Teaching in Honduras had inspired me to explore the profession further and so we found ourselves headed to Colombia so I could gain more experience. Requiring a little longer than the tourist allowance, we applied for temporary visas that would allow us to stay for 12 months.
This is the process we went through for our visas, both tourist and work.
Being Australian, we were not required to get a visa before travelling to Colombia though it is recommended to carry copies of your return ticket in case these are requested. We had left Panama via the San Blas Islands and it wasn't until we had reached La Miel that we would have our passports collected and stamped and our bags checked for prohibited items.
In La Miel, our San Blas guide (http://sanblasadventures.com/) collected everyone's passports and directed us to take everything from the boat to a checking area near the dock. We disembarked the dinghy on the beach and given how filthy the water is here (rubbish everywhere) and the rocky shore, I would recommend wearing shoes to protect your feet.
After all the checks are complete, and your back in the boat, it's off to Sapzurro where the San Blas Adventure tour finishes. We had a nice lunch here (tamales) before jumping on another boat (COP 7,000) and heading further around the Colombian coast to Capurganá.
In Capurganá, you have 24 hours to take your passport to the immigration office, literally less than 100 metres from the dock, get your entry stamp into Colombia and you're set.
Work Visa (TP13)
We had been offered work with Fundación Educativa Personal Growth* in Bogotá, Colombia's capital. On arrival to the city they assisted us with the process of attaining our work visas - which did not require us to leave the country to be approved. We applied in person at the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores offices in Bogotá.
Personal Growth will provide you with;
· A letter of responsibility justifying the urgency of the required technical service, and
· A certificate of existence and legal representation
· An application form (also available online)
You will require;
· A photocopy of your passport
· A photocopy of the entry visa page
· Original passport with at least 2 blank pages and 6 months validity
· Receipt of payment USD $105.00
Allow 4+ hours for this part of the process. Once you have your shiny new visa safely in your passport, it is time to visit Migración Colombia for your cédula, or Colombian identification card. You will have 15 days from the time you receive your visa to register, so it's easier just to go straight there and get it out of the way. If you don't register within the 15 days, you will be fined - ouch!).
You will need to take;
· Original passport and copy
· Original visa and copy of your visa
· Copy of your blood type**
· 1 x Passport size photo with blue background
· Application form (available there or online)
· Receipt of payment COP 162,000***
I felt rather lost during this part of the process as my Spanish is quite basic and no one spoke English. I made it through quite quickly but you should allow roughly 2+ hours. You will take your photograph and fingerprints and maybe ask you a few questions to confirm the information on your application. You won't receive your ID that day, but you will be instructed to return in 2 weeks to collect it. Just don't lose your receipt!
Once you have the cédula, you can leave your passport at home and use this as your main form of identification. In some locations, it is even accepted to give you local prices on touristic activities and can be used to open bank and telephone accounts, etc.
For more up to date information, it is always advised you check with the correct government officials; http://www.cancilleria.gov.co/en/procedures_services/visas/types
*Our experience working with Fundación Educativa Personal Growth was not entirely pleasant. We had several issues with our pay, placement, confidentiality and overall, we found the agency to be less than professional when dealing with these issues. If you choose to register for employment with them, do your research wisely.
**Technically you should visit a certified lab for testing. They will write your blood type on a card, stamp and sign it. If you don't have the cash to splurge however and you already know your blood type, there is a lady taking passport photos outside of Migración Colombia who will scribble your details on a card for you for about COP 5,000. Just be discreet.
***Prices were correct at time of printing. You should check for updates on the Migración Colombia website. Payment can be made by credit or debit card at Migración Colombia or via bank transfer at Banco de Occidente. They do not accept cash.
The information on this page is solely based on our personal experiences during International Border Crossings, most of which have been overland. We highly recommend checking all advice against the respective countries own immigration website for up to date information.