If you are going to come to Colombia and stay for more than six months, and if you want your wife to stay with you, this is what you need to do:
1 Have a visa yourself first. And while you’re at it, get your Cedula de Extranjeria which you will need for one of the steps below, besides needing it to chash checks, open a bank account, exist.
2 When you come, bring your marriage license with you, and before you come, have the Department of State of your state put an apostille on it. This is very important. If you leave home without it you might want to leave a brother-in-law working at the state house to take care of it for you (thanks Mike!).
3 You need to have both the license and the apostille document translated by an official Colombian translator. You can get them here, though I know of one living in Naples, FL who is very helpful (thanks Brent!).
4 A)Those translations need to be legalized by the Ministry of Exterior Relations. Go to their website http://www.cancilleria.gov.co and somewhere in there is a place where you can sign up for an appointment to get your translations legalized (and there is where you get a Colombian Apostille appointment, if you need one). Good luck finding it as the site reflects the values and processes of said ministry. You can also call for an appointment if you are fluent in Spanish—the number is on the site.
4 B) As you will have found out by now, in order to get an appointment via internet, you need your Cedula number. If you don’t have it, see the bit about the phone. Otherwise, I advise you to arrive 45 to 30 minutes before your appointment to wait in line. Everybody else does and sometimes they might let you in early.
5 Now you are ready to go to get copies of your documents (license, apostille, translation of license and of apostille plus a copy of the person with a visa’s passport and visa and a copy of the person getting a visa’s passport and most recent immigration stamp from DAS). DO NOT EVER GIVE THE MINISTRY AN ORIGINAL DOCUMENT UNLESS YOU NO LONGER NEED IT, other than your passport, of course.
6 Find a notary and have the copies of your marriage license, apostille and translations notarized—they call it an actualization and it is very cheap. The only deal is waiting: you give it to a person, they do the deed and then tell you to pay. You pay. Then you wait for them to call out your name and you get the documents back.
7 You are still not ready to go to the ministry. What you need to do now is write in bureoucratese. This is very difficult for persons who are decent but it must be done. Say how you respectfully submit all due documents (list them), how you will take said spouse out of the country should the terms of your contract cease, how you have filled out the form in all the glory and fullness thereof (Oh yes, you have to fill the form out still), etc.
8 Make sure you have two pictures of the person getting the visa. Must be on white background and 3cm by 3cm. No, there is not an old guy with some polaroid apparatus outside of the ministry like there is at DAS and no, your blue background photos from the old guy at DAS who sold you nine when you only needed two will not work.
9 Go to the ministry. When you get to the office on the second floor, say you need information. When your turn comes tell them you have a visa and need a beneficiary visa for your wife. They’ll give you a form and a piece of paper with information that is not entirely irrelevant—but only barely so.
10 You should ask for a turn to talk to the person at the second window before you fill out the form: the wait is not minor. Fill it out and when your turn comes, hand the whole thing over.
11 After waiting for approximately two hours, they’ll give you a filled out bank slip and you can pay, in this case almost 400,000 COPs for the visa. You can do it right there and it must be in COPs. Give the stamped slip back to any of the familiar faces coming and going in the corner of the room where you have for two hours now been watching them come and go.
12 They might interview you, but if they do not, they’ll call you up to sign for your visa and you will be done.
I realize that the requirements above may change arbitrarily. This is what I gleaned over a series of seven visits to the ministry between September 22, 2009 and October 26, 2009. But I’d have been glad to know a few of the steps before hand, and since they had to be obtained by trial and error, I offer them here for your consideration.*
*Having left a detailed complaint, signed of course, with the functionaries of the ministry, I am probably persona non grata with them nowadays, and you should take that under consideration when following any advice I offer.