When we moved to Medellín, Colombia, for my husband’s job in November 2018, the plan was to stay… well, forever… or as long as it made sense. We had visited several times before and fallen in love with the kind and welcoming paisas, the “City of Eternal Spring” climate, the food (make no mistake, it’s always about the food), and the rich cultural heritage. But something impeded our stay: the Colombian Visa.
Colombian Visa: Entering the Country
We entered the country on a 90-day “visitor’s visa,” which we renewed at the end of that period for another 90 days for a total of 180 days which would carry us through July.
Simple plan, right? But there was a catch: with the beneficiary visa, I would not be permitted to work, so that was a no-go for me. I could get a volunteer visa if I could find an organization that was willing to sponsor me. If I would enroll in some pricey university classes, I might be able to get a student visa. Keep in mind that there are now 30 categories of Colombian visas under the new visa rules which changed in 2017. Prior to that time, visas were a lot easier to come by–or so I’ve heard.
Colombian Visa: The Plan That Didn’t Work
The high-priced lawyer (yes, offering bilingual services comes with a price) that his company had on retainer suggested I get a “practicing professional visa” (M-7), saying that I was an English teacher (true) and was looking into starting an English school in Medellin (not so true). He offered to write the letter for me and said it should be the equivalent of a “slam, dunk” in sports vernacular and could be handled efficiently online.
When the email response from the Colombian authorities arrived, it requested that I appear in Bogota in just three days, a trip which entailed a round-trip airfare, an overnight stay, and what sounded like a fairly extensive interview about my credentials and plans. After talking to several expats, I learned that whether you got the visa or not could be fairly arbitrary, depending on the mood of the official or the workload of the day.
We finally decided that it was worth neither the time nor the expense to pursue a visa that rested on the false pretense that I would be starting a school.
Simultaneously, my husband’s contract ended and we decided to leave, with only 10 days left on our tourist visa.
No Colombian Visa: Out of Country
We’re now living in Mexico City on a 180-day tourist visa; the visa situation appears to be more flexible here. However, the new, more viable plan is to return to Medellin in January, when the countdown starts all over again on a tourist visa and, when that runs out, move on to another favorite city for the rest of the year.
One of my expat skills that have gotten a lot of play these past few years is flexibility. It’s all good. We will be happy wherever we land.
Are you struggling with visa issues? We want to share your pain.
by: Eileen Brill-Wagner