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Student Visas in Colombia

Are you interested in studying in Colombia?  This article will explain the best way to get a Colombian student visa, formally known as a TP-3.  The good news is that Colombia has, in general, become more streamlined and business-friendly, making the process easier and quicker.  

Visas are handled by the Cancilleria, a part of the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Relations.  If you are applying for a visa in Bogota, you will need to go to go to the north of Bogota: Avenida 19 #98-03.  It is not far from the Calle 100 stop of the Transmilenio.

To apply for a student visa, you will first be required to pay a $16 fee (the equivalent thereof in Colombian pesos) to do an "estudio".  This is basically a fee that ensures that only serious, qualified applicants, who have carefully prepared their documents, come to the ministry to submit a formal application.  The visa itself costs $51 (or the equivalent in Colombian pesos).  You will only be charged for the visa once your application has been approved.

The most important thing that you will need in order to obtain a student visa is a "certificado de admision" or a "certificado de matricula".  It's basically a document from your institution of higher learning stating that you have paid for and are enrolled in a qualifying course of study at a Colombian institution.  While there are numerous options, many foreigners in Colombia enroll in Spanish language courses, which most universities offer on a rolling admission basis.  

Here are the other documents that you will need to provide:

1.  A photocopy of the biographical information on your passport.

2.  A photocopy of the relevant page in your passport that shows your last entry to Colombia

3.  Photocopies of all previous visas you've received in Colombia (if applicable).

4.  Most importantly, you must provide 6 prior months of bank statements demonstrating that you have 10 "sueldos minimos" in assets.  With the Colombian monthly minimum wage set at $689.455 (2016), 10 monthly minimum wages would be $6.894.550.  At current exchange rate of roughly 2900 (as of October 2016), this would be $2,377 USD.

So the two most important components of your application: an official document from your educational institution, and bank statements that prove that you have $2,377 on hand.

A couple of pieces of advice: In Colombia appearance matters.  When you go to the Cancilleria it helps to look your best.  Dressing up a little bit never hurts.  Also, make sure that all of your documents are in order.  While many things are at the discretion of the Colombian official who attends you, as a general rule they are quite strict, and are very likely to deny your application if you are missing relevant documents.

Once your student visa has been approved, you will be required to register within two weeks with Migracion Colombia.  There you will fill out a form to receive a "Cedula de Extranjeria", basically an identification document for foreigners.  You will be photographed and fingerprinted.  The cost is $162.000 COP (about $60 USD), and can be paid in cash or with a credit card.  Typically your Cedula de Extranjeria will be ready in 5 business days.

So, that's it.  In general, it's a pretty straightforward procedure, especially in comparison with obtaining a work visa.  The length of time you will be granted on your student visa is, again, at the discretion of the Ministry of Foreign Relations.  It's likely that you will be given a one year visa, unless you have enrolled in a longer program of study.  Once your student visa has expired, you are required to leave Colombia.  But as long as you cross an international border, you can come back to Colombia and get a 90 day tourist visa.  Just remember to keep in mind the expiration date of your visa.  It's not a pleasant experience to arrive at the airport and discover that you need to pay a fine to leave the country.

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