Petro proposes visa-free travel for Colombians to U.S

President Gustavo Petro, US secretary of State Antony Blinken and VP Francia Márquez / Presidencia.

With an average wait time of two years – yes, two years – for applicants to get an in-person appointment at the U.S Embassy in Bogotá in regard to first time tourist visas, and equal time frame for renewals, President Petro proposed the U.S Government scrap the entry requirement for Colombians.

President Petro suggested the move a week after he hosted U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken during an official visit to Bogotá, where they discussed “shared priorities” in the binational agenda, including migration. Blinken thanked Petro “for Colombia’s remarkable generosity to more than 2.4 million Venezuelans displaced by their country’s ongoing humanitarian crisis,” and continuation of government policy enacted under the former administration of President Iván Duque.

The former right-wing government gave temporary protection status  – TPS – to more than a million and a half Venezuelans and which guarantees the same rights as their Colombian counterparts with access to education for children, formal employment for adults and legal immigration status for 10-years. President Duque’s initiative was hailed as an example for other countries to follow. “We’re proud to have worked with the Colombian Government, with the private sector, with NGOs to create programs that expand opportunities for displaced Venezuelans and their host communities,” highlighted the senior U.S diplomat.

The proposal to lift restrictions for Colombians wanting to legally enter the U.S as tourists, will benefit major destinations preferred by tourists and cities with large Colombian expat communities, among them Miami, Houston, Los Angeles, Boston and New York.

Colombia’s Ambassador to Washington, Luis Gilberto Murillo, received confirmation from the State Department that more consular workers will be sent to Bogotá to help expedite the visa processing and clear a mounting backlog. “Colombians should have the possibility of being able to travel as tourists to the United States without a visa. We have raised this issue verbally from our Embassy, but we hope to do it formally very soon,” stated Murillo. A historic decision to eliminate tourist visas for Colombians would require the approval from President Joe Biden.

“It does not look good that visa applications are taking 850 days for persons to be given an appointment after they submit the application,” stated Murillo. “In addition, we have information that (the United States) is the country in the world where this process takes the longest. We are strategic allies, and this is a situation that must be corrected,” emphasized the Ambassador.

Should the proposal from Colombia’s first leftist President, Gustavo Petro, be well received by US authorities, including Congressional lawmakers and President Biden, Colombians would join citizens from a host of nations, among them Canada, Japan, United Kingdom, Australia and most of continental Europe, with visa-free travel stateside, and binational agreement that would seal 200-years of diplomatic relations and strategic partnership, that in the words of Blinken “has not wavered across administrations in both our countries.”