If you’re planning to be in Colombia for six months or less per year, you don’t need a visa to legalize your stay in this Latin American paradise. Most European and North American citizens can get a tourist stamp upon arrival that’s initially good for 90 days, with an option to extend the stay for another 90 days. However, what if, like many foreign visitors to Colombia, you want to stay longer than 180 days, or even live in Colombia permanently? Well, one option you have is to invest in the country to obtain a Colombian Investment Visa.
In this article we’ll give you all the relevant information you need to get an investment visa. We’ll go over important things to consider, such as the types of colombian investment visas, their associated costs, and how long they’re good for.
Everything You Need To Know About Colombian Investment Visas
All Colombian visas are issued by the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores), also known as the Cancillería. If you’re already in Colombia, you can apply for a visa yourself on the ministry’s website. You can also apply for Colombian visas from abroad at any Colombian consulate. No matter what type of visa you’re applying for, there are some basic required documents that you will have to submit. If you’re applying online, you can simply upload the documents as digital files. If and when your visa is approved, you’ll have to make a trip to the offices of the Cancillería in Bogota to get the visa physically stamped in your passport (though this process may be different due to covid-19).
Another option you have is to contract the services of a colombian visa agency to take care of the whole application process for you. This can be advantageous because they have experience with all types of visas, including investment visas, and know exactly what to do. Agencies also usually have a courier service and can send your passport to Bogota for you, so you can save yourself the trip.
Basic Documents Required to Submit an Investment Visa Application in Colombia
The standard documents you usually need to apply for a foreign investor visa in Colombia are:
- Photocopy or scan of the general data page of your valid passport.
- Photocopy or scan of the last entry/exit stamps for the country.
- Photocopies or scans of any previous Colombian visas you’ve held.
- Passport-style face photo with white background, sized 3 cm wide X 4 cm tall (max 300 kb .jpg file size for online applications).
- Criminal record of the applicant (all foreign documents must be duly apostilled, legalized, and translated into Spanish by a certified translator).
- Certificate of a health insurance policy with coverage of medical expenses of at least 57 legal minimum wages (approximately $13,500), death coverage of 5.7 minimum wages (approximately $1,350), and coverage for repatriation of remains of 17 legal minimum wages (approximately $4,000).
Minimum Wage as a Commonly Used Cost Indicator
Note: Many things in Colombia are described in terms of one monthly minimum wage. For example, a lawyer might charge you 2 “monthly minimum wages” for taking on a case. This is particularly true with things related to the Government. Part of the reason for this is inflation – each year, prices go up, and so to keep things such as Government fees in line with inflation, they are correlated to the price of a monthly minimum wage. This is called El Salario Mínimo Mensual Legal Vigente (S.M.M.L.V.)
The S.M.M.L.V. in Colombia for 2021 is COP 908,526. That represents an increase of 3.5% compared to 2020, when it was COP 877,803. So, in the previous example, when the Government requires health insurance that is at least 57 legal minimum wages, we know that in 2021 this means 57 x COP 908,526 = COP 51,785,982 = roughly $13,500 USD.
The foregoing documents mentioned are just the basic documents – and the Cancelleria wil request more specific documents and information for certain Colombian investment visas. Let’s take a closer look at what types of investment visas are available to foreigners and what exactly you need to qualify for them.
Types of Visas for Foreign Investors in Colombia
Some of the best investment visa options for expats in Colombia are the following:
- Partner-Entrepreneur Business Investment Visa: This type of migrant visa (tipo M) allows you to legally establish yourself in Colombia by investing an amount of at least 100 current legal minimum salaries in a business as partner or owner. For 2021, that means an investment of COP 90,8 millones. At a 3850:1 exchange rate, it means you’d be investing approximately $24,000 USD. You must stay in Colombia for at least 6 months a year to maintain this type M visa.
- Real Estate Property Investment Visa: To obtain this type M visa, you must acquire property with a minimum investment of 350 legal monthly minimum salaries. For 2021, that means 350 x 908,726 = COP 317,984,100. At COP 3850 : 1 USD, that means $82,593 USD. Keep in mind that the amount in USD is subject to change based on currency fluctuations and the amount in COP will go up in 2022 as the S.M.M.L.V. goes up. Purchasing real estate in Colombia is one of the best investment options for foreigners, but more on that later.
- Residency Visa for Large Investments in Businesses or Real Estate: For making large investments, you can actually acquire the status of permanent resident. The amount you invest must be at least 650 minimum salaries, which with the same calculations and currency rate as the previous example means about COP 591 millones or around $153K USD. To maintain your status as a legal permanent resident, you should not be absent from the country for a period of over 2 years. Do you want to solve your visa issues once and for all? Buy a property for more than COP 591 millones, follow the instructions in this article closely, and you’ll be all set.
Options 1 and 2 above, being type M visas, are typically issued with a validity of 1-3 years. Why the difference? It all depends on the migration officer processing your visa. We have seen them approved for one year, two years, or three years. However, keep in mind that if you only get approved for 1 year, but you continue to meet the requirements, you can apply for it to be renewed.
Option 3 above, being a residency visa, can be issued with a duration of validity up to 5 years. After you’ve been a legal resident of Colombia for at least 5 consecutive years, you can even apply for Colombian permanent residency and stop worrying about visas altogether! Like many other countries, Colombia allows dual citizenship, so you can benefit from having multiple passports.
Additional Considerations for Colombian Business Visas
If you’re interested in a business investment visa, here are some more things you’ll need to complete and submit along with the basic application requirements:
- Company registration status before a public notary, including the name, address, and share composition prepared by an accountant (if applying for business visa)
- Tax identification number and bank account opening certification.
- Registration certificate that proves the existence and legal representation of the company issued by the local chamber of commerce.
- Registration and certification of foreign investment in the Banco de La República.
- If the company is not new, you must also attach bank statements for the last 6 months and the income statement for the last year — the company must demonstrate recent activity for the issuance or renewal of the visa.
Documents Required for a Real Estate Investment Visa
If investing in real estate is more up your alley, here are the requirements to apply for a Colombian real estate investment visa:
- Certificado de Tradicion y Libertad of the acquired real estate, demonstrating that its value is at least equivalent to 350 minimum legal minimum salaries in Colombia (for the migrant visa)
- Certification issued by the Department of International Exchange of the Banco de La República, which registers direct foreign investment for the purchase of property in the name of the foreigner requesting the visa.
While there are just two requirements here, it is important to highlight how tricky it can be to get these two things right. The first document, unfortunately, is one of the last steps involved in the property acquisition process. That is, before that document #1 is emitted in your name (the Certificado de Tradición y Libertad), you’ll need to scout out properties online, make appointments with owner’s or agents, see a variety of properties, find one that you like, hire a real estate lawyer to do a title study, background check of owner, draft a promesa de compraventa, sign the promesa in a notary, pay the down payment, pay off the mortgage (if necessary), pay the related notary expenses and have the deed transferred into your name. After all that is done, the Certificado is issued.
Document #2 is a little less complicated to acquire, but it still requires getting a lot of things right. You need to apply to open a brokerage account locally (contact me for contacts who can help), provide source of funds documents to the brokerage company, and wire the $$ into that brokerage account once opened. Then you’ll have to register the incoming money properly with the Banco de La Republica as a foreign investment. About 10 – 15 days after you to do that, the Banco de La Republica should issue you the document you need listed as #2 above assuming you solicit it properly.
Two documents doesn’t seem like much, but as outlined above – there are a ton of different factors to consider. While the basic requirements are the same, every situation, and every seller is different. This is a process I’ve gone through dozens of times and I recommend you reach out so we can provide guidance.
Caveat #1 – For the 5 Year Visa, you may be able to apply, and be approved, before you’ve been emitted the Certificado de Tradicion y Libertad. As long as you have the certificate showing the 650x SMMLV exchange from a foreign currency to Colombian Pesos, sometimes they are not strict on the other requirement.
Caveat #2 – They may ask for follow up documents confirming the property sale and ownership. They might ask for the promesa. They might ask to see the deed, or the registro. None of these are listed as requirements for the Visa application but we’ve seen cases where the officer asks for additional documentation.
What rules the day seems to be migration officer discretion and inconsistent enforcement. But if you get the property acquisition and documentation correct, you’ll be approved.
Associated Costs for a Colombian Investment Visa
The costs of temporary visas vary according to your country of origin and the option you select. You should expect to pay about $200-300 in Government fees if you are from a North American country. For comparison, if you are from a European country or Cuba, the cost might be a little bit less. The Cancilleria does change the prices quite a bit. See update prices here – you can select based on the type of visa. Choose “inversion inmobiliaria”. Additionally, if you hire the services of a specialized lawyer or visa agency, expect to add an additional $500 to $2000 USD on average for their professional fees. While the lawyer that I recommend charges on the low end of that range, I don’t judge any competent lawyer that charges at the high end of the range because it can be a very involved and time consuming process.
How Do Colombian Investment Visas Compare to Other Latin American Countries?
Many Latin American countries offer investment visas for foreigners. For the sake of comparison, let’s take a look at how Colombian investment visas compare with investment visas in two other Latin American countries popular with expats: Brazil and Costa Rica.
Colombian Investment Visas VS Brazilian Investment Visas
Like Colombia, Brazil offers several types of foreign investor visas. The country offers a similar business investment visa if you invest at least 500,000 Brazilian reais (approximately $93,000) in a new or existing business. As you can see, this is significantly more costly than the required investment for a Colombian business visa. The other key difference between Colombian and Brazilian investment visas is that you cannot apply for the visa if you are already in Brazil. You must do it from outside the country and then move when you receive the visa.
Brazil also offers a real estate investment visa, but it is a little more complicated than Colombia’s real estate investment visa. Similarly to the business visa, the real estate visa requires a much larger investment up front: 1 million Brazilian reais (approximately $186,000), to be exact. The exact amount can vary depending on the region you’re investing in. Additionally, the property must be located in an urban area and already built or currently under construction. Note that you’re allowed to buy multiple properties that meet these qualifications to reach the total investment amount.
Colombian Investment Visas VS Costa Rican Investment Visas
Costa Rica is another extremely popular destination for expats looking to settle in a new country by getting an investment visa. The Costa Rican government offers an investor visa for pre-approved investments of at least $200,000 USD (or $100,000 if the investment is related to reforestation). You can invest in business, real estate, and stocks or securities to obtain the visa. You may also choose to invest in forest plantations in the country. The specific requirements to apply for a Costa Rican investor visa vary depending on what you choose to invest in, but they are generally pretty similar to those of the various Colombian investment visas. You will have to present various legal certifications and proof of your investment.
Why Should You Invest in Real Estate in Colombia?
Besides the fact that purchasing property in Colombia can get you a long-term visa, there are plenty of other reasons why real estate is a good investment. Here are just a few of them:
1. The US dollar to Colombian peso history is in your favor: If you’re American (or if you earn in USD) the value of the dollar compared to the peso means that your money will go a long way when buying property in Colombia. At the time of writing this article, $1 is worth roughly 3,900 pesos. When compared to approximately 3,400 just 2 years ago and 3,000 4 years ago, you can see that the dollar is continuing to gain value in Colombia.
For reference, you can find 3-bedroom apartments in Medellin’s Poblado neighborhood, one of the most popular areas for foreigners, for under 400,000,000 Colombian pesos (around $100k USD).
- There are lots of opportunities to make passive income: Buying a property in Colombia doesn’t mean you have to live there year round. You can use it to make a passive income by renting it out short term (on a platform like Airbnb) or long term (either privately or through a Colombian-based property management company). Cities like Medellin are becoming increasingly popular with foreign tourists, students, retirees, and everyone in between, which means that there are always opportunities to find someone to rent your property out to. Just Google “Airbnb Medellin” and you’ll see how many people are doing just that!
- Real estate prices in Colombia are trending up: Even after a year as complicated as 2020, the real estate market in Colombia doesn’t show signs of taking a hit. This means that, even without factoring in the opportunities to make a passive income from your real estate property, you’re almost guaranteed to see a positive return on your investment as the appreciation averages 9.3% annually and fixed costs like property tax and HOA fees are often low.
Where Is the Best Place to Buy Real Estate in Colombia?
One of the most attractive things about investing in real estate in Colombia is that there’s something for everyone. If beach vibes are your thing, properties in coastal cities like Cartagena and Santa Marta offer views of the Caribbean and the costeño lifestyle. Or, if you want all the offerings of a large, international city, high in the Andes, Bogota might be what you’re looking for. However, for us, the best place to buy property in Colombia is Medellin, The City of Eternal Spring. Medellin offers year-round average temperatures of about 25 degrees C (78 degrees F), breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, and the warm and welcoming paisa culture.
Medellin is also the most popular city for tourists and expats in Colombia, with lots of great investment opportunities and a high quality of life with a relatively low cost of living. There are tons of homes for sale in Medellin, from practical studio apartments to luxurious penthouses, so you’re sure to find something that suits your tastes.
You might have heard of Medellin for not-so-good reasons, and you might be wondering “Is Medellin safe to live in?” Well, ask anyone from the city or any expat who’s made it their home and the majority response will be “yes!”. Medellin has come a long way since the “golden age” of drug trafficking, and crime rates have been consistently trending downwards, especially over the last decade or so. Like any big city, robberies and petty crime are a concern, but most people we’ve talked to have had overwhelmingly positive experiences living in the city.
Are You Ready To Get a Colombian Investment Visa?
If you’re looking for a Colombian visa or if you’re considering investing and you want to know more about your options for tourism, residency, and more, just leave a comment below or send me a message via WhatsApp at: (+)57-317-523-3469. I’ll be more than happy to help however I can.