How to Obtain a Colombia Retirement Visa – 2021 Update
Colombia’s retirement visa is intended for retired persons receiving a retirement income. This retirement visa is relatively easy to get with a low-income requirement and only a few documents needed. Medellín in particular in Colombia is gaining a reputation as a top foreign retirement location.
The Colombia retirement (pensionado) visa was previously known as the TP-7 visa in 2017. This TP-7 visa was valid for only one year and needed to be renewed each year. However, Colombia changed its Colombian visa rules, which went into effect on December 15, 2017.
So, starting on December 15, 2017, the Colombia retirement visa changed and is now known as a Migrant (M) visa of category 11 (an M-11 visa). The major change of the M-11 retirement (pension) visa compared to the TP-7 visa, is that the M-11 visa could be valid for up to three years but recently is being granted for only a year, depending on your health insurance coverage.
In addition, if you had an old TP-7 retirement visa, it didn’t change to a M-11 retirement visa until you renewed. Also, you are not permitted to work in Colombia with a M-11 retirement visa or the old TP- retirement visa.
The cost for the M-11 retirement visa is $282 USD, which is higher than the previous TP-7 visa that cost $263. So, the new Colombia retirement visa price is a bit higher.
Note that a M-11 retirement visa loses its validity if you leave Colombia for a period of over six months without returning to Colombia. You can re-enter Colombia before the six months are up and leave again. You just can’t leave one time for more than six months. But this rule currently isn’t being enforced due the quarantine in Colombia.
Coronavirus Visa Impacts
Has the visa process changed in Colombia due to coronavirus?
Yes, the Colombian visa process had changed due to coronavirus and the quarantine in Colombia. Migracion Colombia offices were closed for over five months.
However, Migracion Colombia offices reopened on September 21 with a resumption of services. So, it is now possible to obtain tourist visa extensions and cedulas for foreigners.
On September 21, 2020, Migración Colombia reopened it offices in Colombia and restarted operations for the following services:
- Issuance of the Alien Identification Card Cédula de Extranjería and its duplicate,
- Foreign Registration for both minors and adults,
- Certificates of Migratory Movements,
- Certificate of Migratory Movements and Nationality,
- Safe conduct (Salvoconductos) SC-1 and SC-2,
- Temporary Permits of Stay (PTP) for extensions of stay in the national territory and a category change,
- PEP-FF – this is for Venezuelan citizens.
According to ExpatGroup, the visa agency we partnered with, they have been submitting visa applications online without issues and have been receiving visa approvals since the coronavirus pandemic started.
The visa agency we partnered with has helped many foreigners obtain visas during the pandemic including retirement visas, marriage visas, student visas, investment visas and resident visas.
Medellín: A Top Foreign Retirement Location
Medellín continues to attract more foreign retirees with its low cost of living, “eternal spring” climate and good healthcare. Colombia has 24 of the best hospitals in Latin America and nine of these are in Medellín.
Also, the city has been described by a number of publications including U.S. News and Huffington Post as a top foreign retirement location. Also, we have looked at 11 reasons why Medellín is considered a top foreign retirement location.
In addition, Medellín has been touted for many years as a top foreign retirement location by the foreign retirement publications. I have lived in Medellín for over eight years. And each year it seems that I see more foreign retirees in the city. While I’m not retired, I previously wrote about 27 reasons why I chose to live in Medellín.
Many of these 27 reasons are attracting foreign retirees to Medellín, particularly the climate, low cost of living, good public transportation and good and inexpensive healthcare. But there are also some downsides to living in Medellín that should be considered by foreign retirees looking at moving to the city of Medellín.
2021 Income Requirement for Colombia Retirement Visa
The income requirement for the Colombian M-11 visa is the same as the previous TP-7 retirement visa – your income must exceed three times the minimum wage in Colombia. The minimum salary in Colombia is 908,526 pesos per month in 2021.
So in 2021, you need an income of only 2,725,584 pesos per month (which is only $759 USD at the exchange rate of 3,529 pesos to USD) to qualify for the Colombia retirement visa.
The minimum monthly salary in Colombia increases each year. For example, in 2021, the minimum salary in Colombia increased 3.5 percent, which was lower than the 6 percent increase in 2020.
Reportedly the Colombian government can renew retirement visas for people that qualified under lower amounts in previous years.
In addition, Colombia prefers official government pension certifications like from the U.S. Social Security Administration. It reportedly can be more difficult to be approved with private pension plans.
How to Apply for a Colombia Retirement Visa
You can apply for a Colombia retirement visa online. In addition, you can obtain Colombian visas at Colombian consulates around the world. In the U.S., Colombia has consulates located in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, Newark, New York, San Francisco and Washington DC.
The Colombian visa process is done online. You can apply for a Colombia retirement visa online here. This application will require scans of all required documents in PDF files plus the photo in jpg format.
After receiving the online visa approval, if doing this in Colombia, you used to need to travel to Bogotá to get the visa in your passport. Or if at another country you can get the visa put in your passport at a Colombian consulate.
Visas in Colombia are issued at the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores office in Bogotá. This is located at Avenida 19 # 98-03, Torre 100 Building, 3rd Floor. It used to be open from 7:30 am until noon but has been closed during the pandemic. So, it is not longer stamping visas in passports and instead is issuing visas electronically known as e-visas.
I successfully obtained three Colombian visas that I applied for my own in the past that were good for a total of five years. But the biggest challenge with doing a Colombian visa yourself is not benefiting from the experiences of a a visa agency, which has processed hundreds of visas and knows exactly what is needed for each type of visa. So, I now recommend using a visa agency.
For my latest visa received in 2018, a Colombia resident visa, I used a visa agency. And I found the experience painless and now highly recommend using a visa service over doing a Colombia visa application yourself. The bottom line is with a visa agency you are less likely to run into problems.
Documents Required for the Colombia Retirement Visa
The following documents are required for M-11 retirement visa:
- Photocopy of the first page of your valid passport where your personal data is displayed.
- Photocopy of the page of your passport with the last stamp of entry or departure of Colombia is located.
- If you’ve had a previous Colombian visa, a photocopy of this visa.
- Proof of pension: certificate issued by government, public or private company, foreign entity or diplomatic or consular mission from the country that the foreign national receives the retirement funds. This shows that the applicant receives a monthly stipend of no less than three times the current legal minimum monthly salary.
- International health insurance policy certificate showing you have an international health insurance policy that covers you. This policy should be valid for at least a year, since the validity time of your visa is dependent on the validity time of your international health insurance. This health insurance policy should show that it has at least $70,000 USD in coverage. We have a separate article that looks at inexpensive travel insurance that meets this requirement.
- Passport style face photo with a white background, sized at 3 cm width X 4 cm height, maximum size of 300 kb jpg file for online application.
Having an international health insurance policy is a new retirement visa requirement in 2020 based on the experience of the visa agency we partnered with. Once you have a visa and cedula, you qualify for Colombia’s EPS health insurance, which is believed will be sufficient for renewing a visa.
Proof of Pension Required
The proof of pension for the retirement visa typically needs to be apostilled. For a pension from the United States Social Security Administration (SSA) this proof of pension is a SSA Benefit Verification letter. To get this letter the easiest method is via the Social Security web site.
To get this SSA Benefit Verification letter on this site, you will need to create an account, found on the left side of the SSA’s main home page: “my Social Security”. Create an account, log in and go to your Benefit & Payment Details link found on the top menu bar. Then, click on this, and the middle of the page you will see “Get a Benefit Verification Letter”. Click on this link and it will open your SSA Benefit Verification letter, which you can then print.
After you have your SSA Benefit Verification you need to verify this for it to be used in Colombia.
In the past, one way to verify this document was to get an apostille for this letter to use it in Colombia. An “apostille” is a type of authentication that is attached to a document so it is certified legally for use in other countries.
The SSA Benefit Verification Letter is a federal document so the only place you could can get it authenticated was by the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. Several expats have reported that the U.S. Department of State no longer will apostille a SSA Benefit Verification letter, since there is no signature. But some readers have reported that you can get the letter signed by an SSA officer at an SSA office and then get an apostille.
How to Get a Benefits Verification Letter from the U.S. Embassy
The alternative to the apostille used by many for retirement visas is a benefits verification letter from the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá. This letter is sometimes called a “budget letter,” a “benefits letter,” a “proof of income letter,” or a “proof of award letter”.
To request a benefits verification letter at the U.S. Embassy, you need to request “notarial and other services” and get an appointment.
On the day of your notary appointment you will need to present:
- Original or copy of valid U.S. passport
- Documentation from Social Security, Veterans, private pension from the current year indicating the amount you receive or bank statements from the last three months showing the monthly amount you receive
- The $50 notary fee.
Or instead of doing this visa process yourself you can use a visa agency that will take care of everything for you. So, you will avoid a trip to Bogotá for the benefits verification letter.
Using a Visa Agency for a Colombia Retirement Visa
If you are in Colombia, you can use a visa agency to obtain a Colombia retirement visa. A visa agency can handle the online application and ensure you have the required paperwork.
Medellin Guru has partnered with what we believe is the best visa agency in Medellín to offer Colombia visa services. Features of this service include:
- Online chat – get visa questions answered fast.
- Online quotes – get immediate visa quotes.
- Office in El Poblado in Medellín.
- Competitive price compared to other visa services.
The Medellin Guru visa service partnership was launched in March 2019. And in the first 23 months, 314 visas were successfully received by clients including 107 retirement visas for clients.
Also, our visa service renewed 41 American passports in Bogotá using our passport renewal service and provided visa stamping service to 10 clients (getting the visa in a customer’s passport who applied for a visa himself before the pandemic). In addition, 28 clients extended tourist visas using our tourist visa extension service.
So, in total we had 393 clients of the Medellin Guru visa service in the first 23 months.
In addition, many more visas are in process – short, medium or longer term, depending on client needs.
We reviewed all the Colombia visa agency services in Medellín and found one agency that offers a more efficient visa service with more features and more comprehensive communications including online chat, WhatsApp, Skype, email and phone plus a low price and a convenient office in El Poblado.
Our visa partnership is an affiliate relationship (like the Amazon affiliate program). If you use our visa partner, Medellin Guru receives a small commission and you support the website. This is at no additional cost to you. The price remains the same, whether you use a button or affiliate link on this website or not.
Furthermore, the visa agency we partnered with offers visa services anywhere in Colombia. So, if you are located in another city in Colombia you can use this service.
Getting a Colombian Cedula
After you have successfully received your Colombia retirement visa, you normally have a maximum of 15 calendar days to register your visa with Migración Colombia to get a Cedula de Extranjeria (Colombian ID for foreigners).
Or if you received your visa at a consulate, you will have 15 calendar days after you arrive in Colombia to register your visa.
Due to being photographed and fingerprinted this must be done in-person at a Migración Colombia office.
Especially relevant, normally it is very important to register your Colombian resident visa within the allotted time frame. If not, you will be liable for a big fine of up to seven times the minimum monthly salary in Colombia. The minimum salary in Colombia is 908,526 pesos per month in 2021. So, the fine is up to 6,359,682 pesos in 2021. But this fine did not apply during the quarantine.
To register your visa and apply for a cedula this must be done at one of the Migración Colombia offices. You can find Migración Colombia offices in major cities in Colombia.
- Barranquilla – Carrera 42 # 54-77, Barrio El Recreo
- Bogotá – Calle 100 #11B-27
- Cali – Avenida 3 norte # 50N-20
- Cartagena – Carrera 20 B # 29-18, Barrio pie de la Popa
- Medellín – Calle 19 #80A-40, Barrio Belén (the entrance is on the other side of the building on Calle 19A)
A complete list of the Migración Colombia offices is found here. In addition, we have a guide to applying for a Cedula Extranjeria in Colombia. Starting on September 21, Migración Colombia offices have reopened in Colombia. So, it again possible to obtain a Cedula de Extranjeria.
After having an migrant (M) retirement visa for five years you are eligible to receive a resident (R) visa. And after having an R visa for five years you can apply to become a citizen of Colombia.
Also, you won’t have to give up your existing citizenship. Colombia permits dual-citizenship, as does the U.S. and many other countries.
Once you become a dual citizen with Colombian citizenship, you will no longer need to deal with visas anymore. Also, you will be able to travel to a few counties as a Colombian citizen without a visa such as Russia, which require a visa for U.S. citizens.
Also, if you have Colombian citizenship, this benefits you with the Mercosur trade block. Nationals of Member States (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) and Associated States (Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru) do not need a passport or visa to travel around the region, with only a national identity card required.
In addition, the Mercosur Agreement grants the right to residence and work for citizens with no requirement other than nationality. Citizens of the Member States and Associated States that are part of the agreement enjoy a facilitated procedure for applying for a residence visa, as long as they have a valid passport, birth certificate and a negative certificate of criminal record.
To become a citizen, Colombia requires a citizenship test, just like the U.S. does. You will be required to pass a test related to Colombian history, geography and the constitution. Also, a basic Spanish oral test is required. Those who have a bachelor’s degree from a Colombian university or are over 65 years old are exempt from these tests.
Medellin Guru’s Comprehensive Visa and Passport Series
The Colombian visa changes that went into effect in mid-December 2017 were significant. So, on the Medellin Guru site, we have a comprehensive series of visa articles that are kept up-to-date and should answer most visa questions. These articles include:
- Colombia Visa Guide: Ultimate Guide How to Get a Colombian Visa
- How to Obtain a Colombian Visa with Up-to-Date Info – an overview of all the Colombian visas
- Coronavirus Impacts on Colombian Visas and Tourist Visas
- Visa Agencies: A Guide to Visa Agencies in Medellín and Colombia
- 7 Common Colombian Visa Mistakes: How to Avoid Them
We have looked in detail at the seven most popular Colombian visas used by foreigners:
- Retirement visa
- Marriage visa
- Investment visa
- Resident visa
- Work visa
- Student visa
- Visitor visa
Also, we have looked in detail at three additional Colombian visas, which are less popular for foreigners:
- Rentista visa (annuity visa) – for foreigners with a fixed income
- Beneficiary visa – for relatives of visa holders
- Expertise visa – for professionals
In addition, we have a guide to Colombia tourist visas and how to extend a tourist visa. Also, we have a guide to renewing U.S. passports in Colombia and a guide to obtaining a Colombian passport.
Furthermore, we provide information about travel insurance that meets the insurance requirement for Colombian visas. And we have a guide to how apply for a cedula extranjeria in Colombia and a guide to using notaries in Medellín and Colombia. Finally, Medellin Guru has partnered with a visa agency to offer Colombia visa services.
All of our Colombia visa articles were updated in early 2019 to ensure they are up-to-date and were updated again multiple times in 2020. In addition, all visa articles on this website will be kept up-to-date as new details are disclosed.
The Bottom Line: Obtaining a Colombia Retirement Visa
Colombia’s retirement visa is relatively easy to get with a low-income requirement, which is lower than many other countries. The income requirement is only $759 USD per month (at the exchange rate of 3,592 pesos to USD) to qualify for this retirement visa. This is a lower income requirement than the income requirement for retirement visas in most other countries.
The Colombia retirement visa is one of the most popular visas for foreigners. But it’s only intended for people who are retired with a retirement income.
The visa agency we partnered with has helped 107 Medellin Guru readers obtain retirement visas in less than two years.