Tourist Visas in Colombia

tourist-visas-1Great! You want to go to Colombia for tourism. The good news is that it's very unlikely that you'll need a visa: you'll be given one automatically upon arrival by air, land, or sea. If you're a citizen of: the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Japan, virtually all of Europe, any South American country, and any Central American country (except Nicaragua), you don't need a visa for tourism purposes.

Upon arrival in Colombia, at the discretion of the immigration official, you will be given a visa for 30, 60, or 90 days. While in years past it was common to receive 60 or sometimes even 30 days, now it is fairly standard practice to receive 90. It's always best to specifically ask for 90 days when you enter; you never know if you might want to extend your stay, and it's always better safe than sorry. Once 90 days have elapsed, you have two options. You can either cross a border (most likely Ecuador or Venezuela), and return for another 90 days; OR you can extend your visa at the office on Calle 100 in Bogota.

Basically there are two rules that apply to tourism visas: you get a maximum of 90 days each entry, and you can not stay in Colombia more than 180 days with only a tourist visa. If you want to stay in Colombia more than six months a year, you'll need to get a business, work, or student visa.

To extend your tourist visa beyond 90 days, you'll need to head to the immigration office (Unidad Administrativa Especial Migracion Colombia) in Bogota (or any other major Colombian city): Calle 100 #11B–27. You'll need to deposit $75.000 in a special account in Banco Occidente, and arrive with passport photos, a completed application form, and proof of departure from the country (such as an airline ticket), although this is rarely enforced.

It is very important that you comply with all of Colombia's visa and immigration requirements (or those of any country for that matter)...otherwise you face deportation, stiff fines, or even (although unlikely) jail time. Make sure to inspect all entry and exit stamps in your passport with every border crossing. Remember also that it is extremely possible to enter a country without remembering to get the entry stamp: this can and has happened to backpackers in Colombia at land borders.

For example...say you are heading north to Cali from Quito, Ecuador. You cross the border from Tulcan to Ipiales. In Tulcan, the Ecuadorian official gives you an exit visa stamp in your passport. But you're so excited, and a bit absent-minded, to be in Colombia, that you simply walk into the country and hop on the first bus through Pasto/Popayan/Cali. No one on the Colombian side is going to stop you, and they most likely will not examine your passport at the bus terminal.tourist-visas-2 

If you think that this can not happen, think again, because it happened to an Argentine backpacker I met in Cali...and he paid a VERY expensive fine as a result of his mistake.

Just remember that you need an exit and entry stamp EVERY time you cross a border; whether it's by land in Venezuela or Ecuador, by sea in Panama (via Capurgana) Brazil (via Leticia) or Peru (via Leticia), or by air. It won't cost you anything to cross these borders by sea or land; and your taxes are normally already included in your airfare. One exception; if you have stayed in Colombia longer than 60 days, you will be required to pay an additional exit tax of either $35 or $70.000.

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