NOTE: Please read the comments in the comments section below when you’ve finished reading this post, as readers have been giving helpful advice on how the partner visa application process is constantly changing! I’m summarizing the most helpful ones here at the top as updates.
*Update June 2019*– Readers are still confirming that the Centro de Arbitraje y Conciliación (CAC) route (as described in the November 2018 update) is still the easiest way to get the civil partnership document (unión marital de hecho) if you don’t have the documents that the notaries are asking for (the usual route is via a notary). At the time of writing, the fee charged by the CAC is now $459,000 pesos, and they only ask for the foreigner’s passport and the Colombian’s cédula de ciudadanía (ID card). An expensive option, but more convenient than sending off for documents that you may not have and getting them translated and apostilled. In the end, it may end up costing the same!
*Update November 2018*– Below you’ll read about the unión marital de hecho (civil partnership) that you need to get if you want to apply for the Colombian partner visa (if you don’t want to get married). The only way I knew to get this was to go to a notary, where they require you to show all kinds of documents, as if you were getting married. However, one of my readers has just informed me that you can get the unión marital de hecho easily by going to a Centro de Arbitraje y Conciliación, which is part of the Cámara de Comercio (Chamber of Commerce). The Centro is responsible for resolving business and family conflicts. The process is much more expensive ($400,000 COP) than doing it via a notary, so I’d only recommend this if you think gathering all the documents that notaries require is going to be difficult. Apparently when you get there, you tell reception what you want, and they’ll send you to the right office – and you only need to show your passport. You can then use the document they give you to apply for the partner (‘M’) visa mentioned below.
There are Centros de Arbitraje y Conciliación in Chapinero, Usaquen and Cedritos. Find the address on Google Maps or via Google Search. Please let me know if you manage to get the civil partnership this way and how it goes! I have read a comment on Facebook from someone who went to a Centro de Arbitraje where they ask for a birth certificate, but then she went to the Cámara de Comercio and they didn’t need one and still gave them the civil partnership document?! Confusing, as the comment below this post says the Centro de Arbitraje was part of the Camara de Comercio… I will just say that sometimes procedures and requirements can vary depending on who you are speaking to (and whether they know what they’re talking about) and which Centro you go to. I would try everything until you find something that works!
*Update February 2018* – As of December 2017, there are now only three types of Colombian visa (beyond the stamp you get at the airport when you enter Colombia as a tourist). These are Visitante (visitor), Migrante (migrant) and Residente (resident). The spouse/partner visa (formerly the TP-10 visa) falls into the Migrante or ‘M’ category, as does the investors’ visa (TP-7), retirement visa (TP-7), independent worker’s visa (TP-7), work visa (TP-4) and student visa (TP-3). Apart from the change in name, the process for applying for the ‘M’ visa as the partner/spouse of a Colombian citizen won’t have changed in terms of the documentation you need to provide. This blog post from Medellín Guru has more useful information about these visa categories.
*Update January 2017* – I applied for a new partner visa recently, and all the documents are now submitted online. Visit this government website to find out more about the different visas and requirements (if you don’t speak Spanish, find someone to translate (or use Google Translate :)), 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. It didn’t tell us 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. (The government website actually now advises uploading all documents in a single PDF file of no more than 3MB.)
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.
Much of what follows in the rest of this post was written shortly after I got my first partner visa (then called a TP-10 visa, which now falls into the ‘Migrante’ visa category). I have gone through and updated the information to try to make sure it is all as relevant as possible to the current situation, but as I said, the process has changed several times since 2014. If in doubt, seek legal advice (there are some names at the bottom of this post).
The part below about the legal civil partnership document / unión marital de hecho is still relevant.
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!
Applying for a Migrante visa as the spouse/permanent partner of a Colombian citizen
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 (now Migrante visa as of December 2017) 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 partnership/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.
Do double-check the requirements here as these do change regularly, scan all of the above documents and then complete the online application form. Note that at the time of updating this (Feb 2018), the government website says that all you need to provide as the partner/spouse of a Colombian citizen is the proof of marriage or the escritura pública (legal document) for a civil partnership (see below) and the letter from your partner/spouse requesting the issuance of a visa for you. I’m assuming that these would be in addition to the copies of the passport, passport stamp etc. listed above. The legal document and the letter are just the things that are specific to people applying for a Migrante visa as the partner/spouse of a Colombian national.
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.
*Update February 2018*: The word on the street (or rather on Facebook) is that Notary 34 in Bogotá is good if you need to get the civil partnership document (‘good’ meaning, they don’t ask for a bunch of documents!). One of my readers has also just helpfully commented that they were able to get the escritura pública for the civil partnership with just her passport and her partner’s cédula at Notary 38 (carrera 7 # 33-13).
*Update May 2018*: One of my readers has said that Notary 38 requires couples to have lived in Colombia for 2 years before they will legalize a civil partnership. I recommend asking your Colombian partner to call ahead to check before making the trip there. Apparently Notary 34 mentioned above now requires a legalized birth certificate with an apostille stamp from the foreigner’s country of birth. I therefore recommend bringing this with you to Colombia as it is expensive and a pain to have to sort this out once you’re already in Colombia.
Tip: don’t take ‘no’ for an answer!
Firstly, I will just give a few anecdotes from our experience. The first notary we went to told us that it would be impossible for us to get an escritura pública of a unión marital de hecho because the law states that both partners have to have been living together in Colombia for at least 2 years. This is not true. I think that we were told this simply because the legal assistants at the notary didn’t know what the law actually stated regarding a Colombian national and a foreigner wanting this union, but they 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; we found a notary which 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 that this notary (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’. But there are still notaries around which will give you the escritura pública with just your passport and/or a certified apostilled copy of your birth certificate.
Proof of single marital status (if required)
You can apply for a Certificate of No Impediment (either in your home country or via your country’s embassy in Colombia), get an apostille stamp from a notary in your country or from your embassy, and get it translated into Spanish if necessary. You can then present this at a Colombian notary to get your legal document for your Migrant/partner visa. Alternatively, as someone suggested in the comments section below, you can try providing a translated, notarized or certified copy (also with an apostille stamp) of your birth certificate and see if that works. It may be easier to check if you can order a new certified copy of your birth certificate via your government’s website and getting someone to post this to Colombia (always use tracked/recorded delivery or a private courier). You can then get it translated relatively cheaply over here. Google ‘order copy of birth certificate [+ your country]’.
But what use is my birth certificate if it doesn’t mention my marital status?
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, and sometimes when you want to get a civil partnership document. 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 Migrant visa (or formerly TP-10 partner visa).
Conditions for getting the legal civil partnership document
To be granted the legal document confirming 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), nor were we asked to give details of our specific addresses during this time (except for our current address in Bogotá) by the notary nor 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 (at the 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).
When I went to get my new partner visa at the end of 2016, there was no need to bring copies of the documents which had been submitted online (just my passport). When you’ve submitted the application online, they will email you to let you know if anything is missing. We 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. In 2014, when I went to get my first visa, my partner came with me and the immigration officer asked us a few questions (where we had met, how long we lived together in London) but it was quite relaxed, and we were not interviewed separately. My partner did not have to prove that he had been in London.
Please bear in mind that I am not a legal expert and that the process changes regularly (I have had to update this post many times since 2014!). If you require legal advice I would recommend that you find an English-speaking lawyer who specialises in immigration. You could try contacting lawyers James Lindzey or Jorge Suarez (firstname.lastname@example.org) both English-speaking and based in Medellín. Jorge charges $45 US dollars/hour for a consultation (though you can email him with your basic questions first if you want), and he can consult via Skype if you’re not in Medellín.
If you need help getting the legal civil partnership document or help completing the online visa application form, one of my blog readers recommended an agency InterCol (inter-col.com) which can refer you to a lawyer who will arrange the unión marital de hecho legal document for you without asking too many questions. (Just make sure you always say you’ve been living together for at least 2 years, even if this isn’t the case!). These lawyers can also help you complete the visa application form online, but if you have a Colombian partner who can read and write in Spanish, this shouldn’t be necessary.
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.
Phew! After all that, I could kill for a cup of Colombia’s finest!
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