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01 November 2013
On April 24 2013 the Ministry of Foreign Relations issued Decree-Law 834, which established a new regulation on migration. One of the most anticipated issues surrounding the new regulation was the potential easing of the procedures and requirements for obtaining temporary work visas and the removal of unnecessary red tape.
Through Law 1429/2010 Colombia took a step forward in reducing the relevant procedures and formalities by eliminating the proportionality fee between foreign and national workers etablished in the Labour Code. However, it was clear that some circumstances still made obtaining a temporary work visa a complex, and in many cases difficult, process for the applicant. The main difficulties were:
This last obstacle was the most controversial, because in many cases it confused the functions of professional associations and councils with those of the migration authorities. In most cases where the foreign applicant was a professional, the visa issuance procedure was based completely on the professional association's judgement, allowing it to act as the migration authority.
Decree-Law 834 has introduced some significant improvements to overcome these problems, which were finally detailed in Resolution 4130, issued by the Ministry of Foreign Relations on July 5 2013.
Regarding the possibility of obtaining a TP4 visa for the first time in Colombia, Article 10 of the decree-law highlights two situations:
These options are innovative because they rightly assume that the foreign worker is outside the country and the visa procedure is carried out in Colombia by the hiring company. For that reason, the rule establishes that the transportation company (eg, the airline) with which the worker is travelling must be informed of the procedure in order to facilitate the worker's arrival in Colombia.
Regarding the relaxation of professional requirements and experience accreditation, Resolution 4130 made a major change by eliminating from the application process the documents that required the harmonisation of academic and professional titles, a temporary licence or accredited experience. This was a much-needed development as it differentiates the migration management function of the Ministry of Foreign Relations and the occupational performance regulatory function of the professional associations and councils.
The amendments to the documents required for a TP4 visa do not imply that a foreign worker is automatically authorised to practise a regulated profession in Colombia. On the contrary, foreign workers are subject to the same rules as national workers, as established by Article 4 of the resolution: "this visa will be issued subjected to the legal requirements established for the practice of each profession in the national territory."
It is hoped that the migration authorities will adopt these new rules effectively when issuing TP4 visas. If they do, Colombia will join the group of countries that have understood that globalisation of the markets also requires the integration of human resources regardless of their nationality, thus treating foreign and national workers equally.
Finally, a new online visa request system has come into force through the Foreign Relations Ministry website (https://tramitesmre.cancilleria.gov.co/tramites/enlinea/solicitarVisa.xhtml). The new system enables applicants to use the visa application system directly, reducing the interference of intermediate agents such as lawyers or agents.
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Diego Felipe Valdivieso Rueda