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 visas.
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.
Some Things To Be Aware Of
To work in Colombia, you must first obtain a work visa for your profession, occupation activity or trade. Information on this can be found through Migración Colombia.
For professional work, you must have your qualifications validated and obtain a license or permission to work from the relevant agency before you can begin.
You cannot be employed in Colombia on a tourist visa. Working for yourself as a digital nomad is an exception as you are paying taxes etc. in another country.
Upon being employed in Colombia you are obliged to pay into the General Social Security System as a dependent. This will allow you access to a pension and public healthcare.
The option to pay into the pension scheme is voluntary providing you have proof that you are paying into a pension in another country.
Your Rights As A Worker In Colombia
Based on the constitutional principle of equality and discrimination, the foreign worker in Colombia has the following rights:
- Conclusion of a contract of employment
- Payment of a salary for the provision of the service
- Affiliation to the General Social Security System (Health, Pension and Occupational Risks)
- Membership of a family compensation fund
- Payment of their social benefits
- Holidays with pay
- Membership of an association and/or trade union organization
Usual Expat Jobs In Colombia
The most popular jobs for expats are to teach English or to work online as a digital nomad. Digital Nomads like Colombia for the fast, reliable internet combined with low cost of living.
Teach English In Colombia
A teaching qualification such as a TEFL certificate is a good place to start. This is especially true if you haven’t taught before.
However, you are likely to find that there are plenty of opportunities without a certificate. In most cases, employers will prefer a bachelor’s degree. If you don’t have a bachelor’s degree then getting a TEFL qualification should be a priority.
Finding a teaching job in Colombia will usually mean that you have to be there in person. Most jobs are advertised locally and nearly all of them will require you be interviewed in person.
When Can I Find A Teaching Job?
There are two main employment windows. January – March and July – August.
Most of the jobs available will be at private schools. Recently though, more jobs are becoming available at colleges and high schools.
The big cities are the best places to look for jobs, especially Bogota and Medellin.
Does Being A Teacher Pay Well In Colombia?
There are countries that pay a lot better, but you will have enough to get by. Many English teachers choose to do private lessons as a way to supplement their income. You can expect to receive around US$700 per month although some jobs pay up to US$1,000.
Private lessons are usually done online via Skype. This keeps costs to a minimum and allows teachers to maximize the number of pupils they can teach.
How To Create A CV For Colombian Job Market
A CV in Colombia is known as Hoja de Vida. The layout and information is slightly different to the U.S. style CV. While international companies will accept the traditional CV, if you are applying for a job with a Colombian company you will want to format according to the Hoja de Vida style.
What To Include On Hoja de Vida
Full Contact Details
Passport Size Photo
A paragraph stating who you are and what you will bring to the company.
Full Education History
Other Qualifications And Skills
Previous Job History
The Hoja de Vida should be sent along with a strong cover letter. The cover letter should contain any extra information such as your motivation for applying and relevant achievements.
Finding Work In Bogota
The nation’s capital is home to the best job opportunities in Colombia. Traditionally Bogota was a manufacturing city with most of the jobs centered around the many factories.
Today an influx of international companies has opened up the job market to foreign workers. If you can speak English and Spanish you will be at a real advantage.
Finding Work In Medellin
A good resource for expats looking to find work in Medellin is Facebook. The page Jobs For Gringos in Medellin is regularly updated and features a variety of different roles. The page also features some rental accommodation listings and other resources that can help you get started in Medellin.
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 notarized, 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!