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Foreign Residency In Colombia

A Second Residency—All Important And Easy In This Top Retirement Haven

Having a legal residency outside the United States can be like having a strongbox full of cash buried in the back yard. It’s not hard to put in place, and the day may come when you’re awfully glad you’ve got it.

Medellin, Colombia, is one of our top recommended lifestyle choices for 2012. As we’ve been reporting for the past 18 months, this pretty mountain city is emerging as one of the best retirement options worldwide. In past reports, however, we’ve cautioned that establishing yourself here, specifically, for example, establishing legal foreign residency, may not be as straightforward as it can be in, say, Panama, Belize, or Uruguay.

Contacts in the country, including our attorney, have disagreed, telling us we’ve got this all wrong.

We’ve been spending a lot of time in Medellin, but coming and going, not as residents, and we haven’t yet tried to establish any full-time formal status in Colombia. However, Latin America Correspondent Lee Harrison has. He, too, has purchased an apartment, and he and his wife are intending to spend enough time living in it that they decided to apply for legal residency.

I asked Lee to write up his experience, explaining both why he and his wife have chosen to take this step and also how they’ve found the residency application process in Colombia.

In addition, I’ve also asked Lee to join us next week as part of the panel of experts we’ve put together for our first-ever Live and Invest in Colombia Conference.

Here’s a preview of the getting-established in Colombia experiences that Lee will share with attendees at the live event in Medellin next week:

“I like residency in Colombia for two reasons. One is that the process is fairly simple and straightforward, with low income and investment requirements. Also, Colombia is a country on the move. It has caught the attention of the world’s investors and recently received the coveted Investment Grade rating from major rating agencies. Gaining residency here makes you a part of that positive dynamic.

“Speaking personally, as a property owner in Colombia, having a residency visa makes it much easier to manage my property, as well as to live in the country part of the year, as I intend to do.

Residency visas in Colombia, as everywhere, come in two general categories–permanent and temporary. A temporary visa in this country is usually valid for one to three years.

“Many visa monetary thresholds for this country are expressed in multiples of the Colombian minimum wage, which is 566,700 pesos per month for 2012. At today’s exchange rate of 1,865 pesos per US$1, the minimum wage works out to US$304 per month.

“The most popular types of temporary visas for expats and investors are these:

  • Pensioner: Intended for a retiree who receives a pension from a public or private company or the government (or Social Security). You must have a retirement income of US$912 per month (three times the minimum wage) to qualify…
  • Rentista: This is for someone who receives a non-pension income from outside Colombia from a public or private company. The minimum income is US$3,039 per month (10 times the minimum wage)…
  • Property Owner/Business Proprietor: In this case you must invest US$30,390 in your own business or in your share of a business…100 times the minimum wage. You can also qualify for this visa by making a property investment. In this case, the municipal value shown on the deed must be more than US$100,000. (Ordinarily, the municipal value on the deed is considerably less than the purchase price. This is a nuance your attorney can help you to understand and manage.)…
  • Spousal Visa: This one’s intended for those with a Colombian spouse or domestic partner. In other words, one option to gaining residency would be to marry a Colombian…

“In all cases, the temporary visa expires if you’re out of Colombia continuously for more than six months.

“Permanent visas do not expire unless you are out of Colombia for more than two years. Here are the most common options for obtaining a permanent visa:

  • Qualified Resident: This visa is immediately available for parents of Colombian children; for those with Colombian spouses who have been on a temporary visa for three years; and for other temporary visa-holders who have been in the country for five years…
  • Resident Investor: This visa requires that you make an investment in Colombia of more than US$100,000. If the investment is in real estate, it must be for more than US$200,000, as shown on your deed. You do not need to “serve time” on a temporary visa to apply for a Resident Investor visa…
  • Returning Colombian: In some cases, Colombians living abroad were required to renounce their Colombian citizenship when they became citizens of their host countries. This visa provides residency when these Colombians return to Colombia.

“Colombia also offers dependents’ visas, for family members who are economically dependent on the primary visa holder. The requirements differ, depending on what type of visa the primary holder has.

“There are perhaps a dozen other special-case visas available, ranging from students to adoptive parents and missionaries. But you’ll likely find the one that’s best for you among those I’ve listed above.

“In the current climate, having a second residency can be worth its weight in gold. It means there’s a country where you can show up and plug yourself in on a moment’s notice.

“For me, the upswing that Colombia has enjoyed over the past five years–along with its low property prices and cost of living–make it an excellent choice right now.”

Kathleen Peddicord

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