Colombian government plans restrictions on unión libre visa
The Colombian government plans to make it more difficult to obtain a visa through a registered partnership (unión marital de hecho, colloquially usually called "unión libre"). This is according to a draft resolution submitted by the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the end of December 2021 to revise visa regulations.
Under the current visa regulations (Resolución 6045 de 2017 del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Colombia), the unión libre visa is equivalent to a spousal visa (visa de cónyuge). The Ministry of Foreign Affairs now plans to impose significant restrictions on obtaining the unión libre visa, its validity period and legal consequences.
The following changes are planned:
- In contrast to the current legal situation, according to the draft resolution, the spouse visa and the unión libre visa are no longer united in one visa type, currently uniformly "visa de migrante por vínculo marital," but are to be split into two different visa types - spouse visa (visa M cónyuge) and unión libre visa (visa M compañero permanente de nacional colombiano).
- According to the current legal situation, it is - at least theoretically - possible to apply for the unión libre visa immediately after the official registration of the partnership. The registration usually takes place at a Colombian notary or an official conciliation office (Centro de Conciliación). According to the draft resolution, one (1) year must be waited after registration before applying for the unión libre visa.
- The Colombian partner must certify in writing that he or she has lived together with the foreign partner permanently and continuously under one roof at least since the registration of the partnership. The address where the couple lives together must be explicitly stated. In addition, the Colombian partner must agree in writing to notify the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs immediately in the event of a separation.
- The Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is entitled to demand the submission of evidence in order to verify the actual, permanent cohabitation. Joint photographs, joint hotel bills, airline tickets from joint trips, joint rental agreements, etc. may be considered. The Ministry may also schedule in-person interviews, video conferences, and make telephone inquiries to verify that a true partnership exists.
- Both the Colombian and foreign partners must each submit a migration certificate (certificado de movimientos migratorios) issued by the Colombian immigration authorities, indicating the dates on which they entered and left Colombia in the last five years. If, based on these certificates, the Ministry determines that the partners have been in different countries for long periods of time, it will draw the appropriate conclusions. At this point, it should be mentioned that Colombian law does not recognize "long-distance relationships." A "unión libre" legally presupposes physical and permanent cohabitation "under one roof."
- The validity period of the unión libre visa is also to be significantly reduced. While the spouse visa is usually issued for a period of two or three years, the unión libre visa will only be valid for a maximum of one year under the new regulations. Reapplying for the unión libre visa every twelve months shortly before its expiration is possible, but correspondingly inconvenient (and each time associated with costs, i.e. official visa fees).
- A significant restriction is also found regarding eligibility for the Colombian permanent residence permit (visa de residente). While the spouse's visa currently entitles the holder to apply for a permanent residence permit after only two years (henceforth three years under the draft resolution), the unión libre visa is to entitle the holder to apply for a permanent residence permit only after five years under the draft resolution. And even this only applies if the respective foreigner has been in possession of unión libre visas for five years without interruption, i.e. the visas have merged seamlessly, i.e. without having changed to tourist status in the meantime.
Conclusion: If the draft resolution with the known content is enacted, the unión libre visa will significantly lose its attractiveness and, above all, will no longer be a stable and short-term basis for acquiring permanent residence. This is apparently exactly what the Colombian government is concerned with, as it feels compelled to make the aforementioned tightening due to bogus partnerships and related visa fraud.