Loving Colombia - Extending Colombian VISA and TIP
Updated: Feb 23
Do you want to stay longer in Colombia? We do!
As a tourist you are generally given 90 days on your entry stamp when you land in Colombia, however you are allowed upto 180 days stay in any calendar year (January to December). I believe the clock is then reset on the 1st January. You are NOT able to stay over 180 days in any one calendar year and that is made quite clear.
If you import a vehicle, you should also be given 90 days on the TIP (Temporary Import Permit) - PLEASE check this as if you are given less (and you don't realise) it can cause massive problems when you get to the border to exit or try to extend. Again, you can also extend this by a further 90 days.
So, how do you extend?
Firstly, if you don't like long queues, pick a place that is a little smaller e.g. Santa Marta, Armenia etc. We chose Armenia, a small town in the heart of Colombia's coffee region, specifically for a less stressful experience, and although we have liked our free city tours, we want to stick to the countryside as much as possible now.
This is what you need to do, in this order (please note processes are subject to frequent change):
1. Extend your personal VISA - immigration
Firstly, you do not need to make an appointment online, which used to be the case. You need to fill in a form online instead; visit http://www.migracioncolombia.gov.co/index.php/es/servicios-al-ciudadano/formulario-unico-de-tramites. Warning: the website can be a little slow and tempremental, but we got there!
Click the third box down (Permiso Temporal de Permanencia para Prorrogar Permanencia) and from the drop-down on the right hand side, select the city in which you are extending your visa. This will then open a form underneath which you need to complete. Although it's easier to complete this form when translated to english, the site seems to work better in Spanish, so maybe read the translated version to familiarise yourself but then revert back to the Spanish version when actually completing and submitting your form, or have them open in two separate windows.
As part of this form, you will need to attach a PDF document (only one and a maximum of 1MB) with a photo of your passport (main photo page), entry stamp into Colombia and vehicle TIP. In terms of 'Tipo de documento' just select passport.
I would imagine if you do not have a vehicle imported you would need to have evidence that you will be leaving the country e.g. bus/plane ticket etc.
I found the easiest way to create the PDF was using a free phone scanner app e.g. CamScanner, and then you can add as many pictures as you like to the document, create a single PDF and then e-mail it to yourself very simply in a reduced size. You can then upload this to the form. Simples!
Once the form is completed and the document is attached, click submit. You will get an e-mail with a 14 digit code (or there abouts) which you need to note down. You will then need to repeat the process for each person requiring a visa extension, or at the same time in another window.
NEXT: Go to the immigration office with your codes and original documents (closed 12-2pm for lunch). In Armenia, this is easy to find. It's on the same block as the Altavista Shopping Centre - click HERE for a Google Maps location or HERE for an iOverlander location. Please note, it may be worth making an appointment if you go through this process in a larger city as you may have to wait a while if you just turn up.
Altavista shopping centre has it's own parking (1000 COP/hour for a bike, 1800 COP/hour for a car) and there are security guards plus parking attendants. Tall vehicles will not fit but there is another parking compound directly opposite where it may be a little higher at the entrance. You can even rock up to the shopping centre, turn left out of the parking and head upstairs to the coffee shop, login to the coffee shop wifi (good excuse for a coffee and cake) and do all of the online applications there first, which is what we did.
The entrance to the immigration office is at the bottom of the hill if you turn right out of the parking area. We were lucky and there was only one person ahead of us so we got seen in 5 minutes.
The lovely customs lady was able to input the codes, access our online forms and PDF's, she checked our original documents and then printed us out a document confirming the extra 90 days allowance on our tourist visa. KEEP THIS SAFE! The extension costs nothing for EU citizens, however it is 92000 COP for all other countries (I believe).
I'm not sure if this document always gets emailed to you; we did get an email but no attachments, however our friends Michnus and Elsebie did get the documents e-mailed to them, in which case you may be able to avoid going into the immigration office altogether. Note: We have not tested this theory.
2. Get insurance for the extra 3 months for your bike - SOAT e.g. Sura, Mundial etc
Our initial 3 month insurance was with Mundial, but there is no Mundial office in Armenia. The closest office is Pereira. Therefore, after discovering the multitude of places advertising 'SOAT' would only sell it for 1 year at over 400000 COP, we went on good advice to Sura (click HERE for Google Maps location). They were the only place that would sell us a shorter, 3 month insurance and it cost 116000 COP each. It was a very easy process, just remember to bring all of your original documents with you, including your visa extension document you have just received. They closed 12-1pm for lunch I think.
3. Extend the TIP - DIAN
Finally, visit the DIAN near the airport to extend the TIP (click HERE for an iOverlander location). This was the only slightly tricky process as ideally they will only extend the TIP 2-3 days prior to expiration in 'normal' circumstances. However, if you happen to be a few weeks from expiration and are 'planning' to head to the Amazonias region, therefore making it impossible to extend the TIP closer to the time of expiration due to the lack of DIAN offices in the Amazonias, they may be able to ask for special permission from the main Bogota office. Just bear in mind that if an extension is granted then it may be 90 days from the date the extension was granted, rather than 90 days from the expiration of the original TIP.
Luckily, everyone at the DIAN in Armenia was lovely, including the security guard who spoke good english and was a very happy chappy! Also, the lady who looked after us spoke really good english and it made the whole process much easier. We provided her with our documents for photocopying and explained our 'predicament' on the first day we visited, then we returned in the afternoon the following day for the bikes to be inspected and to complete the paperwork. Overall it was all relatively easy, hassle-free and no queues to be seen!
If you need a vibrant, good value place to stay, with parking, whilst you are sorting out your visa's and TIP, there is a place called Caragabi Hostel right in between the airport and Armenia, plus it's easy to find. It has been open about 6 months (at time of publishing this blog post) and is run by a lovely, pro-active, bike-friendly Colombian guy (Jair) with excellent english.
Not too far from Armenia is also a Finca called 'Steel Horse Filandia', which is a newly established hostel run by a lovely English couple (Yvette and Paul) who, after travelleing around South America on two motorbikes, decided to sell-up everything and move to Colombia. It is aimed at overlanders and is really good value with plenty of parking in a quiet, picturesque location.
We went through this whole process with our overlanding friends Michnus and Elsebie from South Africa (blog: www.pikipiki.co.za), which made the whole process even easier and more enjoyable! Thanks guys!
So, good luck and enjoy Colombia! It's an amazing, beautiful, diverse country with really lovely, kind and helpful people.
The cops are so hard nosed in this country...not...so long as you behave! Notice the photo-bombing guard at the back!