*Updated July 2016* – Please read the comments in the comments section below, as readers have been giving helpful advice on how the partner visa application process is constantly changing!
*Update January 2017* – I applied for a new partner visa recently, and it is all done online now. Visit this government website to find out more about the different visas and requirements (if it’s not in English, you can select English from the drop-down menu at the top of the page), and it will tell you to click through to this page to complete your online visa application.
We only encountered a couple of small problems. 1) You do need to have the letter from your Colombian partner stamped at a notary (it costs about $5,000 pesos (USD$2) depending on the notary). 2) When you have completed the online application form, it asks you to upload all of the required documents (and also an ebola declaration form, at the time of writing). It doesn’t tell you this before, but the maximum upload limit for attachments is 3MB, which meant that we had scanned all the pages of all the documents, only to find that these came to more than 3MB, and then had to scan them all again at a lower resolution! So be aware of that! I used the free CamScanner app on my phone for scanning the documents – really useful. You can then email the scans to yourself and adjust the resolution on your computer after if necessary. Regarding the visa photo, I just took this using my phone, against a white wall as the background, edited it on the computer and uploaded that.
The following post was written shortly after I got my first partner visa, and before everything moved online. The part about the civil partner certificate / unión marital de hecho should still be relevant though.
In October 2013, I moved to Colombia to live with my Colombian boyfriend. I came here as a tourist, with the intention of applying for a partner visa as soon as possible. Thankfully, I now have the visa, but getting it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Here is an account of the process I had to go through in order to get a partner visa. This was correct at the time of writing (Jan 2014), but please bear in mind that immigration rules and procedures change regularly!
TP-10 – Spouse/Permanent partner visa requirements
Firstly, I will list all of the documents which you will be required to present to the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores when you apply for the TP-10 visa for spouses or permanent partners of Colombian nationals (granted for 3 years):
- Your passport
- A copy of your passport photo page
- A copy of the passport page which shows your last entry stamp into Colombia
- A copy of your last Colombian visa (if applicable)
- A photocopy of your partner’s cédula (identity card)
- A letter from your partner requesting that you be granted the partner visa, with some brief details of the relationship (when and where you met, how long you’ve been living together (this must be at least 2 years!) and that you intend to live together in Colombia). This must be stamped by a notary.
- Your Colombian marriage certificate, or a foreign marriage certificate translated by an official translator with an apostille stamp. Alternatively, if you are not married, you must present an escritura pública given to you by a Colombian notary to legalise your unión marital de hecho (civil union/de facto marriage). This document must have been issued within three months of the visa application. If you got the document more than three months ago, you will need to go back to the notary and ask for a new copy.
- *Updated 2017* – Double-check the requirements here as these do change regularly, scan all of the above documents and then complete the online application form.
Before talking about the visa application process itself, I will talk about how to get the escritura pública of the unión marital de hecho, mentioned above.
Getting the escritura pública – unión marital de hecho (legal civil partnership document)
To get this document, you must go to a Colombian notary with your partner and ask for an “escritura pública para una unión marital de hecho”. This is a legal document stating that you are living together as if you were married partners. It’s effectively a legal civil union, and in Colombia it gives you the same legal rights as a married couple. I found getting this document to be the most frustrating part of the process, because there are so many notaries, and every notary in Colombia seems to have a different interpretation of the law.
Firstly, I will just give a few anecdotes from our experience. The first notary we went to told us that we couldn’t be granted an unión marital de hecho at all, because “the law states that both partners have to have been living together in Colombia for at least 2 years”. This is not true, and I think that we were told this simply because the legal assistants at the notary didn’t know what the law stated about a Colombian and a foreigner wanting this union, and didn’t want to admit it.
The next five or six notaries we went to said that we could apply for the unión marital de hecho if I could provide an updated copy of my registro civil issued within the last three months. In Colombia, the registro civil document contains details of your birth, parents names, nationality and marital status, among other things, and is updated every time one of these details changes (eg. if you change your name, get married/divorced etc). For the purposes of getting married in Colombia, and, increasingly, to get a civil partnership document, you have to produce an equivalent document to show that you are free to marry/enter into a civil partnership. In my case, I was lucky; I found Notaría 41 in Bogotá (located on the corner of Carrera 15 and Calle 75), and at that time, they agreed to draw up the escritura pública, requiring only my passport and my partner’s cédula (identity card) – no proof of marital status. However, since I first wrote this post, one of my readers has said in the comments section that Notary 41 now requires a registro civil or equivalent document which states that you are free to marry/enter into a civil partnership, such as a ‘Certificate of No Impediment’.
Therefore, you either need to apply for a Certificate of No Impediment (either in your home country or via your country’s embassy in Colombia) and get an apostille stamp and get it translated into Spanish if necessary). You can then present this at a notary to get your legal document for your partner visa. Alternatively, as someone suggested in the comments section below, you can try providing a translated, notarised or certified copy (also with an apostille stamp) of your birth certificate and see if that works. A comment at the bottom of a post on how to get married in Colombia suggests it’s easier to order a new copy of your birth certificate via your government’s website – just make sure that it comes certified – and getting someone to post this to Colombia. You can then get it translated relatively cheaply over here. Google ‘order copy of birth certificate [+ your country]’.
It may seem pointless to provide a birth certificate, seeing as it usually won’t contain information about your marital status. However, in Colombia, the registro civil is basically a birth certificate with extra information, including marital status, which is why the notaries ask for it when you want to get married. It seems that even though many countries’ birth certificates don’t indicate marital status (such as in the UK), many notaries in Colombia will still accept a translated, certified copy and treat this as if it were the same as their registro civil, and give you the legal partnership document you need in order to apply for the TP-10 partner visa.
If you are in Medellín, you can try Notaría 17 there (in Poblado neighbourhood), who told us (at the end of 2013) that they would not require a copy of the registro civil.
Conditions for getting the legal document confirming your relationship
To be granted the unión marital de hecho, you must have lived together for two years or more (but not necessarily in Colombia). If this is not the case for you and your partner, you will have to decide whether or not you are willing to be creative with the truth and say you have been living together for two years (or preferably longer, to sound credible) in order to get this document. For the escritura pública, you need to give the dates that you’ve been living together, and where (eg. from May 2011 – Oct 2013 in London, UK; from November 2013 – present in Bogota, Colombia). We were not asked to provide any documentary evidence of this (my partner Javier was not asked to show his passport to prove he had been in London, for example), or asked to give details of our specific addresses during this time (except for our current address in Bogotá) by the notary or by the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores. But you do need to be sure about the dates and places you are both going to give, and be consistent about these throughout.
The day of the visa application – Immigration
You need to go to the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores (the Foreign Office) to apply for the visa. If you are granted the visa, you will receive it the same day.
The address of the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores is: Carrera 19 #98 – 03, Torre 100, 3rd Floor, Bogotá (Carrera 19, near where it crosses with Calle 98).
It is open for visa applications between 7.30am – midday, and the process took about two hours in 2014 (before they moved the application form and submission of documents online) and about 15 minutes the second time recently (end of 2016). I would recommend that you and your partner go together, just in case, and bring your passport and his ID card (though I did go alone recently when I went to collect my second partner visa and this wasn’t a problem).
We entered the building and went up to the third floor, saying to the receptionist that we were applying for the visa de pareja permanente (permanent partner visa); if you are married, you can say visa conyugal. We were then given a number, and waited for this to appear on the screen in the waiting area. When our number came up, we went to the booth indicated, and the immigration official quickly skimmed through our papers to check that everything was there. He asked us a few questions about how, when and where we met. We were also asked how long we had been living together in London. My partner and I were not asked much else than this, and we were not interviewed separately during the process. Then the officer said that our papers were fine, and to go back and wait.
The next step was to pay US$50 for the “study” of the papers, which comes before they decide whether to grant you the visa or not. Once we had paid this, we waited again, and eventually went back to our immigration officer’s booth and he started filling out the electronic form, asking a few more questions. He took a photo of me and then asked us to wait outside again. Once the visa was ready, the officer gave us a payment order for the visa which I had to take to the cashier. The visa cost US$205, which had to be paid in pesos. We then gave the payment receipt to the immigration officer, who returned my passport to me with the TP-10 partner visa therein. All payments at the visa office have to be made in cash, and in Colombian pesos.
When I went to get my new partner visa recently, there was no need for the “study” of the documents and no photo was taken because everything had been submitted online and checked already. They will email you beforehand if there is anything missing. We also paid the visa fee online, so there was nothing to pay at the immigration office on the day. I just went to the immigration officer’s booth, handed over my passport and he printed the visa there and then and stuck it on my passport – no questions asked. Things seem to be much easier now than they were three years ago! If it’s your first visa though, I would still recommend going along with your partner/spouse, just in case.
Please bear in mind that I am not a legal expert, and that the process changes regularly. If you require legal advice I would recommend that you find an English-speaking lawyer who specialises in immigration. You could try contacting James Lindzey, who is based in Medellín.
If you need any documents translated for visa purposes (they offer numerous different languages) I recommend Traducciones Bogota. I used them once and they had the official translation delivered to me in 2 working days. They also have English-speaking staff so you can write to them in English.