Of all the dates for my visa and passport renewal, mine fell two days into the quarantine in Medellin, Colombia. On March 22nd, 2020 my business owner’s visa expired. This was also the same week that everything in Medellin slowly shut down its public life.
Because I was missing a document to complete my application, I rushed to the Migration office in Medellin on Friday. It was the first day that our unofficial quarantine began. I expected a long line of people, the one I had experienced in prior years. Instead, the office was nearly empty. I waited an hour until I was finally attended and given my “Salvo Conducto” (a visa extension) and was on my way to begin the city-wide quarantine.
As mentioned in my previous article, Colombia acted relatively quickly in order to mitigate and control the spread of the coronavirus. Schools were closed, events were canceled, national and international flights were halted, and a countrywide quarantine was mandated.
While I fully support the measures Colombia has taken, unclear information, closed government offices, notaries, and banks have made this quarantine stressful.
During this entire visa renovation process, I have worked with a lawyer from Casacol. My lawyer has been excellent and also helped me with every step of the process from creating my business, applying for my visa, and buying my apartment in Medellin.
The Monday after I was in the immigration office securing the document I needed to extend my visa, my lawyer submitted my application to which it was deemed “incomplete.” I was requested to get several additional documents, two of which required going out to the bank and then to the notary.
Little to my knowledge, banks were operating on very limited schedules, as were the notaries. After posting on Facebook, calling the bank, and waiting for an hour and a half on the phone trying to get the necessary documents, I was told that the bank would be open Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays from 9 to 1 pm. Frustrated because of the confusing information I had received and limitations I had from going out because of our “Pico y Cedula” policy, I had a small window of opportunity to get the document I needed.
Fear of Going Out
Every time I leave the house, I feel the risk of getting sick and have only left my home for critical errands. On Wednesday I headed out to the bank, armed with my mask and hand gel, and arrived at the bank a few minutes before it was supposed to open.
When I arrived, I was met by a line that extended all the way around the corner and down the block. My heart sank, not knowing if I would be able to make it in time to get the document I needed, but I waited. After three and a half hours of waiting in the sun, I was able to get the documentation I needed to complete my visa application.
This process has been one of the greater tests and challenges I have faced during quarantine in Medellin. As we all have felt on different levels, there is so much that is out of our control during these times.
While I feel a heightened sense of vulnerability not knowing if my visa will get approved or not, I have to surrender and remind myself that I am not the only one in this situation and we are all just doing the best we can.
Have you had any challenging experiences as an expat during COVID-19? Let us know—we’re sure many of us can relate.
by: Erin Colton-Enberg