Expat 101: Ecuador Visas Made Easy

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Good news about residence visas in Ecuador

In recent months the government has made huge strides to simplify visa applications. There are offices in Quito and Guayaquil, and to better accommodate the continued influx of foreigners, a new immigration office opened in Cuenca last year. All locations have bilingual staff.

The most common visa options are:

  • Pensioner’s visa. Prove a permanent monthly income of $800 (plus $100 for each dependent).
  • Investment visa. Buy a CD worth $25,000 (plus $500 for each dependent) from a lending institution approved by the Ecuadorian government.
  • Real estate visa. Buy a home with a tax value of at least $25,000 (plus $500 for each dependent).

To live in Ecuador full-time, expats must obtain a residence visa, so getting your paperwork in order before arriving in Ecuador is a must. For all visas you’ll need a police report and, when applicable, a marriage license or common law certificate. Minor dependents will also need their birth certificates, but go ahead and get everyone’s because they will be needed to later apply for your cedula, the Ecuadorian ID card.

All required documents must be apostilled, a fancy term most of us have never heard of. This is a certification, issued by the Secretary of State (in the U.S.) where your document originates, proving its authenticity with a public official’s signature and seal. They must also be translated into Spanish, but wait until you arrive in Ecuador to get this done to avoid the additional hassle of having to get those apostilled as well.

Visas are now being issued within a couple of months from application date and sometimes even quicker. It wasn’t always this way. I was one of the casualties of the old system.

It took over a year for my wife and me to receive our permanent visas. When our tourist visas expired and we twice needed to fly back to the States, well, that opened up a whole new can of monsters.

Each time was an adventure. It sometimes felt that whoever we were in front of was rendering his or her own interpretation. Sometimes we breezed right through Immigration, other times—not so much.

In the latter case we employed our time-honored strategy of just standing there smiling politely, acting clueless, and saying, “Lo siento. No hablamos Espanol” (I’m sorry. We don’t speak Spanish). It worked every time.

Of course our story has a happy ending. We are now legal residents of Ecuador and enjoying every minute of our lives here. Let me end this little story with some very good news.

The visa application costs only $30, and the fee for each individual is $320. There will of course be additional fees should you choose to use an attorney (which I recommend since those rules and regulations often change). Within 90 days of obtaining your visa you can do what we did and take advantage of shipping your household possessions duty-free.

If you are 65 or older you are eligible for phenomenal extra benefits—free medical care and medications, half-price bus transportation anywhere in the country, half-price tickets to movies plus sporting and cultural events, discounted airfare, a free landline telephone, and refund of your 12% IVA (VAT) tax.

Plus, you get to cut into the front of the line at the bank!

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