Getting a Visa to Work in Colombia
For many expats, working in Colombia is a major consideration when deciding to relocate. Whether you have a young family to support, or are looking to make a little spending money to supplement your retirement, finding a job in Colombia can be an essential part of your plan.
Two types of work visas are available in Colombia: one for doing business and another for temporary labor. You can apply for both through the Colombian embassy or by contacting your hiring company for further details. To work in Colombia, you will need to have documentation (declaration of salary and purpose) provided by your hiring company and submitted to the Colombian government.
Colombian Temporary Work Visa:
To acquire a temporary visa, you will need to provide proof that you have accepted a job in Colombia. Colombia visas for temporary work are issued for a two-year term. Once your work visa is approved, you will need to register for your Colombian foreign identification card. There are 14 classes of the temporary work visa.
Colombian Business Visa:
This visa is for executive business professionals who want to establish working relationships, create or invest in companies, or generate high-level business (multinational corporations) within Colombia. Business visas are issued for a three-year term (max). There are currently 4 classes of the business visa.
As with many countries, Colombia aims to protect local jobs by having strict processes for foreigners wanting to gain employment. In recent years, Colombia has begun attracting entrepreneurs and technology companies and is looking to add skilled labor to continue growth in this sector.
Types of Jobs Available to Expats in Colombia
The most common types of jobs in Colombia available to expats include:
- International transportation (shipping)
- Commercial fishing
- Special skill (artist, cultural figure, athlete)
- Technical skill (specialized technical positions)
Setting Up Your Own Business in Colombia
Starting a business in Colombia can be a great way to earn income, while still having the flexibility to live life on your terms. An important first step is finding a reliable, trustworthy lawyer who can help you navigate the challenges of setting up your business. There are two types of company structures in Colombia: Persona Natural (similar to a sole-proprietorship) and a Persona Juridica (similar to corporate structures – LLC, C Corp, S Corp). Each structure will have its advantages and disadvantages and a reputable lawyer can help you decide which one will provide you with the most benefit and protection.
Next, you (your lawyer) will need to draft up a purpose of business (razon social), which includes:
- Stated purpose for business operation
- Company name
- Starting capital (amount of money used to start the business)
- Legal representation of company
- Notarized corporate constitution (stating all the above)
Once your corporate constitution (estatutos de la empresa) has been notorized, you will then need to register with the local Chamber of Commerce in order to get your business identification number.
You will need to supply the Chamber of Commerce with the following:
- Personal identification (original and copy)
- Corporate constitution
- Registration form (RUES)
- Tax form (RUT)
Once you have all this complete you are well on your way to having a business in Colombia. The process can take anywhere from a month to half a year depending on your lawyer and the type of enterprise. Beyond the steps above, there are the finalization processes, which your lawyer can help with. Those include activating your taxation number, completing permanent registration, and getting your invoicing numbers. Depending on the type of business you are opening, there can be slight variations and further paperwork.
We also recommend getting the following:
- Find an accountant to help with setting up your books.
- Setting up a bank account
Whether you are looking to start a business or work in Colombia, there are plenty of options available to you. Now get out there and go for it!