So you’re thinking about renewing your Colombian Visa? Here is my experience – it could save you some time and frustration.

Although I have been in Colombia for about 6 months now, yesterday was the first time that I had to renew my tourist visa. Luckily, I left the country twice over the six months, so I got a new stamp both times when I returned to Colombia.

The renewal process was a bit tedious but overall it was pretty straight forward. Now that I have done it once it will be much easier in the future – or so I hope. I have put together this post to help you avoid any hiccups when you have to go to do your first renewal.

passport with colombia stamp

Colombia 60-Day Stamp

The Basics About Colombian Tourist Visas

As a tourist (non-Colombian visitor) you are allowed a maximum of six months in Colombia each calendar year. When you enter the country, by land or air, your passport will be stamped and the immigration officer will most likely write ’60’ on the stamp. This means that you have been given a 60-day tourist visa. If you decide that you want to extend your stay past 60 days, which many people do, you will need to take a trip down to the nearest DAS (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad) office to get an extension. My understanding is that the agency DAS now goes by Unidad Administrativa Especial Migracion Colombia but most people still refer to it as the DAS.

You can get your visa renewed for 60 days twice more, but once you have been in the country for a total of 180 days your time is up and you must leave. It is up to the officer that is doing your visa renewal to decide whether he/she will give you a 30 or 60-day extension. Many people have gone in to do their renewal expecting to get 60 days but were only given a 30 days. Why? I am not sure, but it may have something to do with the fact that the agency receives 75,050 pesos every time you do a renewal, so more renewals equals more money.

I suggest asking ‘nicely’ for 60 days just in case they try to stick you with 30. Remember that the DAS clerks are not travel agents who want to make sure that you have a wonderful stay in Colombia, they are just there to process your renewal – that’s it. Treating the clerks with respect and using a friendly tone can only work in your favor.

Understanding The 180-day Maximum Rule

There is a lot of confusion regarding when the 180 day maximum starts and ends, so let me clarify with two examples.

Case 1: Let’s assume that you enter the country on Jan 1st 2012 and you are given a 60 day stamp. Sixty days later you do a renewal and are given 60 more days. After that you do another two renewals and you are given 30 days each time. Now you have been in the country for 180 days so you must leave and you cannot come back until Jan 1st of 2013.

Case 2: You enter the country on October 1st 2012 and you get a 60-day stamp. You renew your tourist visa 60 days later for another 60 days, so you are good until the end of January 2013. So here is the usual point of confusion – what if you renew your visa at the end of January for another 60 days, does this mean that you have to leave Colombia at the end of March? The answer is YES.  You have to leave Colombia because you have been here for 180 days straight. However, unlike in Case 1, you can come back to Colombia for another 90 days in 2013 because you are allowed 180 days per ‘calendar year’ (starting on Jan 1st of every year). The reason you have to leave Colombia is because you have been in the country for 180 days in succession not because your time for the year is up. My friend Joseph had this exact case happen to him and he had to make a border run to Venezuela to check out of Colombia. Joseph actually did one of the most impressive border runs I have ever heard of. He flew from Medellin to Cúcuta near the Venezuelan border on an early-morning flight and was back in Medellin in the evening in time to party. Read how he did it.

The Renewal Process in Detail

There are a few things that you need to do before going to the DAS. These are the 7 official requirements as detailed by the DAS.

  1. Consignar $75,050 pesos en Banco Occidente cuenta corriente No. 263-05464-5, codigo 103 a nombre de Unidad Administrativa Especial Migracion Colombia. Traer consignación original con copia.In english, go to a Banco Occidente branch and pay 75,050 pesos to “Unidad Administrative Especial Migracion Colombia”. Tell the bank clerk that you want to pay 75,050 pesos to the DAS for your tourist visa. Since tourists must do the payment at a Banco Occidente branch the clerks will be familiar with the process.They will give you a little form to fill out. On the form you will be asked to provide the account number and a three-digit code. That’s the No. 263-05464-5 and 103! Be sure to copy these numbers down correctly because they cannot process your payment without them. I didn’t have the numbers, so I had to leave the bank, go across the street to a Juan Valdez coffee shop, buy a coffee, get a WIFI card and look up the numbers online – BIG pain in the ass. Copy the numbers down before you go to the bank.
    Bank Form from Banco Occidente
    Bank Form that you will fill out at Banco Occidente
  2. Pasaporte Original – Take the original copy of your passport.
  3. Una (1) fotocopia de los datos biográficos del pasaporteMake one photocopy of the page of your passport with all of your pertinent information. Photo, date of birth, etc.
  4. Una (1) fotocopia del sello de entrada al país.One photo copy of the entry stamp in your passport – that’s the stamp that the immigration officer put in passport when you entered Colombia.Photocopying:I did all of my photocopying across the road from the main Banco Occidente branch on Avenida Poblado at a Staples. They asked whether I wanted colour or black and white copies and I was stumped. I didn’t know if the DAS  required colour copies but I decided to go the old el cheapo route with black and whites. Each B&W copy was 100 pesos while a colour copy was 1500 pesos. To be safe side, I made two copies of everything.NOTE: Although I did my copies at Staples, there are many shops right near the DAS where you can make cheap copies and get your photograph taken.
  5. Una (1) fotografía fondo azul 3×4One 3×4 profile photo with a blue background – In Canada official passport and government document photos have to be professionally taken and meet certain criteria. I had passport photos rejected in Canada because there was too much of a glare around my face. Here in Colombia, things are how should I say it – a bit simpler.I went into the photo store and sat on a stool in front of a crudely hung blue sheet. The shop owner asked a guy to go call Maria, the women who takes the photos. I waited for about five minutes and Maria showed up with a basic 1oMP point-and-shoot camera. She took two photos and asked which one I preferred, then she hooked the camera up to a little printer and out came my photos. She cut them with a pair of scissors and put them into a little plastic bag then charged me $5000 pesos and asked if I needed any photocopies – Simple!
  6. Diligenciar formulario de solicitud de trámites: Fill out application form
    At the DAS you will present the copy of the payment slip from the bank, your photocopies of the two pages of your passport, the original passport and one 3×4 photo. You will be given an application form which is in both Spanish and English. Fortunately I speak Spanish so my communication with the clerk was pretty easy. I have been told that most of the clerks only speak Spanish so trying to communicate in English can be really difficult.Important:Other than the standard information like name, date of birth, address, citizenship, etc, you will be required to provide two other important pieces of information that threw me off. For one you have to provide a telephone number and address whether it is your hostel or a place you are renting.You also have to provide the name, address and telephone number of a Colombian that can testify to knowing you. I didn’t know the full name or address of any of my friends off the top of my head, so I had to leave the DAS to make a few phone calls. Figure out who you are going to use as your “known Colombian” before you get there.
  7. Copia del tiquete de salida del país – Copy of ticket for leaving the country.Although it says that you are required to show your onward ticket, I wasn’t asked to show a ticket. As a matter of fact, I didn’t know that this was a requirement and I don’t have a ticket, so if they had asked me to provide a ticket I would have had a big problem.

DAS Offices in Major Colombian Cities

Most DAS offices are opened from 7:00 am – 3:30pm

Bogota DAS: Calle 100, 11B – 27; phone 601 72 00.

Cartagena DAS: Carrera 20B 29 – 18; ph 666 01 72; a 6,000 peso cab ride from the centro (downtown). Some people have claimed that they had to make an appointment to meet with an agent at this location.

Medellin DAS: Calle 19 80A – 40, in Bario Belen; ph 238 9252.

If you have any questions about visa renewals that haven’t been addressed in this post, just let me know and I will try to answer them. If you have any useful information that you want to share, leave a comment below.