Friday, 10 March 2017

Applying for Colombia's TP-7 (independent) visa

Over the last while we've had a number of people ask about the process of obtaining an independent visa in Colombia, a TP-7 as it's called. Another sign, perhaps, of the country's global appeal right now.

Whatever the case, while the official website goes through the documents needed, there are a few grey areas that leave applicants with doubts. Then, of course, there's the fact that it's at the discretion of the official in charge of your application whether to approve it or not, as it is in most countries. This is something that's out of your hands, you might just get the wrong official on the wrong day.

Colombian immigration officials check a foreigner's papers ...
'Visa? What visa?!' (Photo from Facebook.)
Be that as it may, in terms of the documents required, from previous personal experience anyway, it's pretty straightforward.

First of all, it must be said that you can make the application in the country. So if you're already here on a tourist visa or whatever, you don't have to leave.

In terms of the paperwork, you need a letter, in Spanish obviously, stating the independent activity you are carrying out or intend to carry out, accompanied with your CV.

Alongside this, you must supply documents that prove you do or are going to do this activity. These could be letters from parties -- individuals or companies -- that you are collaborating with and who are already based in Colombia or have legally verifiable reasons to be here. From the 'Wrong Way' perspective, evidence of freelance-journalism work in relation to Colombia has been used, along with letters from other people and companies who I’ve collaborated with.

You also need documents proving that you are qualified to perform the role in question. These are basically copies of university degrees and the like (for the record, I've never had to provide translated versions, copies of the originals have been fine).

Perhaps the most troublesome, confusing part is meeting the financial requirements. It states that you have to show 15 times the monthly minimum salary, that is to say just over 3,500 euros, running through your bank account for the last six months. What's not very clear is does this mean 3,500 euros each month -- a hefty amount indeed -- or just that sum for six months?

Obviously I've always sided with the lower amount. However, it was an issue for my second time applying, where I was told I didn't quite meet the financial stipulations but they would let me off on this occasion and give me the visa.

The following year, with pretty much the same figures in the account to show, it didn't come up as a problem at all (here's hoping it stays that way for visa application number four later this year). Hearsay has it that this 'anomaly' was to do with the number of movements made in the account and that it's best to have money coming in and going out on a frequent basis.

Nonetheless, however they determine this financial threshold, which appears to be arbitrary, for first time applicants who may not have a Colombian bank account, foreign accounts suffice -- they did in my case anyway. For further renewals, officials, some of them anyway, give more weight to your Colombian account(s) if the activity you'd been doing enabled you to earn a wage in the country.

Having an actual, clearly specified figure might help to clear up a few things here. Just saying like!

On a minor point, but one that might save you a few pesos, you don't need to bring passport photos for the application procedure. The officials take your photo during the interview process, one that will be used on your visa if successful.

It is said that the TP-7 is the hardest of the visas to get, but there does appear to be some flexibility in the granting of it. We are in a time where there are a lot more independent workers about than previously. If that happens to be you, you're work is related to Colombia and you're looking to stay here on a longer-term basis, all you've got to do is convince the authorities of that (and then pay the more than one million pesos needed, including the fee for the compulsory ID card that is). Simple!

Failing that, there's always the civil union option, disingenuous as some are about it.
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  1. Good advise here. Comes at the right time for many. Here's my post on actually visiting the Cancillería Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores in Bogotá: Good to know you're staying longer.