Entrepreneur Ilana Milkes, who established World Tech coding bootcamps, was a driving force behind the visa.
With a brief appearance on stage at Mobile World Congress later this month she will go through how the visa allows visitors to stay for 24 months, as opposed to just six months for tourists, and how it provides state ID, which entitles holders to access to banking services and the ability to create a business in the nation.
Milkes first discussed the advantages that digital nomads could provide for Medellin and the nation at large with the city’s mayorship. Further meetings were held after the approval.
“You need a lot of patience talking with politicians,” Milkes said. “We talked to the president’s team, ministers, the chancellor’s team, even the mayorship’s team. It was almost like a year and a half of meetings and writing the law itself, and making lots of presentations. This was during the pandemic as well.”
The visa, which covers independent contractors and remote workers, was finally authorized in October 2022 and became effective in January 2023.
“Neither party had leadership or initiatives to take it as a vision,” Milkes said. “So what we’re doing now is advocating (it) to people, including the public sector, and our vision for digital nomads.”
The new administration, however, makes it clear that it wants to support the tourism sector. “There is an acknowledgement of tourism as an important source of generation of foreign exchange in the country,” Gilberto Salcedo, vice president of tourism at ProColombia, told Skift in July last year.
There are many advantages to the vision. $6.8 billion was spent by tourists in Colombia in 2019. Nevertheless, “business tourism,” which includes people attending events like congresses and conventions, made up 14% of that, according to the Global Travel and Tourism Council. By their spending, Milkes contends that digital nomads might “activate local economies.”
The nation’s tourism bureau anticipates that in the following 18 months, at least 45,000 digital nomads will visit the nation thanks to the visa.
The Colombian proposal may sound familiar, as the Estonian eResidency program served as a model. Estonia was one of the first countries to offer eResidency to foreigners in 2014, and it was the first country in the European Union to officially introduce the nomadic visa in 2020.
In the future, Milkes plans to offer more services, similar to Estonia. This would initially be done through a privately run program called ePioneers.
“Our vision is to not just keep it as a visa, we want to build a community around it,” she said.