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A Practical Guide on Relocating to Colombia

A couple walking on the streets of Colombia.
Before living in small Colombian cities, you should know a few helpful facts.

As a place to live, Colombia has a lot going for it, and we’re pretty sure lots of travelers, expats, and retirees who’ve moved there will agree.

First, it’s a charming country with its incredibly diverse flora and fauna and pretty landscapes. Then you have the equally beautiful Colombian ladies and the rich culture. If you’re thinking of relocating to Colombia soon, the timing couldn’t be any more perfect because of the country’s thriving economy, stable governance, and world-class healthcare programs, among other appealing factors.

Moving to another country might seem like a complicated process, but we can make it simpler and easier for you with this practical guide.

Popular Destinations for Relocation

For ease of access to medical care and a variety of entertainment options, it’s best to choose from among the many Colombian cities when deciding on where to live. Bogota, Medellin, and Cali are the top three choices among expats who relocate to Colombia.

Bogota, the capital, is also the largest city in terms of population. It is home to about 7.4 million people and is considered the political, cultural, and economic hub of the country.

Medellin, the second largest, is often called the “City of Eternal Spring” because of its year-round warm climate. Its position as the leading textile manufacturer in South America has led to the city being considered one of the top fashion hotspots on the continent.

Cali, the third on the list, is recognized as one of the oldest settlements in South America. It is also known as the country’s sports hub, boasting a basketball arena and two football stadiums.

Different Types of Visa

What’s next is a complicated but important stage in your relocation journey — paperwork. During this stage, you might be better off hiring a lawyer to help you out on your immigration to Colombia.

There are 21 types of visas, but they can be generally categorized into three:

  1. Business Visa (NE)

Business visas (NE) are applicable to senior managers or representatives of multinational companies who have established branches or subsidiaries in Colombia. It is further split into four subcategories, which all differ from each other in terms of length of validity and length of stay for each entry (each visa type allows multiple entries).

  1. Temporary Visa (TP)

Most expats with jobs in Colombia typically fall under this category, which is further classified into 16 subcategories. If you’re a foreigner employed by a Colombian company or you’re someone who provides services to local companies or individuals, you can apply for a temporary work visa (TP-4). Note that temporary visas can lose their validity if you leave Colombia for more than 180 consecutive days.

  1. Resident Visa (RE)

Resident visas are for those who have spent a considerable length of time in the country, especially those who were holders of seven specific temporary visa types, including the TP-4. However, there are exceptions — if you’re a holder of a spouse visa (T-10), you only need to have it for around three years before applying for a resident visa.

Applying for Your Visa

As mentioned previously, you’ll need the help of an immigration lawyer to guide you through the complicated process of applying for your visa. But there are a few pieces of information you need to keep in mind.

First, you’ll need to submit certain requirements, which can differ based on the type of visa you’re applying for. Also, you’ll need to pay an application fee for the visa and then another fee once it has been approved.

You can apply for a visa online, but you’ll have to visit the Colombian embassy in your home country to have your passport stamped with the visa.

Finally, for visas with a validity period of more than three months, you’ll need to register yourself at the Special Administrative Unit Migration Colombia within 15 days upon entry to get your foreign identification card or cédula.

World-Class Healthcare

Colombia’s healthcare system currently ranks 22nd out of 191 countries, as reviewed by the World Health Organization. That’s an impressive rank, especially if we were to compare it to how both Canada and the US ranked, at 30th and 37th respectively.

Its healthcare system is accessible even to foreigners, who can sign up for the national public health insurance plan once they become residents and obtain a national ID card. Under the plan, all pre-existing conditions are covered, and there are no age limits.

Some general tips to keep you healthy — as you will be moving to a mountainous country, you should allow yourself some time to adjust to the altitude.

Try not to do anything too strenuous in your first few days. Tap water is safe to drink, especially in the cities. For rural areas, however, you might be better off drinking bottled water. Finally, make sure you wear long-sleeved clothing at night to protect yourself against mosquito bites.

Affordable and Comfortable Living

The low cost of living in Colombia is one of the reasons why there are many expats there. But what’s more impressive is the fact that you also get to enjoy first-world amenities and infrastructure, the type you’d expect in countries that are more expensive to live in.

An average expat can live well on just US $1,500 each month and can even afford a private housekeeper or cook on that budget.

A man looking over the city of Medellin.
Starting a new life in Colombia can be challenging, but the country's charm persuades you to stay.

Good-to-Know Facts When Moving to Colombia

You won’t have any problems with your life in Colombia with regards to the food, as it is both delicious and cheap. But if you want to get a feel of the local culture, we suggest you visit the open-air markets, where you can buy a variety of fresh produce and meat and get a taste of the campesino, the local espresso drink served with sugar, cream, and cinnamon.

Aside from the sumptuous cuisine, the country is also known for its amazing biodiversity, so make sure to take some time off every once in a while to explore the countryside and the coastal areas.

Getting around isn’t a problem as public transport is cheap and efficient. But if you prefer to drive yourself, you can buy second-hand cars at an affordable price.

Relocating to Colombia might take a bit of effort, but once you get there, you’ll see that all that fuss is worth it.

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