Colombia grants 90-day tourist visas to residents of a large number of foreign countries without prior application. Visitors eligible for the visa on arrival include nationals of the following countries:
- The Netherlands
- United Kingdom
The Americas & Caribbean
- Costa Rica
- El Salvador
- Trinidad & Tobago
- United States
Asia & Australasia
- South Korea
If you're from a country other than those listed above, check with the Colombian embassy or consulate in your home country for advice on how to apply for a visa. For passengers of any nationality in transit in the country for less than 24 hours however, no visa is required.
It is possible to extend the visa by an additional 90 days, but not beyond this period. Under a tourist visa, foreign nationals can stay in Colombia for a maximum of 180 days in any calendar year, regardless of the number of times they have entered and left the country.
Want to speak Spanish with Colombians as naturally as you'd chat in English with your friends back home? Well, you'll need to learn a load of local slang and expressions first.
Thisshows you the fun stuff that your textbook missed.
Looking to turbo charge your Colombian Spanish?
Fast track from dull ‘textbook Spanish’ to sounding like a native with our Colombian Spanish Language Hacks email course.
Sign up now for 7 days of expert tips that will instantly transform your Spanish!
Off to Colombia?
Well, you better not leave without first signing up for our FREE email course to the best of Colombia's Spanish and slang.
Learn all the coolest lingo that you'll need to have fun with locals, but which the textbooks will never teach you.
You are not formally allowed to work in Colombia if you enter with a tourist visa. In practice, however, there is little to stop digital nomads and others who earn a living online from doing so. Some tourist orientated businesses, like hostels, might also unofficially give you irregular work even if you only have a tourist visa. More formal positions and institutions will require you to have a proper work visa.
How to Renew Your Colombian Tourist Visa
There are two main ways to extend the initial tourist visa to reach the 180-day limit. Firstly, you can leave the country, most easily by booking a flight to a neighboring country, or by traveling by road to Ecuador or Venezuela. When you re-enter Colombian territory you will simply be issued with another 90-day tourist visa, in the same way as occurred on your first entry into the country.
Visa renewals can be obtained from the immigration office in all major urban hubs
The alternative method of visa renewal - one which involves less traveling but a bit more paperwork - is to apply for one at the local office of Immigration Affairs (IA). A branch of IA is located in each of the county's major urban hubs. In Bogota, the office is situated at Calle 100 No. 11-27, and in Medellin the address is Calle 19 80A – 40, Barrio Belén. A full list of centers is available via the immigration office’s website.
If renewing your visa at the immigration office you will theoretically need to have the following items with you:
- A passport-style color photo, taken with a white background.
- Your passport and photocopies of the entry stamp and information/photo page.
- Proof of an onward journey, either by land, air or sea.
UPDATE: June 2016 - A few of our readers report that they have had their visas renewed at the immigration office in Bogota and Cali without being asked for a passport photo or proof of onward journey (see comments below).
You will also need to pay the visa extension fee, which is just under 90,000 COP. The easiest way to pay is via credit or debit card at the IA office. Cash payments are possible, but these must be made in advance and are only possible by depositing the renewal fee directly into the IA account at specific bank branches within any given city. If you prefer this method of payment, remember to take the stamped paying-in slip with you when you go to the IA office, as visa renewal will not be possible without it.
Overstaying Your Colombian Visa
Tourists can stay for a maximum of 180 days in Colombia within any given calendar year. Though the counter resets at midnight on 31st December, foreign visitors who have already renewed their visa in the current year will not be eligible to do so again until they leave the country and re-enter. As such, and irrespective of when you arrive and leave Colombia, 180 days is the absolute maximum foreign visitors can stay in the country before having to leave.
Immigration authorities are increasingly strict about visa overstay infringements
Overstaying the 180 day period on your visa is not advised as Colombian immigration authorities are increasingly strict about such infringements. Digitization of migration systems means officials are now more likely to notice where tourists have stayed longer than the allowed period. Where this occurs, you may face a fine of between 325,000 COP and 4,500,000 COP, according to the discretion of the immigration official involved. You will need to pay this at the point of departure from the country. Another consequence is that it may become more difficult for you to enter the country on a subsequent occasion.
Long Term Visa Options
For the most avid Colombia lovers, even the full six months in a calendar year simply won't be enough time. Getting a visa for a longer-term stay is certainly possible, but will involve substantially more money, time and stress.
As a result, by far and away the best option to stay a bit longer than six months is to try and time your trip to align with the New Year. So, if you arrived in July, for instance, you could stay in Colombia until shortly before the 31st December, go on a trip outside the country over the holiday season, and then return in the New Year to get another 180 days on a new tourist visa.
By far and away the best option for staying longer is to try and time your trip to align with the New Year
However, if your trip timing doesn't work out quite right, or you want to stay in country for a period longer than a year, you will need to investigate the various visa options detailed on the official government site. Most probably you'll also need to hire some professional assistance from specialist law or visa service firms.
Broadly speaking, there are three popular ways by which people are able to stay in the country. The first - the investor visa - is for those with a bit of cash saved up in the bank. Put USD100,000 or more into a Colombian venture or property and you will get a visa for life.
The second option is to get a student visa, which is available to anyone studying a course of 25 hours' duration or more at any accredited institution. If you're studying anyway this isn't a bad option, especially because the school or university might be able to help you with some parts of the visa application process. But if you're signing up to the course just to get the visa, it can end up being quite expensive and can place some restrictions on your time.
Most institutions demand that you pay for the majority, or all, of the course fees up front, and will theoretically report you to authorities if you fail to attend classes (though this is unlikely in practice). Also note that the visa only lasts for more or less the exact duration of the course so you'll need to spend a bit on tuition if your idea is to stay long-term.
The third most common option is the old classic of marrying a local, which will eventually confer residency status on the foreign spouse. This is an option you may wish to consider, but is obviously not an arrangement to enter into lightly.
A mildly less serious-sounding arrangement is to request a "co-habitant" visa, which you can get if you are in a serious relationship and living with a partner, but are not yet married. Bear in mind, though, that on embarking down this road, you and your "cohabitee" will essentially be treated, under Colombian law, as a married couple after a period of two years.
Expect to spend a lot of time dealing with infuriating bureaucracy
Whichever of these three options you plump for, expect to spend a lot of time dealing with infuriating bureaucracy, and spending plenty of money on notaries and getting official translations of any documents. You'll need to be real keen to stay in Colombia if you are to get past these various obstacles. However, if you do persevere, there should be little to prevent you from the staying in the country for as long as you like.
Visa rules change regularly. We do our best to keep up with the new regulations, but the odd change occasionally slips us by. If your experience of applying for or renewing your visa differed from the above, we'd love it if you could let us - and other travelers - know by adding a comment below.