Dozens of nationalities can visit Colombia without a visa © R.M. Nunes / Getty Images
Famed for its warm and welcoming atmosphere and its plethora of jaw-dropping national parks, sun-soaked beaches and dynamic cities, Colombia is fast becoming one of South America’s most popular travel destinations, drawing footloose backpackers and family vacationers in droves.
Adding to the appeal, visa requirements for Colombia are fairly straightforward, with visa-free travel available for a large number of countries, plus a simple online visa application process for other nationalities.
As anywhere, requirements can change without warning, so it’s always important to double-check the latest guidance from your local Colombian embassy, but here are the most important things you need to know about visas for Colombia.
Who needs a visa to go to Colombia?
Travelers from 102 countries and territories, including the USA, Canada, the UK, New Zealand and Australia and most countries in the EU and EEA, can enter Colombia visa-free as tourists. Upon arrival, visitors from countries on the approved list receive a passport stamp granting a stay of up to 90 days.
There are a few conditions. You'll need a minimum of six months left on your passport before it expires and you may be asked to show proof of an onward ticket for travel out of Colombia at the end of your stay. Officials may also request evidence of a yellow fever vaccination certificate if you’re entering from another South American country.
As part of current Covid-19 travel requirements, you must also complete the Check-Mig immigration form on the Migración Colombia website. It's available in English, Spanish and French, and the form must be filled out between 24 hours and one hour before departure for Colombia.
When leaving Colombia, there's a chance you may be charged an exit tax of COP130,000 (US$35) at the airport. This tax is normally included in the cost of flight tickets, but you should confirm this when checking in for your inbound flight.
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There isn't too much red tape standing in the way of relaxing on Colombia's beaches or hiking on its majestic volcanoes © Guillermo Ossa / Shutterstock
Which countries need a visa for Colombia?
Citizens of most nations in Africa, Asia and the Middle East (plus some other countries) are not eligible for visa-free access and must apply in advance for a visitor visa to enter the country. There's a full list of countries and territories whose citizens require a visa on Colombia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
Applications for tourist visas should be filed online and the cost varies depending upon your nationality and the country where you are located when applying. Expect to pay around COP310,000 (US$82) for the visa, which is usually valid for a stay of up to 180 days. Make sure you have all of your documents ready before you begin the application process online – the website times out after 30 minutes, deleting any progress you’ve made up until that point.
Citizens of Cambodia, China, India, Macau, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam can enter Colombia visa-free for up to 90 days if they have an existing short-stay visa or residency permit issued by the USA or any Schengen Area country. This document must be valid for at least 180 days beyond the date of your arrival in Colombia.
Some nationalities can stay in Colombia up to 180 days, exploring everywhere from Medellín and Bogotá to the Caribbean coast © sunsinger / Shutterstock
Can I extend my Colombian tourist visa?
If you’re a citizen of a country that has visa-free access to Colombia, you can extend your stay by an additional 90 days by applying for an extension online (in Spanish) or at the offices of Migracíon Colombia (including in Bogotá, Medellín, Cali and Cartagena). If you have a 180-day visa, this cannot be extended, as this is already the maximum stay allowed.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused delays to the processing of visa applications, so the process of extending your entry stamp must be completed at least two weeks before your existing stamp expires. You will need to provide photocopies of the information page of your passport and your Colombian entry stamp and proof of a booking for onward travel within the next 90 days to support your application.
Extending your tourist stamp allows you to spend a maximum of 180 days in total in Colombia in any 12-month period. Extending costs COP103,000 (US$27) for most nationalities, but it’s free for citizens from a Schengen Area country.
You may want to extend your initial entry stamp to maximize the time spent on Colombia's gorgeous beaches © DC_Colombia / Getty Images
Visa requirements for working in Colombia
A temporary worker’s visa, known as a migrant (M) visa or M-5 is available for travelers who can prove they have a job lined up with a Colombian employer. This class of visa has a duration of up to three years, and your Colombian employer will need to provide several financial documents to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to support the process, including bank statements and proof of tax payments.
You can apply for this class of visa from abroad or while you are in the country on a tourist visit, making it easier to attend interviews with a local employer. While you can leave and enter the country on a working visa, it will expire if you leave Colombia for longer than six consecutive months.
It's not a cheap process, however. Expect to pay COP196,000 (US$52) for the application process, and a further COP670,000 (US$230) once it has been approved. You can apply online, although you may be required to show documents in person at your local consulate or embassy – there's a full list on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
If your application is successful, you’ll receive an electronic visa via email, which can be shown to border officials upon arrival and exit from Colombia. There is no legal requirement to have the visa printed in your passport unless you’re staying in Colombia for more than three months; however, it’s highly recommended that you get a copy printed at your local consulate as there’s always the possibility that passport officials may demand to see a physical copy.
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