CARIBBEAN PROPERTY MAGAZINE
Living, Working and Investing in the Caribbean
C O U N T R Y F O C U S : COLOMBIA
Where to Find a Beautiful Wife and Eternal Spring
By Esteban Rada Ortega
Senor Rada Ortega was recommended to Caribpro.com as a lawyer who works regularly with english speaking immigrants moving to Colombia. He gave us a brief overview of his city and the laws which will effect non-nationals wishing to invest in Colombia.
A famous Colombian saying goes: "If you want a pretty mistress, go to Cali, but if you want a beautiful wife, go to Medellin."
Medellin, once thought to be the most dangerous city on earth, is undergoing a renaissance and now leads the country in a curious duality, as both the fashion and the internet capital of Colombia! One wonders if the fashion industry grew up as a result of the city’s beautiful women.
As a visitor to this vibrant city, you will arrive at the José María Córdova International Airport which is located about 40 minutes drive from the city.
It is the second largest airport in Colombia after the El Dorado International Airport of Bogotá in terms of infrastructure and the third in terms of passenger service.
Discussions are underway to connect the model Medellin metro built in 1995, with the airport, the only public transit subway system in Colombia.
Colombian immigration is like any other, official and mystifying. The DAS Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad stamps your passport for 60 days when you arrive in Medellin on your direct flight from any number of directly connected cities, take your pick… New York, USA or Birmingham, England. Your 60 days can be extended by a further 60 days, the law allows foreigners to stay up to 180 days in any one year in the city.
Tourists are now made to feel very welcome and between 2003 and 2006 tourism leapt by 65%. Lonely Planet picked Colombia as one of their top 10 world destinations for 2006.
The infamous cocaine trade has been largely dispersed. Hotels and homes, shopping malls and theatres spring up like new flowers after a hard, grim winter. Net private investment in the city has increased by 300 percent since 1993 when the cartel was finished, and more foreign firms are moving in every day.
As Colombia's primary textile manufacturer for decades, the two million plus citizens of Medellin known as ‘paisas’, are renowned for their hard work and entrepreneurship.
Garments and cloth are made for such private labels such as Tommy Hilfiger and Pierre Cardin, and as much as 80% of some companies output is exported, compared with only 15 per cent 10 years ago. The majority goes to the US which is only us three hours to by air and three days by boat. Their major competitors, the Chinese. are looking at 15 to 18 hours by plane and many days by boat.
In 2002 under the Presidency of Dr. Álvaro Uribe, Colombia began a process of reconstruction in the wake of a diminishing cocaine trade, and its concominant grip of terror. Uribe’s success is now a tangible thing.
IMF Economic Indicators published in September 2006, forecast the Colombian GDP to reach US$149.869 billion for this year, 2007.
Inflation remains below 5% and in March of this year Standard & Poor raised its long-term foreign currency sovereign credit rating on the Republic to BB+ from BB, just one notch below Investment Grade Status. Its estimated that Colombia could reasonably expect to achieve Investment Grade Status "towards the end of 2008 or beginning of 2009".
Colombia is higher than the world average in two significant areas, more than two-thirds of all Colombians live in urban areas including Medellin with a literacy rate of 88%.
So many expat lives start with a brief visit to a new and exotic city, and end with a long term stay. To make life comfortable for the longer stay up to $10,000 USD can be brought into the country in cash. And up to $1500 USD duty free on goods above and beyond personal luggage.
As with most countries, to buy a property, open a bank account or seek or be offered work in Colombia, non-nationals will need a whole slew of permits. But if you invest more than USD 100,000.00 in your new property, you can obtain residency, which after five years allows you to apply for citizenship.
And if you fall in love and want to marry, you can. But the legislation can be complicated, mainly if there are previous marriages or small children involved. The best advice you can have is to hire a lawyer who specialises in Family Law.
There are nineteen different types of churches in Colombia who will marry you, as well as civil weddings performed by a public notary or a civil judge of the town council.
The health sector is divided into public and private, the standards of the latter being much higher due to affiliations to clinics outside of Medellin, with better professionals and the latest technology. You must have health insurance when living or travelling in the city, costs for hospitals and drugs are high and you can’t be unprotected, even the health clinics ask for a money deposit.
There is a good social security system and if you spend time in Medellin its well worth applying for a social security number and receiving the extra health benefits that this brings.
In Medellin, a city of Parks emerges like an explosion of art and joy. Explora Park, a 398,000-square-foot science and technology park, a Zen Park, the Park of Lights, with it three hundred 72-foot-tale lit up at night, Wishes Park with a planetarium, a movie theatre, and a music hall where the Medellín Philharmonic is based are all the outward trappings of a city reborn for its paisas and proud of its new
Medellín has long been known as "Ciudad de la Eterna Primavera" (The City of Everlasting Spring), and these days, paisas certainly have a spring in their step.
The best known and not to be missed event each year is the Festival of Flowers, La Feria de las Flores. In August Medellin celebrates the cut flower business. Colombia supplies around 70% of the flowers imported in to the United States.
In a glorious mix of cultural celebration which lasts for a week, the best include the horse parade, the old car parade, and the superb desfile de los silleteros (flower carrier parade).
These spectacles should not be missed, but then neither should the newly sprung city of Medellin.