranjería”, which is the final step of the visa process, through Migración Colombia office in his/her city of residence and using his/her electronic visa.
We hope that despite the difficulties presented globally, in the New Year we can continue increasing our numbers of approved visas and thus add happy foreigners in Colombia. If you are already part of the expat community in our beautiful country, share your experience with us.