Time's Up, Time to Extend
Last week, was a moment Kim and I had been dreading ever since we arrived in Colombia: the expiry of our 90-day Colombia tourist visas. It was time to come before immigration and plead for a 90-day extension.
In a turn of events as unsurprising as a James Bond escape from certain death, the process ended up being a debacle.
So now, as per the vows we swore to uphold when we became bloggers, we will translate our experience into tips to help your Colombia tourist visa extension goes more smoothly.
What's Your Visa Status?
Does your visa expire in more than two days?
You're such a go-getter. Jump to how to extend your Colombia tourist visa online.
Does your visa expire tomorrow?
Sorry to say, you're going to have to jump down to the section on how to extend your Colombia tourist visa in person at the Medellín immigration office.
Note: This post only covers Colombia tourist visas. To extend your student visa, follow this guide by Tellanto.
How to Extend Your Colombia Tourist Visa Online
1. Start early
As soon as you know you're going to stay in Colombia for more than ninety days in a row, get started with extending your Colombia tourist visa.
Even if your visa doesn't expire for another month, it doesn't hurt to start now. There's no penalty for applying early—the 90-day visa extension is added to the day your current visa expires, not the day you apply—but there is a penalty for starting late.
2. Get your documents together
You'll need the following documents, in PDF format, to extend your Colombia tourist visa online:
- The photo page of your passport
- The page on your passport with your Colombian immigration entry stamp
- Your ticket for your departure from Colombia within less than 180 days of your initial arrival in the country. This can be a copy of your flight confirmation email. Make sure it has your full name, the dates, and an itinerary from a Colombian city to a non-Colombian city.
Three helpful things to know regarding these documents:
- The three PDFs must be less than 1 MB total. Colombia's online tourist visa extension system won't accept files bigger than that. Use a scanning app like Scanbot (free) on your phone to make a PDF of your passport photo and stamp pages, then use a free site like ilovepdf.com to shrink the files to the required size.
- Update: Jonathan in the comments shared that he and 6 friends he's helped have had a 100% success rate in their applications by combining these documents into one PDF. You can do so at combinepdf.com.
- If you don't have a departure flight yet, you can try applying without any flight info first. Jose, in the comments below, says he and his friends have done so and been approved. Otherwise, buy a ticket to wherever on Expedia, save a copy of the email in PDF, then cancel it immediately. Expedia refunds all flights as long as you do it within 24 hours.
- To get your full 180 days in Colombia, "buy" a flight that leaves on that 180th day. If not, they may only extend your visa until the departure date of your flight, as Holly points out in her comment.
- As Dave T pointed out in the comments, to be 100% sure the flight you book on Expedia has free cancellations within 24 hours, check the "Refundable flight" option under "Advanced Options" in your flight search. Then, in the details of the flight you book, the free 24 cancellation policy should be clearly stated.
- If you have any doubts or difficulties, this post on visatraveler.com has the idiot-proof step-by-step instructions.
- For families, there are additional requirements including proof you are parents of your children. Click here to jump down to Russ' comment with his experience and the details on what you need.
3. Submit your online Colombia tourist visa extension application
Choose "English" on the top right if you think "no problemo" is proper Spanish*, then under "Tipo de Tramite" check the box beside "Permiso Temporal de Permanencia para Prorrogar Permanencia."
The rest of the form is super straightforward**. It won't take more than a couple minutes if you already have your documents ready.
**Update 1: Some people report in the comments that the drop-downs are empty if you choose English, so if you face that problem you may have to whip out your dictionary and fill out the Spanish online form.
**Update 2: Maybe the "Expedition country" and "Place of birth" fields aren't straightforward for everyone:
- Dave T. mentioned in the comments that he couldn't find his Place of Birth and Nationality in the drop-down boxes. He selected "NO APLICA" and his application went through and was successfully approved.
- Alice couldn't find "Vancouver" in the city the "City / Municipality expedition" drop-down and got rejected twice. On her third attempt she found it by selecting "Canada" as the "Department / State" instead of "Colombia Britanica" and her extension was approved!
Shortly after you've submitted the form, you'll get an email like the one below. It says your application has been received and that you will receive a response within one business day. It also includes a confirmation number and a password so you can check your application status online.
Amazingly, we got a response within one business day just like the email said we would.
Unfortunately, it wasn't the response we hoped for.
3. Don't take "No" for an answer
Despite having all the documents exactly as they asked, our online Colombian tourist visa extension applications were rejected.
The rejection email (screenshot below) included reasons the application was denied, but those reasons are complete "gentleman cow manure". It's just something the poor employee with the horrible job of having to review each application mindlessly copy-pasted.
If you're sure you have all the right documents, don't take "No" for an answer. There's no cost to you in doing so other than the couple minutes it takes to fill out the form.
Every time you submit your online visa extension, pray your application ends in the inbox of a Colombia immigration employee who does their job properly and not someone who hates their job or is spiteful that your country's soccer team beat Colombia's one time.
If you pray hard enough, you'll get an approval letter like the one I got below (on my third try). It has an attachment you'll need to keep on hand digitally or physically.
Update: What to Do If You Don't Get a Confirmation or Rejection Email
Some helpful visa-extending readers shared that they successfully submitted their application and got an email with a "Número de solicitud" like the one I shared under Step 3, but then never received any more emails—not a rejection nor an approval—even after waiting for a couple of days.
If this happens to you, you're unfortunately going to have to print off the email with your número de solicitud and go to the nearest migración office to sort things out.
On the bright side, you don't need an appointment and shouldn't have to wait too long.
Read Skyler's comments below for more detail. (Thanks Skyler!)
If you're a national of an EU or Schengen country your Colombia travel visa extension is free.
Otherwise, you have to pay 99,000 COP.
6. Mock your procrastinating friends
If you were forward-thinking and fortunate enough to have a smooth and successful online Colombia travel visa extension you now have permission to look down upon your friends who had to go to the Medellin immigration offices because they waited until the last minute.
7. Enjoy up to 90 more days in Colombia!
For a lot more exciting stuff than extending your visa, read these:
- Did you know these 9 surprising facts about aguardiente?
- If you're in Medellin, have you considered all of our 10 favorite things to do?
- If you like hiking, try to squeeze in this mind-blowing trek we did that no one talks about
- Why go, what to do, and where to stay on Colombia's Pacific Coast
How to Extend Your Colombia Tourist Visa at the Medellín Immigration Office
1. Give the online Colombia visa extension application one last go
Unless today is the day your Colombia travel visa expires, before going to the Medellín immigration office submit an online application and hope for the best.
If I had done so, I could have avoided a miserable trip to the Medellín immigration offices.
They had already rejected my online application twice and there were only two business days left before my visa expired, so I prematurely gave up hope and went to the Medellín immigration offices.
There, the lady told me to fill out the online form once again. I didn't understand the point, but I didn't want to cause a fuss, so I did as she asked (I'm Swiss and Canadian after all). I then waited for over an hour to be called to talk with the guy who reviewed my documents. He pulled up my file on his computer and… asked me what I was doing there. He said the online application I'd just filled out had already been approved!
I'd gone to the immigration offices and waited around for nothing.
2. Make an appointment
If you've run out of time and hope for getting your Colombia travel visa extended online, don't just show up at the immigration offices. Make an appointment.
To do so, call 018000-510454. If you don't speak Spanish, don't worry; there are call center agents that speak perfect English. They will set a time for you and give you an appointment number. Write it down because you'll need it.
3. Prepare everything you need
Before going to the Medellín immigration offices, print off the required documents (see above) and get your appointment number and the number of your online application ready. If you're not a citizen of a Schengen country, bring a credit card to pay for your extension. Cash is not accepted.
If you don't have access to a printer, you can go to one of the many of opportunistic printing businesses located beside the Medellín immigration offices.
4. Turn lemons into (healthy vegan) lemonade
Except when we go to hike Cerro de las Tres Cruces, we don't spend much time in the area where the Medellín immigration offices are. To make the most of being in a different part of town, we stopped for lunch at Copoazú, a twelve-minute walk away.
Copoazú is a vegan restaurant that opened in late 2017. The owner will everything she can to ensure you enjoy your meal. She even asked if we were right or left handed so as to set the cutlery for us accordingly.
Our meal included cream of lettuce soup topped with sesame seeds to start, then falafel, grilled zucchini medallions, cabbage salad with a herbed tomato sauce, and brown rice as the main dish. And the dessert of little pieces of french toast covered in chocolate sauce and carob powder was the best we've had in a lunch menu.
Costing just 10,500 COP, it was so good we almost wish we had to go to Colombian more immigration more often to give us a reason to come back.
Ok, that's a complete lie. But Copoazú's menu del dia was really one of our favorites. (See our list here.)
5. Go to the Medellín immigration office
The Medellín immigration offices aren't where Google Maps says. They're around the corner. Here's a map. You can save these locations to your phone by following these easy instructions.
6. Stay calm and extend your visa
When you get to the Medellín immigration offices, show your appointment number to the security guard at the door. He'll point you to a receptionist, to whom you also need to tell you have an appointment and then show your printed documents.
Be friendly but adamant to the receptionist that they respect your appointment. We weren't and had to wait an hour because of it.
The receptionist will check your documents then tell you to sit down and wait to be called by an official. If you have an appointment the wait shouldn't be long.
When called, the official will review your documents and stamp your passport. If you're not a citizen of an EU or Schengen country you'll have to pay 99,000 COP. You will need to pay by credit card.
Then you're done!