Connecticut, US

Dec 14 2017

Details on New Immigration Law Released


Executive Summary

On December 15, 2017, as part of its immigration system overhaul, Colombia will:

  • Simplify the visa system by reducing the number of visa types from 21 to three (each with the corresponding sub-categories), but will not substantially alter the entry rules for most foreign nationals;
  • Codify rules and procedures such as mandating a timeframe by which authorities must adjudicate a visa application and requiring foreign nationals to apply for a new visa if their circumstances change; and
  • Extend the time that technical visitors can remain in Colombia from 180 days to up to two years.


While this is largely a reorganization and will not significantly alter the rules or processes for most foreign nationals seeking to work in Colombia, employers and foreign nationals should pay particular attention to the details and completeness of their applications.

All applications filed on or after December 15 will need to meet the new rules. Some delays can be expected as a result of the temporary suspension of the online system.

The situation

Colombia is introducing changes to its immigration law and processes. Effective December 15, 2017, all new visa applications for Colombia must comply with the new immigration law.

Main changes


  • Technical visitors. Short-term technical visitors will still be able enter under a Visitor visa. The maximum amount of stay will be increased from 180 days to up to two years.
    • Impact. Fewer renewals will be needed for longer stays.


  • Codified adjudication time. Under the new law, immigration authorities must adjudicate a complete visa application within five business days of submission. Where additional documentation/information is requested, authorities must adjudicate the application within 30 days of receipt of that material. Previously, authorities would take one to two weeks to adjudicate applications.
    • Impact. Decision-ready applications will be adjudicated faster.


  • Codified denial and appeal rules. The new law explicitly states that:
    • applications may be denied at the authorities’ discretion;
    • all decisions are final and appeals will not be accepted; and
    • if an application is denied, the foreign national cannot submit a new application for six months.
      • Impact. A complete and accurate application is essential.


  • Codified rules on circumstance changes. Foreign nationals who are authorized to work under certain subcategories of the Visitor and Migrant visas, such as the V-13 and M-5 categories, can only legally perform the job and can only work for the sponsoring company listed on their original visa application.


A foreign national will have 30 business days to secure a new visa before they can change their role or employer. If a new visa is not granted in this time, the foreign national must depart Colombia.  The foreign national will not be allowed to legally work in Colombia until they secure a new visa with their updated information.

Failure to secure a new visa or depart the country within the permitted 30 days can result in penalties and may necessitate a regularization process.

  • Impact. Employers will need to review their processes to monitor and track changes in foreign nationals’ circumstances.


  • Labor/services contract requirement. Companies seeking to hire foreign nationals under the Visitor visa, subcategory 13 (V-13), are advised to submit either a labor or services contract with their application until the related requirement is clarified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
    • Impact. Employers must allow additional time for preparation of required documentation.


Key rules that remain unchanged

  • Entry permits. Entry permits for visa-exempt nationals, called PIP, will remain unchanged by the new immigration law.  
  • Professional permits, degree validations and professional licenses. Foreign nationals who hold a foreign bachelor’s degree must still undergo the respective professional permit/degree validation process even if their visa allows them to work.  Affected foreign nationals should contact their immigration professional about this requirement.
  • SIRE. Employers must still notify the government of all employment/assignment start and end dates for foreign nationals under V, M, R and Entry Permits within 15 calendar days of the event. These notifications must be completed on Colombia’s online government immigration system, called SIRE (Sistema de Información de Registro de Extranjeros). Additional personal notification obligations apply for certain M and R visas.


Implementation and transitional measures

  • Transition. Visas valid prior to December 15 will continue to be valid. Applications pending on December 15 may require reapplication according to the new law.
  • Delays. As a reminder, foreign nationals and employers should expect delays with the new platform and with application processing during the initial implementation period.
  • Increased scrutiny. Foreign nationals and employers should expect increased scrutiny of applications as well as discretionary application of the law during the initial implementation period. Please consult your immigration provider for any questions during this transition period.


This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to [email protected].