Immigration requirements are designed to control and monitor the flow of people entering and leaving a country. These requirements determine a person’s eligibility to become a resident or citizen, how long a person can stay in a country as a tourist and other related issues. Colombia’s immigration requirements are relatively relaxed compared to those of the United States, but the South American nation does have its own set of policies that you must consider before going there.
United States citizens traveling to Colombia as tourists are not required to obtain a visa if they plan to stay for 60 days or less. To enter and leave Colombia within the 60-day period, all you need to present is a valid passport. Occasionally, immigration officials will ask you to present evidence of return or onward travel at certain border patrol stations and airports. All travelers, whether entering by land, sea or air, must enter the country through official border crossings. You may request extensions to the 60-day limit through the Colombian immigration authority at the Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad. Colombia does not charge any entrance fee or tax, but those leaving the country by plane do have to pay an exit tax that’s usually between $50 and $70, depending on the current monetary exchange rates.
Colombia offers a total of 17 different types of visas that allow for long term and permanent stays for everyone from international businessmen and journalists to students and volunteers. Some visas also give you the option to become a Colombian citizen in the future. Requirements for each visa vary quite a bit, but in all cases you’ll need at the very least a valid passport, three passport photos, a completed application form and police record that has been translated into Spanish. Other requirements may include signed letters of sponsorship, a copy of your marriage license and a copy of your birth certificate. These visas usually last between one and five years, depending on the type of visa.
Becoming a citizen of Colombia is difficult, time consuming and expensive in some cases. Most foreigners moving to Colombia permanently opt for long-term resident visas instead of citizenship because these visas are relatively easy to obtain and allow you to stay in the country for as long as you like with very few restrictions. Requirements for Colombian citizenship include a whole set of official documents--all of which must be translated into Spanish--detailed information on your financial history and current situation, fluency in Spanish and a knowledge of Colombian history and its constitution.
Charlie Higgins is journalist, editor and translator based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He has written for a variety of lifestyle and niche market websites, including International Food Trader, The Olive Oil Times, microDINERO, Sounds and Colours, Connecting Worlds and The Buenos Aires Reader.