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@radiobrendan
In previous posts I wrote about, or at least mentioned in passing, the visa issues I had in Colombia this year.

Indeed, the chief reason for my recent visit to Venezuela was down to being unable to renew my ‘independent journalist’ visa. (I am somewhat thankful to Colombia that it forced my hand and I was able to return to the ‘brother country’, despite all the pre-journey fears.)

Is Colombia deliberately making life difficult for independent journalists?

Is there an official Colombian clampdown on independent journalists? (Image from web.)

While I wasn’t actually denied the visa — the door is still open to get it — new requirements in relation to my journalist diploma made things much more awkward and time-consuming than they had theretofore been.

“I showed you love, you wanted more!”
Had it been my first visa request it wouldn’t have been as disheartening a saga. “OK, these are the requirements and I have to follow them.” However, I was going for my fifth, after which I would have been entitled to apply for residency, and that lasts for five years.

‘I’m not that upset about it.’

So considering the time and money I’ve invested here, that I’m now back at zero in terms of visa continuity is a little bit disappointing.

Now it must be said I’m not terribly down about it. I’d been considering my future here anyway, before the visa complications started. In some ways it’s been positive. Since my return from Venezuela, I’ve been focusing on work areas more ‘down my street’, or what I think I should be doing in any case.

It remains to be seen whether this new, um, ‘Wrong Way’ results in my immediate future still being here in Colombia or it means moving on to pastures new. The next few weeks will tell a tale.

Whatever the case, I’m relaxed. Things are happening.

A concerted effort?
Specifically in terms of the visa stumbling block, though, it never crossed my mind, not with any real belief anyway, that there were more, let’s call them ‘sinister forces’ at work. In fact, I still don’t think there are.

However, it appears that a good number of foreigners in a similar position have had the same issue. So much so that the head of Colombia Reports is getting European diplomats and other international agencies to look into the matter.

‘La Cancillería is within its rights.’

Of course, it is rather difficult to prove that there is a concerted effort from Colombia’s La Cancillería — the department responsible for visas — to remove independent journalists from the country.

What’s more, officialdom here is fully within its rights to change the visa requirements as it sees fit. From an Irish perspective for one, it’s not like we have an open-door policy for the few Colombians who wish to make Ireland their home.

Personally, the idea that I was a ‘target to take out’ for La Cancillería is a little amusing, flattering even. As much as I’d like to think differently, this blog and the occasional other media groups I’ve collaborated with to write and talk about this country are unlikely to have caused much, if any, fuss amongst Colombia’s powers that be.

For sure, there have been a few negative articles, but it’s safe to assume they didn’t set the alarm bells ringing. Hey, it’d be great in a way if there was a ‘Wrong Way Out’ campaign. Alas, I haven’t quite made it that ‘big’ yet.

This isn’t to say that other journalists/reporters from here haven’t been singled out. They may indeed have been. The most likely scenario, if there is something untoward at play, is that it’s more of a general sweep, the idea being to cut down on these ‘volatile’ independent journalists/writers.

It will be interesting to see where Colombia Reports gets with its investigations in this regard. I’m guessing it will be a case of, ‘Nothing to see here guys, move along.’

‘What if you don’t have the actual qualifications to prove what you do?’

That being said, there are, unsurprisingly, some grey areas in the whole process.

Previously, so it went, with journalism being an unregulated profession no official qualifications had to be submitted with the application. It was all about proof of actual work.

Now, however, as mentioned above, La Cancillería is demanding the translation and certification of the relevant qualifications — a long and relatively costly process.

In practice, not in theory
This does beg the question for those going for an independent visa where they actually don’t have a qualification to ‘prove’ their skills in what they’re doing, what do they do?

For example, I have dabbled in a bit of acting, basic and ad hoc as it has been. So what if I were to apply for a visa as an actor? I don’t have papers to say I’m one, I just discovered I’m good at it and there is a demand for my services in the country (relax, it’s a hypothetical scenario!).

Plus of course, not all journalists, broadcasters or presenters have the qualifications in those specific fields. Some just fell into them by chance.

So you’d have to think there are allowances for such things.

Then again, in a country that tends to value the piece of paper over actual real-life ability, maybe not.

Perhaps they just want to let in those of a more academic disposition. Good at the theory — or as often happens in Colombia, with deep pockets — but not great in practice.

Talk the talk, but can’t walk the walk. Good luck to them with that.
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PERFIL
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La vida en Colombia desde la perspectiva de un periodista y locutor Irlandés, quien ha estado viviendo en el país desde 2011. El blog explora temas sociales y cultura, interacción con los nativos, viajes, actualidades y mucho más. Escucha su podcast acá: https://www.spreaker.com/show/the-colombia-cast.

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  1. I have liked your articles (most of them) so far; I am from Colombia, I have not requested Visa to stay in my home country, but when I request a Visa to visit some other country where Colombians require Visa, they normally ask for proof that I have real state here, or that I have a regular income, or if I intend to work elsewhere, somebody is willing to hire me. This is so I can prove that I have no intention to just try my luck, and that I will not be a beggar over wherever I am traveling to if things go wrong; this is intended to prove that I can keep myself afloat and I am not gonna cause trouble (like becoming a thief). Now, again, not my case, but being a ‘independent journalist’, that would be harder to prove, because that means I do not work under contract or I get a regular income. Still, wish you luck, as you are one of the few that don’t speak about Colombia only because of drugs; and thanks for the good things you said about this country

    • beforechrist

      “Thanks for the good things you said about this country.” Thank you for that. Of course it’s not always good, but I try to be fair and balanced on whatever I write about.
      As for the visa, all those things you mention about proof of work, steady income, etc., they are required for the ‘independent visa’ as well of course. Those things I can prove (plus, unlike Ireland, Colombia lacks any significant social welfare schemes to help impoverished people. So I certainly am not looking to stay in Colombia to be a ‘burden on the state’!!). It’s just this time, for the first time after having four consecutive visas, La Cancillería looked for my degree validated in Colombia. I had thought that after having four visas already, I would have built up some sort of loyalty, one visa away from being in a position to apply for residency as I was. (My brother in Canada could apply for residency there after just two year-long visas).
      Anyway, it is what it is. I was having doubts about continuing to stay in Colombia before this problem, so in many ways it has forced me to make a decision.
      Thanks again for taking the time to comment!

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