A cross-cultural move always has its challenges but hopefully the following will help you think through the details and facilitate your arrival in beautiful Medellín with minimal hiccups.
A valid passport with at least six months before the expiration date and at least two blank pages.
Many documents are required to have an Apostille seal affixed to the document. Apostille Convention Definition
Contact the Secretary of State in the state where you live for specific information. For Massachusetts: Massachusetts Secretary of State
Check with the nearest Colombian consulate 2-3 months prior to departure for a current list of requirements and costs. The following website is helpful but hearing directly from the consultate is advised: Colombian Consulate in Boston
A Work Visa is valid for 2 years and may be preferable to other visas depending upon your specific situation. Please note that the fee for a work visa is $255 USD per person via a money order.
To obtain a work visa, you must work directly with the company/institution in Colombia that will be sponsoring you. They should be able to advise you and provide you with the necessary documents.
Marriage and birth certificates
To qualify for an apostille seal, all certificates such as marriage and birth certificates must be certified copies. For example, in Boston, the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics office, or City Hall can issue certified copies.
It is advisable to get two copies apostilled of all certificates. One copy for the visa application and one copy for your own records.
Bring any recent pertinent medical records especially children’s immunization records, records of recent surgeries, recent gynecological exams and any recent mammograms.
In order to be legally accepted into a Colombian school, you must present notarized and “apostille sealed” report cards. For children who have completed fifth grade and below, the previous year’s final report card will suffice. For older children, every report card from fifth grade and onwards must be presented.
Once in Colombia, you will need to hire an official translator who will translate each report card into Spanish. You will then be able to go to the Secretary of Education in your area, and submit the report cards for approval.
Upon approval, you can officially matriculate into the school of your choice. You are allowed to attend the school unofficially while you await the Secretary of Education’s decision. Their job is to review the report cards and place each child in the appropriate grade.
The Big Question: Should you ship your belongings via container, pay for extra bags and bring what you can on the plane, or ship somethings on a pallet and bring other things on the plane?
The Answer: It will be different for each person depending upon family size, items you already own, items that you absolutely need and can’t be found here and how long you intend on staying.
What did we do and why? We are a family of five and hope to stay here indefinitely so our decision was to ship our belongings in a container. It wasn’t the smoothest experience but we did get most of our things. Most? Yes, someone somewhere decided they needed some of our electronics more than we did. Remember it’s only stuff! Allow between $12,000 and $15,000 USD all in to ship a container from the states to Colombia.
So, why? As a professor, Gustavo had boxes and boxes of heavy books. As a homeschooling mother, I had boxes and boxes of heavy books. We also preferred to bring our piano, photo albums, kitchen items, washer/dryer, and the children’s toys. We didn’t own any furniture to speak of but we discovered it was cheaper to purchase new furniture from IKEA and then ship it with our other things than purchase new in Medellin. Purchasing used furniture in Medellin isn’t readily available and new furniture is mostly presswood and expensive.
If you decide to purchase most of your items here in Medellin keep in mind that:
- electronics and toys are easily 30% more expensive than what you can find new in the states and not everything you would like is available (especially kitchen small electronics) More and more things are being sold in Homecenter which is great.
- furniture is readily available but similar in cost to an average furniture store in the states at lesser quality. A dresser like this one at IKEA isn’t available at the stores but you can have it made by a store for $550 in presswood. We did find a local carpenter who made it in wood and it cost around $400.
- Bed linens and towels are a lesser quality if that is important to you.