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@wwaycorrigan

[Listen to an audio version of this blog entry here.]

In September, Migración Colombia, the body responsible for granting extensions to temporary tourist passes, announced that the grace period for foreign visitors who found themselves stranded in the country was coming to an end. 

Migración Colombia offices are now open on Saturdays in the country's three biggest cities. Will this be enough to deal with the backlog of cases? Probably not.
Opening on Saturdays is a help, but is it enough? (Image from Facebook.)

Escape from limbo land
From the 21st of the month, days spent here would, in effect, start to be counted again, having been frozen when lockdown was introduced in March.

For tourists, the deadline is 01 November to either apply for another 90-day permit or leave. 

If you’re leaving within the time period, well that’s straightforward enough. However, it gets trickier if you’re looking for an extension as this requires an in-person meeting at a Migración office.

The initial communication from the government body stated that all appointments must be booked online. Those who turned up at Migración without one would be turned away. 

However, facing into a six-month backlog and reopening at only 30 per cent capacity, securing an appointment any time this year quickly became next to impossible for many. 

You see, it’s not only tourists Migración deals with. All foreigners based here who aren’t currently residents or citizens have to use its services at least once a year. 

Those who, during lockdown, were granted a visa or residency — a fully online process done with a different entity, La Cancillería — are expected to have these registered at Migración. This is one side of the same coin for the issuing of an ID card — cédula extranjería — corresponding to said visa/residency.

As far as I’m aware, this process must be begun on or before 21 October. (In “old normal” times you had 15 days to register a newly-issued visa.)

‘I’ve been told of incidents where people with such emergencies were refused entry to a Migración office because they didn’t have an appointment reserved online. This is completely at odds with the official line.’

That deadline also applies to foreigners living here who had a visa/residency application deemed inadmissible or whose visas have expired or find themselves in the country as an “irregular” for whatever reason. 

How I initially understood it was that those in such a position had only to register their intent to legalise their status, which in most instances means applying for an emergency stay called a salvoconducto. (Another option is to leave the country at the earliest possible opportunity — that usually means no more than 30 days after a visa expiry date.)

If these people in limbo can’t get an actual in-person appointment before 21 October because the system is overwhelmed, surely they can’t be held responsible for that?

It now appears, however, Migración expects such cases to have reached a conclusion by the deadline. 

The latest advice on its website states that if your appointment is after the date your document expires or you simply can’t get an appointment and yours is a case that needs urgent attention, you should go immediately to one of its offices, preferably, I’m guessing, the one closest to you. 

But for the grace of Duque?
That’s the official line. As is often the case with such things, though, what’s happening on the ground is different. I’ve been told of incidents where people in such dilemmas were refused entry because they didn’t have an appointment reserved online.

I’m also aware of a number of Bogotá-based foreigners being forced to travel to Migración offices in cities hundreds of kilometres away to resolve their situation before they became irregular. Great in these coronavirus times, isn’t it?

One of these was somebody applying for residency. A day before his latest visa expired he received notification from La Cancillería that his application was deemed inadmissible — something that seems to be happening to a lot of folk requesting visas or residency these days.

Thus, faced with losing the continuity of five years of visas, the most crucial, time-consuming requirement for a residency bid, he had to hightail it from the capital to Neiva in order to seek a salvoconducto from the Migración office there, effectively buying time to sort out the issue with his original residency application.

It worked out for him, he got what he needed. However, this is the exact type of case where I would have thought flexibility would be forthcoming from both La Cancillería and Migración. The applicant didn’t want to test that, hence his last-minute dash south to Neiva. It must be said, the fact these processes involve two different government entities doesn’t help.

The chief press officer at Migración did tell me in a WhatsApp message that they were being flexible. I’ve no reason to doubt that. I must also state that I’ve always found officials at that body reasonable and informative. 

Nonetheless, potential arbitrary flexibility and understanding aside, one immediate solution to all of this would be an extension to the grace period. We’re still in the middle of this pandemic after all. Forcing people into unplanned travel in such times doesn’t seem like best practice.

So, President Duque, you have it in your power to tidy up this messy situation. Or are the conspiracy theorists on to something? Is Colombia systematically forcing foreigners out? Surely not. _______________________________________________________________
Listen to Wrong Way’s Colombia Cast podcast here.

Facebook: Wrong Way Corrigan — The Blog & IQuiz “The Bogotá Pub Quiz”.

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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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    @wwaycorrigan [Listen to an audio version of this blog entry here.] In the 1972 classic, Godfather, there's an early scene where Don Corleone berates his godson, Johnny Fontaine, for crying because he didn't get a part in a movie. 'Godfather, I don't know what to do', a sobbing Fontaine mutters. Cue a slap in the face and a violent retort, 'You can act like a man', followed by a gentle mocking of his behaviour from the Don. [caption id="attachment_4643" align="aligncenter" width="347"]People who cry regularly get on Wrong Way's nerves. 'Let it all out ...' (Image from emojipedia.org.)[/caption] Crying times That scene is set in the late 1940s, a quite different world from that which we inhabit today, to state the obvious. These days, it's all about being in touch with one's emotions. It's OK to cry, whether you're a man, woman, child or however else you define yourself. Don't suppress your feelings, let it all out. I don't completely disagree with that approach. For one, for the most part, it's good to be honest about how you feel — at least if you're asked that is. What I don't like, what irritates me, is when the waterworks start, especially — although not exclusively — when it's men who are shedding the tears. This is where I side with Don Corleone. It's not that it makes me uncomfortable, it's more a case that I find it hard to take seriously men who cry with regularity. As for women, whether the tears are genuine or not, they often, um, precipitate a granting, justified or not, of whatever they may be looking for. I generally make an exception for death, but even in that there seem to be people who let flow more than really appears "necessary". (Perhaps we could introduce a tear scale. 'Careful now, you're close to your limit.') Bidding adieu to loved ones for an indefinite period of time is another "acceptable" tear-jerker. Alcohol-induced crying is also excepted, meaningless as it often is.

    'When the tears in others come they invoke a negative, cold reaction in me. Rather than wanting to help, I have a desire to walk away.'
    This aversion towards, bordering on utter contempt for crying has something to do with, it's safe to assume, my childhood. I was, after all, a serial crier into my mid-teens. Then, from about 15 onwards, I started to develop a strong dislike when seeing others well up for reasons that I would have considered rather inconsequential. During that time, no doubt having to deal with me, her last born, I recall my mother crying for what seemed like the merest of reasons. It used to get my blood up. Even if I'd been told it was all largely down to the menopause, it's unlikely I would have been sympathetic to her plight. Selfish teens, eh. Dry your eyes, mate This clearly left its mark. For in my current abode, the landlady, a nice woman I hasten to add, cries on an almost-daily basis. It's not only, as has happened a fair few times, a headache when she does it speaking directly to me about some grievance or another (these grievances have nothing to do with me, by the way!). It also irks me simply when I can just hear her sobbing away in her room. I know I should probably be a little more empathetic considering she suffers from depression, it's just when the tears in others come they invoke a negative, somewhat cold reaction in me. Rather than wanting to help I have a desire to walk away. It's not that I lack understanding. In fact, I'd wager I take the time to listen to and empathise with other people's gripes as much if not more so than the next person. I just wish they'd leave the crying out of it. The British-Irish band The Pogues sang in Streams of Whiskey, 'there's nothing ever gained by a wet thing called a tear'. That's not fully true, but I wish it was.   _______________________________________________________________ Listen to Wrong Way's Colombia Cast podcast here. Facebook: Wrong Way Corrigan — The Blog & IQuiz "The Bogotá Pub Quiz".

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  1. Hi, I had just submitted for a pension visa in Colombia on the 16th of October. I was told by a visa agency all we had to do was submit a Visa before the 21st of October and do not need a salvoconducto to wait for the approval of the Visa. Is this consistent with what you have heard? Thank you for this post and look forward to receiving your answer.

  2. I had just submitted for a pension visa in Colombia on the 16th of October. I was told by a visa agency all we had to do was submit a Visa before the 21st of October and do not need a salvoconducto to wait for the approval of the Visa. Is this consistent with what you have heard? Thank you for this post and look forward to receiving your answer.

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