Moving to Colombia: A Guide for Expats and Digital Nomads
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- With its relatively low costs and high quality of life, Colombia has emerged as a popular choice for expats.
- Applying for one of the many Colombian visas and finding jobs calls for thorough research and careful planning.
- Deel’s step-by-step guide shows you how to effortlessly navigate the Colombian visa process and settle into your new home.
In recent years, Colombia has attracted an increasing number of expats and digital nomads. The rise of remote work combined with Colombia's mild climate (year-round), vibrant South American culture, low cost of living, and easy access to the Pacific Ocean, the Caribbean, and the Andes mountains make it an attractive option for relocation.
Although Colombia does not offer as many visa options as EU or Schengen Zone countries, it provides a range of visas that make it easier for foreigners to stay in the country, short-term or permanently.
Moving to Colombia requires thorough planning. While the opportunity may be exciting, there can be challenges to address and paperwork to prepare. Our guide will help you navigate the essentials for your successful start in Colombia.
Step 1: Prepare your documents
Before moving to Colombia, familiarize yourself with the necessary documentation and visa requirements.
Types of visa
The Colombian government has a variety of visas allowing foreigners to enter and stay in the country, including:
- Tourist visa: Allows a short-term stay to experience Colombian culture and tourism
- Temporary visa: This covers categories such as employment, partnerships, ownership of a company, and student visas
- Resident visa: For those who intend to live in Colombia permanently
- Visitor visa - Business: For entrepreneurs planning business activities in Colombia
- Visitor visa - TP-7: For retirees and independent workers who can prove a regular monthly income
Non-Colombian citizens generally need a sponsor to work in Colombia unless they are married to a Colombian citizen or have a Colombian company to sponsor them.
Essential document checklist
Organizing your paperwork before starting the Colombian visa application process can help avoid unnecessary delays. Depending on your visa type, these documents may include:
✅ Valid passport: Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay and have at least two blank pages.
✅ Passport-sized photos: The standard dimensions are 35mm by 45mm, and the photo must be no less than six months old
✅ Visa application form: Download, fill out, and sign according to the specific requirements for your visa type.
✅ Proof of outbound travel: This can be your airline boarding pass or bus ticket showing your departure from Colombia.
✅ Health insurance: Proof that you have at least $70,000 in medical coverage for your visit.
✅ Accommodation details: Information about where you will be staying during your visit to Colombia.
✅ Proof of employment: In the case of a work visa, your job offer letter, or signed employment contract.
✅ Proof of financial means: To show that you're able to support yourself during your stay in Colombia.
✅ Marriage and birth certificates: If you're relocating with your family, they will need these documents to apply for dependent visas.
Importance of authenticating and translating documents
Colombian authorities may require you to legalize certain documents. If your country isn’t under the Apostille Convention, you may have to get your local Colombian consulate or embassy to authenticate your paperwork.
Translating documents like birth and marriage certificates into Spanish might also be needed. It's recommended to use a professional service that can verify the accuracy of the translation.
Step 2: Manage your finances
Colombia’s relatively low cost of living makes it an appealing destination for expats. Still, costs can vary wildly depending on the city and lifestyle. Here's a guide to help you navigate your finances:
Cost of living in Colombia
Here’s what you can expect in terms of living costs in Colombia:
- Renting: A one-bedroom apartment in city centers can cost around 1,500,000 COP ($390) per month, while outside the city center, the price can drop to approximately 1,000,000 COP ($260).
- Buying property: The real estate market offers opportunities for investment, especially for those planning a longer stay. Costs vary widely by location, and places like Bogotá, the capital city, will be more sought after and expensive. Remember to consider additional expenses such as notary fees and property registration.
- Food and drink: Groceries are relatively inexpensive, especially if purchasing local products. Dining out at a mid-range restaurant may cost around 60,000 COP ($15) for two.
- Transport: Public transportation is affordable, with monthly passes in major cities like Cali, Barranquilla, or Cartagena costing around 80,000 COP ($20). Taxis and rideshare apps are also economical options.
- Utilities: Monthly utility bills for a standard apartment can range from 150,000 to 300,000 COP ($40-$80), covering electricity, water, and internet, depending on usage.
Colombia's taxation system includes income tax, which is progressive and ranges from 0% to 39%. Residents in the country are taxed on their worldwide income, while non-residents only on their Colombia-sourced income.
Expats should investigate whether a double taxation treaty between their home country and Colombia ensures their income is only taxed once.
Banking and currency exchange
Opening a bank account in Colombia requires a cédula de extranjería, proof of income, and sometimes a minimum deposit. Colombia's currency is the Colombian Peso (COP).
You can easily exchange USD, Euro, and any other currency at banks, currency exchange booths, and airports. However, using ATMs (it’s best to use these during business hours and inside banks) or credit cards might offer better exchange rates.
Step 3: Arrange housing and accommodation
Securing the right accommodation is crucial for a comfortable life in Colombia. It significantly affects your lifestyle and integration into the local community.
Renting vs. buying
The rental market in Colombia is diverse, offering everything from modern apartments in bustling cities to quieter, spacious options in the countryside. Security deposits are typically one month's rent, and leases are commonly for a one-year term (solutions like Airbnb are available for shorter stays).
Buying property can be a good investment as property prices in Colombia have been increasing. However, it requires dealing with local regulations and, potentially, the language barrier.
Finding suitable housing
Location is crucial, with factors such as safety, proximity to work or schools, and access to public transportation strongly impacting quality of life and being top priorities for most expats.
Once you’ve chosen a property, ensure the rental agreement is clear about:
- Rental price and payment conditions
- Security deposit and other upfront costs
- Length of the lease and any conditions for renewal or termination
- Landlord and tenant responsibilities for maintenance and repairs
- Policies on pets and modifications to the property
Understanding these financial and housing considerations will help you make a smooth transition to life in Colombia, allowing you to enjoy all the experiences this diverse country has to offer.
Step 4: Consider career opportunities and working arrangements
Finding work in Colombia can be challenging due to high competition—many expats cite difficulties in securing employment that aligns with their skill sets. However, Colombia's growing economy means there are opportunities for those who look, especially for those with skills in high demand or for remote workers.
In this section, we’ll discuss navigating career opportunities and job applications in Colombia.
Job market overview
Researching industry trends in Colombia is crucial, as the economy has sectors rapidly increasing in demand. Platforms like LinkedIn and Indeed are valuable resources, or consider local job boards such as Elempleo.com and Computrabajo Colombia. Especially the technology, hospitality, and education sectors are experiencing significant growth.
Language is a key factor in the Colombian job market; fluency in Spanish significantly increases your opportunities. However, in larger cities like Bogotá or Medellín (also known as the city of eternal spring), you can find multinational companies that operate in English.
Websites dedicated to English-speaking opportunities, such as Glassdoor or LinkedIn, can also be useful.
Understanding work culture in Colombia
Colombia’s work culture values personal relationships heavily, much like many South American countries. It's common to have longer face-to-face meetings rather than quick calls or virtual meetings. However, punctuality is appreciated, reflecting a blend of efficiency and the importance of building lasting rapport.
Work hours typically run from 8 am to 5 pm with a two-hour lunch break, adhering to Colombia's more relaxed pace of life.
Step 5: Organize healthcare and education
In terms of healthcare and education, moving to Colombia offers options to suit diverse needs and priorities.
Healthcare system in Colombia
Colombia has a two-tier healthcare system, combining public and private options. The country is renowned for its high-quality healthcare services, with cities like Bogotá and Medellín housing some of the best hospitals in Latin America.
Registration with the public health system, which offers comprehensive coverage, is mandatory for residents, but it can lead to long wait times for certain procedures or specialists. Many expats and locals opt for private health insurance to access quicker services and broader options for treatment.
Education options in Colombia
Education for children in Colombia can be pursued through public and private schools, including numerous international schools offering various curriculums. Education is compulsory until the age of 15, with public and private institutions providing various educational quality. Homeschooling is also an option, though less common than in some countries.
Step 6: Ensure your safety
Like any country, Colombia has its safety concerns, primarily in certain urban areas. Crimes like pickpocketing and theft are not uncommon in crowded city centers or nightlife areas. It's advisable to stay vigilant, use common sense, and avoid displaying valuables.
You can call the emergency services in Colombia by dialing 123. It's also wise to have your embassy's contact details.
Despite these issues, many areas in Colombia, particularly in the largest cities and tourist regions, are well-policed and secure. Additionally, initiatives to improve safety and infrastructure contribute to a positive living environment for expatriates and locals alike.
Step 7: Immerse yourself in Colombian culture
Embracing Colombia’s vibrant culture and traditions is key to a fulfilling expat experience.
- Relationship with neighbors: Colombia shares borders with several countries (Panama, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Peru), each bringing a unique cultural influence, yet Colombians are proud of their distinct identity
- Dress code: Colombians tend to dress smartly, particularly in urban areas. Casual wear is more accepted in coastal and rural regions.
- Cafe culture: Colombia's coffee culture is deeply rooted, with the country being a major coffee producer. Enjoying locally sourced coffee in one of the many cafes is a must.
- Music and dance: Colombia has a rich musical heritage that includes cumbia and vallenato. Dancing is a significant aspect of social gatherings.
By engaging with the local culture, language, and people, expats can enrich their experience and smoothly transition into their new life in South America.
Discover a warm welcome in Colombia
From the Andean region to the idyllic Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast, Colombia is a great place for expats and digital nomads. You can benefit from affordable living costs, solid social security, diverse job opportunities, rich cultural experiences, and breathtaking natural beauty.
Careful research and planning can ensure a smooth relocation if you're considering a move to Colombia. For extra support, Deel can guide organizations and their employees through the visa application process and help them shop for insurance plans.