For the past two and a half years, I have loved living in Medellín, Colombia. I’ve lived in many places, and traveled all over the world, and I finally felt like I had found my home.
But now my future here is up in the air. My visa application was rejected, and I’m required to leave the country by Friday.
To say this is a disappointment would be an understatement. I’m utterly devastated. I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night, frightened and forlorn. Oddly, this experience makes me feel like a failure. Loss is loss, and rejection is rejection, I guess. It feels like a sudden death of a loved one, or an unexpected break-up.
The visa that I applied for was an investor visa. I invested significant money for me — close to $30,000 US — in a Colombian business. When you invest in a company at this level, that makes you eligible for a visa in Colombia. However, you’re still at the whims of government officials. My lawyer told me he processes thousands of visas a year, and that this is his first rejection in two years.
I had accrued two consecutive years of visas here in Colombia. If I had been granted this three-year visa, at the end of those three years, I would have accrued a total of five years. After five years in Colombia, you can apply for residency. After five years as a resident, you can apply to become a citizen. My plan was to follow that path.
I’ve already talked to a half dozen lawyers, and people in government in Colombia. When I told the Colombian consulate in Chicago about my situation, she exclaimed “wow,” followed by, “there’s nothing I can do.”
My one hope is that I’ll get back into the country as a tourist. I of course lose the two years of continuity I’ve gained thus far in this scenario. I can get six months as a tourist, at which point I’ll be eligible to apply for another visa. I get mixed opinions about whether I can hope to be accepted for this same investment.
There still exists a small chance that I’ll be denied re-entry into the country. So, I’m taking my most important possessions, and making a list of everything else in my apartment. If I can’t get back in, my girlfriend would have to get those things out of my apartment for me (imagine for a moment what that would feel like for her).
Why was my visa rejected? Theories range from that they didn’t like that I had switched visas (I had gone from having a business, to a medical visa for Invisalign, to this), that the officials didn’t actually understand the paperwork I provided to prove my investment, or that the official was just trying to meet her quota for rejections for the month.
It’s also possible that someone stole my identity and did something nefarious with it, in which case I would have been rejected as a “bad actor.” This is the scenario in which I would fear being denied reentry.
Whatever the reason, The Ministry of Foreign Relations reserves its right to give no reason at all.
This is the downside of expat or “digital nomad” life. When you decide to live outside or your home country, simply keeping your body on the soil on which it stands is an ongoing challenge. Sometimes the ground disappears from under your feet, and you’re falling through space, hoping the impact doesn’t turn you into a “splat” mark, like a bug on a windshield.
Strangely, I still want to live this life. I know myself well enough to know that if I didn’t have problems like these, my problems would devolve into worrying about having the latest iPhone, or whether I have a nice enough suit in my closet.
I believe I’ll always have ninety-nine problems. They might as well be problems that help me live an interesting life. This strikes me as a problem worth having. I look forward to seeing what comes of it.
(If you’ve been considering supporting my work on Patreon, now would be a good time, by the way.)