Straddling the border between Central and South America, Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. From the country’s high altitude sprawling capital Bogotá to the Caribbean island San Andres, Colombia offers some of the best natural resources in the world. The country is known for its robust education system, which makes it an appealing place to build out a local employment hub.
As Colombia’s economy becomes more integrated with the global market, more people are migrating to the country to live, build careers, and retire. In recent years, Colombia’s major cities have actively expanded their tech industries and service sectors in the hopes of drawing foreign workers to the country for employment.
In 2017, the Colombian government changed the process of obtaining a work visa to make the process both easier and straightforward. In Colombia, three different classifications of work visas exist.
Visitor “V” type visa is for those who wish to visit Colombia without having to establish a permanent residency or secure a job
Migrant “M” type visa is the most common visa and is for those who wish to live and work or study in Colombia on a temporary basis
Resident “R” type visa is the most difficult visa to receive and can only be obtained by those who want to permanently live in Colombia
“M” type visas are the most common for marriage, work and study, but they still require applicants to meet certain expectations. These requirements are most commonly filled by either marrying or having a partner who is a permanent resident of Colombia, having permanent employment, or for being a student or missionary with an institutional affiliation.
“M” type visas are valid for 3 years but there are the exceptions of category 5 visas or category 9 student visas. Category 5 and 9 visas can be obtained by those who plan to reside in Colombia for less than 3 years.
After 5 years of holding an “M” visa, workers are eligible for type “R” visas for those living permanently in Colombia. Finally, once you hold a type “R” visa for 5 years, you can apply for citizenship. Colombia allows people applying for citizenship to hold dual-citizenship with their native country.
Job seekers apply for Colombian work permits through the employer, and this is part of the application requirement for those who need a Colombian visa.
Applying for a work permit and visa in Colombia begins with registering online with the Ministry of Foreign affairs. Although the application process is completed online, once the application is approved, the visa is issued in person at the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores’ in Bogotá. In some circumstances, you may need to visit your local consulate before entering the country.
Here are the requirements to applying for a work visa:
Photocopy of the first page of valid passport that shows all of the applicants personal information
Photocopy of page in passport with last stamp of entry/departure to Colombia
Summary of work contract that has been established with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Academic degree from country of origin (when applicable) that is already translated into Spanish
International health insurance policy that is valid for at least 1 year with a coverage of 60,000 USD
Valid passport, with one-page in the passport book for the Visa and room for entry and exit stamps
Passport photo with a white background that measures 3cm x 4cm
Once the application is approved, the work visa is good for up to 5 years unless the visa was issued as a category 9 or category 5. Visas may be extended by the employer if your role is extended. However, the applicant will need to complete an application for another visa, and the employer will need to complete paperwork for a new work permit.
Employers applying for a work permit to help employees obtain a visa must meet the following requirements to expedite the process of application approval:
6 months of bank statements
Proof of monthly income 100 times the legal monthly wage
An income statement from the previous year
Certificate of job suitability for employee
Relevance/importance of contract, or for students, academic support of visa applicant
Once the application is approved, the visa applicant must apply and obtain an identity card (Cédula de extranjería) within 15 days at the regional office within the jurisdiction of their employer.
When employers are applying for a work permit on behalf of employees for a visa, they are normally only hiring them on a temporary basis, based on the duration of the work permit and visa.
Further, to hire employees in Colombia you must have an established business or entity, unless you team up with an EOR service like Via.
Finding a job in Colombia has drastically improved as the tech, teaching, and service sectors have grown in recent years. Many employers have made the move to hire foreigners in Colombia to give their companies versatility and a certain edge. Further, Medellín and Bogotá have emerged as leaders in the tech industries.
When exploring career opportunities in Colombia, first think about what skill sets you possess that would make you a unique fit for Colombian cultural and social conventions. Are you bilingual? Can you teach? Would you be willing to learn another language to improve your resume?
The education industry is the most popular sector for expats, and being bi-lingual gives you an advantage over other foreigners looking to find a job.
If you’re job hunting in Colombia, three major websites stand out:
Computrabajo is the leading site for Latin American countries that post offerings. They have postings in 19 countries throughout Latin America. However, this site is all in Spanish, so being bi-lingual will give you an advantage.
Indeed, a major recruiting tool in the United States, has expanded to Colombia and gives foreigners looking for jobs in Colombia an advantage, since most postings are written in English.
XPATjobs is designed with the goal of helping expats find jobs in Colombia. They provide tips for tailoring resumes for local jobs.
Companies of all sizes want to hire employees in Colombia, but don’t know how to navigate the country’s local labor laws. Via makes hiring Colombian talent and building your global team seamless. With our easy-to-use platform, Via helps you manage local HR processes for direct employment such as visas & permits, benefits, payroll, background checks, and more. Our team of local labor lawyers and on-the-ground legal experts ensure that your company remains compliant while expanding abroad. As your employer-or-record/entity in Colombia, Via assumes full responsibility for liability, so that you can focus on what matters: recruiting and managing your team.
With Via’s transparent pricing, you can pay full-time employees or contractors in Colombia with no hidden set-up fees, no foreign exchange or transaction fees, and no minimums–start with 1 employee and scale up at your own pace.