How to Work in Colombia

You’ll need to obtain a work visa in order to be eligible to work abroad in Colombia, if that’s the route you want to take. You can also start a business there, which is an entirely different process. Let’s discuss the work visa first:

How to get a work visa in Colombia
First, you’ll need to apply for your first work visa through a Colombian consulate. Arrange an appointment on the website to ensure that you’ll have someone to work with you. Allow yourself a few days to stay in the area while the consulate gets your paperwork moving. You may need to be called back for any number of reasons, and if you’re nearby, you can come back without having to set another appointment. Here is what you’ll need in order to qualify for the work visa:

  • A passport with a minimum of 2 blank pages
  • A photocopy of the biological information page of said passport
  • Three recent 3cm x 3cm photos of yourself in front of a white background
  • A notarized contract summary signed by you and your boss, or this form filled out
  • A letter from your current employer authorizing you to work in Colombia
  • Original and copy of your college degree. The original must be apostilled, translated to Spanish, and then the Spanish version must be apostilled as well
  • Proof that your company exists, issued in the last 3 months
  • Proof that your company will pay for you to leave Colombia if at all necessary, due to visa issues
  • Receipt of $50 payment for visa application – this is nonrefundable, whether you’re approved or denied

These requirements are ever-changing, so keep up by visiting this official website anytime you need clarification on anything that may have changed in regards to working abroad in Colombia.

If you’d prefer to avoid this process, you can always do what many expats do and work a remote position while earning a salary in another country. Remote work such as blogging and ecommerce is growing in availability, and if you work in any of these countries, you can claim tax relief based on Colombia’s double taxation treaty.

Starting a business in Colombia
Colombia instituted a series of policy reforms back in 2013 that would reduce bureaucratic hurdles for those who wish to start a business in the country (click here to learn more about changes made in the last decade to promote business in Colombia). It is now an attractive destination for those who want to get started in their entrepreneurial endeavors. Here’s a list of the things you’ll need to do to get the ball rolling on a new business in Colombia:

  • Register with the Chamber of Commerce and get a pre-taxpayer ID.
  • Register with the Family Compensation Fund, the Governmental Learning Service and the Colombian Family Institute. A unified form will need to be filled out to assess payroll and social security taxes.
  • Register your employees for public healthcare coverage.
  • Register employees for pension – your company must be affiliated with the pension system. Employees must choose whether they want to be part of the public or private system.
  • Register your company with the Administrator of Professional Risks – this covers workplace injury and professional illnesses.
  • Register employees with a severance fund

All of these stipulations are necessary, but you also need to do as you would in any other country and choose what type of business you’ll have. Starting a business in Colombia, you’ll have to choose between a limited liability company (LLC), corporation, limited partnership, branch of a foreign company, or simplified shares corporation.  

For an LLC, you have to have a minimum of two partners and a maximum of 25 partners. All partners are liable for their own capital contributions, and their capital will be paid fully at the time of the business’s incorporation and divided into equal shares. For a corporation, you have to have at least five shareholders, and each of them are liable for their sole contribution. For the limited partnership there are two general, managing partners who are equally liable for any civil issues the company faces.

If your business is a branch of a foreign company with permanent operations in Colombia, the branch office must be set up within the country. Such documentation as a legalized copy of the bylaws of the main office, an authorization of the incorporation of a Colombian office, and documents that prove the existence of the main office and its legal status.

Finally, if you choose to open a simplified shares corporation, it can be incorporated with only one shareholder, and its equity is independent from that shareholder’s equity.

Whether you choose to go for the work visa or to open your own business, there will be plenty of paperwork involved – but for many, working towards a new life in Colombia is worth it.

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