New law revamps immigration categories and qualifying criteria
15 Aug 17
IMPACT – MEDIUM
What is the change? Colombia has published a new immigration law that overhauls visa categories and establishes new qualifying criteria.
What does the change mean? The law creates three main visa categories – Visitor (V), Migrant (M) and Resident (R) – and contains important changes to required proofs or documentation that employers should begin to prepare for.
- Implementation time frame: The law was published Aug. 2 and takes effect 90 business days thereafter.
- Visas/permits affected: All Colombian visas and work permits.
- Who is affected: Colombian employers and foreign national employees.
- Impact on processing times: Although it is not yet clear how the changes will impact timelines, the additional criteria for some categories may lengthen overall processing times. The transition to the new categories may also cause short-term delays.
- Business impact: The law simplifies visa categories, but also gives wide discretion to immigration authorities to request additional documentation.
- Next steps: To avoid disruption when the old categories are replaced by the new visas, companies should work with BAL to assess the changes that will affect their employees.
- Previous visa categories and nomenclature will be replaced, but applicants must continue to meet requirements for the activities they will perform.
- Certain visas will require that employers submit a letter of purpose.
- Supporting documents must not be older than three months.
- “Transversal permits” will automatically be implied in visitor visas. This will allow the visitor to carry out business negotiations, market research, direct investment plans and business creation without needing to apply separately for the visa and permit.
- E-visa applicants must obtain the physical visa stamp at a Colombian consulate within 30 days of the electronic issuance (shortened from the current 60 days).
- The law is silent on whether specialized technical services with or without an employment contract (currently TP-13 visas) will continue to be recognized. BAL anticipates that the activities will be covered under the Visitor Visa category for foreign nationals providing temporary services in Colombia.
- Visitor Visa applicants intending on providing temporary services in Colombia must fill out a Contract Summary Form, which does not contain an option for those without a local employment contact with a Colombian entity. It is not clear whether the form will be updated to include applicants who will remain on a foreign contract or if the law will require visitors performing temporary services to enter into a local contract.
Migrant Work Visas
- “Work permits” will be automatically implied in certain migrant visas, which will allow for designated paid work, so the applicant will not need to apply for the visa and permit separately.
- A copy of the employment contract will be mandatory for holders of migrant work visas applying as employees (currently TP-4 visas).
- To prove solvency, Colombian employers sponsoring foreign workers for migrant work visas (currently TP-4 category) will be required to show a bank balance of 100 legal minimum monthly salaries (78,000 Colombian pesos, or approximately US$27,000) for each of the previous six months. Currently, employers need only show that the total balance for the previous six months equals the 100 legal minimum monthly salaries. This new provision will not affect large, well-capitalized companies, but may disqualify smaller Colombian employers from sponsoring foreign workers.
- Self-employed workers applying for migrant work visas (currently TP-7 visas) will be required to show proof of professional accreditations to work in a regulated occupation in Colombia.
- Spouses of Colombian nationals applying for a migrant visa must submit an application letter signed by the sponsoring spouse accompanied by a special power of attorney.
- Resident visas will not be granted to foreign nationals who have been out of the country for more than 180 continuous days.
BAL Analysis: Employers should work with their BAL professional to prepare for the change in visa categories for new recruits and for those renewing their visas and permits after October. BAL is seeking clarification from authorities on a few commonly used visa subcategories, in particular whether the visitor visa category will cover technical assistance work (currently the TP-13 visa) and whether individuals may continue to rely on visitor visas when performing temporary services without a local contract (or whether the law will require an employment contract with a Colombian employer). BAL will report additional details and clarifications on the new law as they become available.
This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in Colombia. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.
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