If you thought applying for a Schengen Visa is a headache, you haven't applied for a Colombian Visa.
South Africans didn't need one until September 2017, and we thought it would be a normal visa process.
After a week of sending documents and emails back and forth from Quito in Ecuador, we finally got our visas approved!
When we read about the application process online, it seemed easy enough: you do an online application and it takes 1 - 2 days - nope!
The online application seems easy and straight forward at first, but they do not tell you what supporting documents you need, if you even do need any, besides a passport photo and some photocopies of your passport.
The payment process is also very confusing.
But anyway, we are glad we got ours approved finally, and are excited to go to Colombia. All the travellers we've spoken to said that it was their favourite country - besides Mexico.
So since we went through the hassle and headache, we can now tell you exactly how to do it and then hopefully you can get yours in 1 or 2 days.
The costs of a Colombian Visa
Besides all the paperwork, the cost of a visa can often make you change your mind about visiting a country. Depends on your budget and how badly you want to go.
We didn't know that there were even any costs involved (our Bolivian visas were free). The online application also doesn't say how much it costs however the email you get after submitting your application gives you options to pay. So confusing.
We went to the Consulate in Quito to find out what happens next, because the emails stated that you can go to the your nearest Consulate to pay. After half an hour they found a guy that speaks some English. He said that we have to go to the bank and pay $52 for the visa study, then bring the deposit slip back.
We had to go to a local bank in Quito, Pinchancha, so you will have to find out where to pay if you are in South Africa (usually the Consulate) or a different country. Online payment only works if you have a Colombian bank account.
OK. We did that, took us another 2 hours, and submitted it.
The application showed bank payment was made, but it always said visa payment outstanding. We couldn't figure out why, because we paid it.
After the approval we found out that the $52 was basically only for them to look at your documents (they call it the visa study). You have to pay a further $82 per person for the actual visa! WTF? They couldn't tell us this before?
So yeah, the total cost to get this visa is $134 (R 1668).
Before you submit your online application or even apply at the Consulate, make sure you have all the following documents ready:
A copy of your passport, including a copy of 2 consecutive empty pages where the Visa stamp will be placed (uploaded separately as the first document).
A copy of the pages in your passport with your last entry and exit stamps: we came to Ecuador from Peru, so had to show our Peruvian exit stamp and Ecuadorian entry stamp (uploaded separately as the 2nd document).
A letter signed by the applicant stating who you are, reason for visiting Colombia. exact entry and exit dates, and an indication that you can afford your stay in Colombia for the entire period of your stay. Don't worry, you can use the template of our letter here.
6 months bank statements, yes 6! And, it has to be quantifiable in Dollars. Apparently they couldn't use the amount indicated on our last statement and use an exchange calculator. So we just made a screenshot of the XE.Com website indicating the amount in Rands and the amount in Dollars.
Confirmation of accommodation bookings for your entire stay in the country. South African's get 90 days, we wanted the maximum amount of days so we had to make a lot of bookings. If you are only going for a holiday or short stay it's not that much of a hassle. We booked accommodation on Booking.com as you have the option to cancel for free at some places, which is very convenient if you just need confirmations but your plans aren't set.
We needed a copy of the Immigration Card we received when we entered Ecuador as well.
A passport photo with correct measurements of 3x4 cm. The file you upload has to be exact. You cannot upload a page with a copy of the photo. You have to crop the photocopy and then resize it (we used Paint) to 3x4 cm's.
OK now, if you are doing the online application, the number of pages you upload cannot exceed 35 pages. This is difficult with 6 months bank statements and well, for us, 3 months of booking confirmations. You can scan all these documents (except the passport copies and photo) into 1 document and upload it under the Supporting Documents tab (the last tab).
It took us a while to get this right because they kept asking for more documents, and then we would exceed the number of pages because it adds it all together. So just get it right the first time. If you submit hard copies of these documents at a Consulate, it wouldn't matter.
The online application
So, you can obviously go to your nearest Colombian Consulate or Embassy to get the necessary forms and all the info. But we are in Ecuador, they don't really speak English at the Consulate and an online application seems so much less of a hassle.
Go to the following link: https://tramitesmre.cancilleria.gov.co/tramites/enlinea/solicitarVisa.xhtml.
Fill in all the information, it is straight forward.
When they ask for the establishment and address of your stay in Colombia, just enter the hotel/hostel or your AirBnB host's address and name of the place. If you booked at more than one place, use the first one or the place where you will be spending the most time.
Uploading your documents:
First is the photo - exact measurements remember
Document 1: Passport copy with 2 open pages
Document 2: Copy with Entrance and Exit Stamps - if you have.
Last is Supporting Documents: Upload your document with your letter, bank statements, accommodation confirmation and dollar exchange.
There are 2 other documents in between, but that is if you are applying for citizenship or work, and for minors. Note that we are not sure about the documents for minors. Usually, an unabridged birth certificate.
Paying your fees is another mission!
You can only pay online with a card if you have a bank account with one of the South American banks, our Mastercards did not work.
So, you have to get the bank account details from the Colombian Consulate, go to a local bank branch with cash, and make a deposit into the Consulate's bank account. Make sure you take the proof of deposit slip.
Take the slip to the Consulate or Embassy as soon as possible so they can start with the process. You have 15 days to pay this fee, as well as another 15 days after your application is approved to pay for the actual visa and get your passport stamped.
Once it is approved online, you take your deposit slip and Passport to the Consulate, and your visa is stamped into your passport. If you do it through the Consulate, they might already have your passport stamped.
And that is it. Off you go to Colombia. Easy right?
Note that they did not ask us for flight tickets or anything, however, the Consulate might, especially if you are flying from South Africa or another country. Usually, an airline will want to see an exit ticket as well.
You can check here how to get one if you only plan on booking a one-way ticket like us.
We hope this makes it easy for you. If not, let us know in the comments below or social media. And share with your friends and family.