Long-term transfers

Categories

What are the main work and business permit categories used by companies to transfer skilled staff?

Under immigration law, any foreign national that intends to undertake work activities in Colombia must request a Migrant visa (M visa) for working purposes or a visa under a different category that allows them to work (eg, an M visa for spouses of Colombian nationals or a resident visa). The M visa for working purposes is granted for foreign nationals who enter Colombia by virtue of a labour relationship or a service agreement with an entity domiciled in Colombia. It is also granted to artistic, sports or cultural groups entering the country for public performances.

M visas for working purposes are issued for a maximum of three years and allow multiple entries. They expire automatically if the foreign national is absent from the country for more than six months and may be renewed as many times as needed. However, each time the visa will be granted for a maximum of three years in accordance with the terms of the labour contract and an assessment of the submitted documents.

The M visa for working purposes must be issued before the foreign national renders services locally or is added to a local payroll.

The spouse or permanent companion, parents and children of a foreign national who holds an M visa for working purposes may obtain a temporary beneficiary visa, which allows them to enter Colombia to study or engage in home activities, but does not entitle them to work.

A foreign national who holds an M visa for working purposes will be allowed to perform only the activity authorised in the visa and only for the company authorised in the visa. If there is any change to the individual’s working activity or position, the individual and the sponsoring company must inform the immigration authorities in writing detailing the change and, if required, request the visa to be amended.

To apply for an M visa, the applicant must meet all of the immigration requirements that apply to this type of visa.

Procedures

What are the procedures for obtaining these permissions? At what stage can work begin?

The immigration process for obtaining a Colombian visa includes two different phases before the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Special Administrative Unit of Migration Colombia, as outlined below.

Stage 1 – visa filing before Ministry of Foreign AffairsThe issuance of Colombian visas is entirely at the government’s discretion. Immigration authorities have the power to request additional information or reject an application without the possibility of appeal.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ visa officials may request additional documents set out under the legal provisions in force.

The visa application process has two different stages, which apply to all types of visa:

  • The first stage comprises the filing of a visa request with the corresponding documents, followed by a review of the latter by a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official. This process has an associated cost (government fees), which must be paid in Colombian currency. The visa application may be filed online through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' electronic platform or personally with a Colombian consulate abroad. In any case, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has up to five business days to assess the visa application request and make its final decision.
  • Once assessment has been carried out, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will approve or deny the visa. If the visa is approved, government fees must be paid to obtain the visa. If the visa is obtained electronically, individuals have 30 days to attach the visa to their passport. Otherwise, they must carry out an additional visa transfer process before the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Stage 2 – visa registration process before Special Administrative Unit of Migration ColombiaOnce the visa has been granted, individuals must personally register their visas before the Special Administrative Unit of Migration Colombia to request issuance of their Colombian foreign ID.

The registration process must be carried out:

  • within 15 calendar days after the visa has been granted, if the individual was in Colombia at the time of approval; or
  • within 15 calendar days of entering the county, if the individual was abroad at the time of approval.

The M visa for working purposes must be issued before the foreign national renders services locally or becomes part of a local payroll.

Period of stay

What are the general maximum (and minimum) periods of stay granted under the main categories for company transfers?

M visas for working purposes are issued for a maximum of three years and allow multiple entries. The visa holder may stay in the country for the visa’s entire validity period. Visas expire automatically if the foreign national is absent from the country for more than six months and may be renewed as many times as needed. However, each time the visa will be granted for a maximum of three years in accordance with the term of the labour contract and assessment of the submitted documents.

Processing time

How long does it typically take to process the main categories?

The visa application process typically takes between two and three weeks once the paperwork has been gathered.

Staff benefits

Is it necessary to obtain any benefits or facilities for staff to secure a work permit?

No. However, once foreign staff are hired, they must be enrolled in the Colombian social security systems for health, pension and labour.

Assessment criteria

Do the immigration authorities follow objective criteria, or do they exercise discretion according to subjective criteria?

The immigration authorities have broad discretional powers when assessing visa applications and granting permits and extensions. These include asking for additional information that they may deem necessary for the particular case.

The immigration authorities are strict when reviewing compliance with statutory requirements, as well as those determined by them under their discretionary powers. The authorities are inflexible in this regard and are unlikely to make exceptions in any case.

High net worth individuals and investors

Is there a special route for high net worth individuals or investors?

Yes. Foreign individuals who make a foreign investment in Colombia of 650 times the statutory monthly minimum salary (Ps538,275,400 in 2019) or above may secure a residence visa (R visa), which grants an indefinite residence permit and allows the holder to perform any occupation or activity in Colombia. Under this type of visa, the foreign individual may stay in Colombia for the visa’s entire validity period.

Is there a special route (including fast track) for high net worth individuals for a residence permission route into your jurisdiction?

Yes. Foreign individuals who make a foreign investment in Colombia of 650 times the statutory monthly minimum salary (Ps538,275,400 in 2019) or above may secure an R visa, which grants an indefinite residence permit and allows the holder to perform any occupation or activity in Colombia. Under this type of visa, the foreign individual may stay in Colombia for the visa’s entire validity period.

Permanent residents may apply for citizenship. The conditions for applying for Colombian citizenship by adoption include the following:

  • If the individual was born in a Latin American or Caribbean country, they must have held an R visa for at least one year.
  • If the individual was born in Spain, they must have held an R visa for at least two years.
  • If the individual was born in any other country, they must have held an R visa for five years. This term may be reduced to two years if:
    • the individual is married to a Colombian national;
    • the individual's permanent companion is a Colombian national; or
    • the individual's children are Colombian nationals.

A request for Colombian citizenship must be made before the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The National Tax Office, the Special Administrative Unit of Migration Colombia and City Hall are also involved in the citizenship application process.

Highly skilled individuals

Is there a special route for highly skilled individuals?

No. Highly skilled individuals may opt for a sponsored visa for working purposes, as any other foreign individual.

The following unsponsored immigration routes are available for highly skilled foreign nationals seeking employment in Colombia:

If the foreign individual is eligible for a visa waiver, they may enter Colombia with a temporary visitor permit (PIP-6), which authorises them to participate in recruitment processes. Under this type of permit, the foreign individual may stay in Colombia for up to 180 days per year. The PIP-6 permit can be requested directly at the port of entry by the foreign individual.Citizens from Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay may apply for an M visa, which grants a temporary residence permit and allows foreign nationals to perform any occupation or activity in Colombia. Under this type of visa, the individual may stay in Colombia for the visa’s entire validity period.Foreign individuals married to Colombian nationals may secure a spouse’s M visa, which grants a temporary residence permit and allows individuals to perform any occupation or activity in Colombia. Under this type of visa, the foreign individual may stay in Colombia for the visa’s entire validity period.Foreign individuals who have children with Colombian citizenship may secure an R visa, which grants an indefinite residence permit and allows individuals to perform any occupation or activity in Colombia. Under this type of visa, the foreign individual may stay in Colombia for the visa’s entire validity period.Foreign individuals who make a foreign investment in Colombia of 650 times the statutory monthly minimum salary (Ps538,275,400 in 2019) or above may secure an R visa, which grants an indefinite residence permit and allows foreign nationals to perform any occupation or activity in Colombia. Under this type of visa, the foreign individual may stay in Colombia for the visa’s entire validity period.

In all of the above cases, immigration regulations provide specific requirements for each visa. Even though the issuance of visas is entirely at the discretion of the government, if all supporting documentation is properly provided to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the chances of having the visa application rejected are remote.

Ancestry and descent

Is there a special route for foreign nationals based on ancestry or descent?

Yes. Foreign individuals with one or two Colombian parents or children with Colombian citizenship may secure an R visa, which grants an indefinite residence permit and allows the holder to perform any occupation or activity in Colombia. Under this type of visa, the foreign individual may stay in Colombia for the visa’s entire validity period.

 

Minimum salary

Is there a minimum salary requirement for the main categories for company transfers?

No.

Resident labour market test

Is there a quota system or resident labour market test?

No.

Shortage occupations

Is there a special route for shortage occupations?

No.

Other eligibility requirements

Are there any other main eligibility requirements to qualify for work permission in your jurisdiction?

No.

Third-party contractors

What is the process for third-party contractors to obtain work permission?

Contractors cannot obtain a work permit on behalf of other companies.

Individuals acting as contractors may request a migrant visa. The contracting party, as with any other work visa, should sponsor this visa.

Recognition of foreign qualifications

Is an equivalency assessment or recognition of skills and qualifications required to obtain immigration permission?

No. However, if the foreign national plans to complete activities in a regulated profession (eg, engineering, medicine or law), they must request a temporary licence or have their undergraduate studies validated. The determination of whether a foreign national can execute activities that involve professional experience is decided by the relevant professional councils.