There are a number of ways to become an Ecuadorian resident and the process is fairly straightforward. Although you submit your immigrant-status visa application at the Ecuadorian consulate nearest your former residence, it is, in fact, approved through the Ministry of Foreign Relations, so expect the approval process to take four to eight weeks. Visa applications for your dependents, however, can be processed directly by the consulate once your application has been approved.

We strongly recommend that you hire an Ecuadorian immigration attorney to help you navigate the visa process.  Contact your attorney for the latest.

Staying on a Tourist Entry

When you first enter Ecuador, you will receive a T-3 tourist stamp in your passport, allowing you to stay in the country for 90 days.

If you wish to stay more than 90 days within a year, go to an Ecuador consulate in your home country and apply for the 12-IX visa. Often referred to as the Tourist, Commercial or Sports Visa, this allows you to stay in the country for up to 180 days in a year. If you are planning to apply for permanent residence, you are required to have the 12-IX visa when you file your application.

Why Get a Resident Visa?

While both non-resident and tourist visas can keep you in the country for extended periods, only the residence status will allow you stay on a permanent basis and to import your household goods duty-free.

If you’re 65 or older, you are entitled to all sorts of special treatment— 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 a refund of your 12% IVA (value-added) tax up to $92.64 per month. You even get your own, shorter line at the bank!

We strongly recommend that you consult an Ecuadorian immigration attorney if you decide to pursue residence. While it was possible to navigate the process without legal assistance in the past, those who have tried to go it alone often became frustrated by the bureaucracy and were forced to hire an attorney to complete the process. A good attorney knows the latest rules (they can change at a moment’s notice) and can handle the detail work smoothly. On average, a single person will pay about $1,500 in legal costs and government fees to obtain residence, while a couple, with the second applicant applying for a dependent’s residence, will pay about $2,000.

Temporary and Permanent Visas

On February 6, 2017, Ecuador’s new immigration law (Ley de Movilidad Humana) was put into full effect. This law brings about several major changes and one of those is the introduction of temporary residency visas.

In the past, foreigners were able to immediately apply for a permanent residency visa, but that is no longer the case. Now everyone must first obtain a temporary residency visa that is valid for two years. This temporary visa may be renewed one time only. After holding your temporary visa for 21 months, you are eligible to apply for a permanent visa that does not have an expiration date.

Temporary visa holders may be out of the country for no more than 90 days per 12-month period. Those with permanent visas may be out of the country no more than 180 days total for the first two years. The law does not clarify how long permanent residents can be out of the country after the first two years have passed.

The types of visas you may apply for are outlined below and these choices are the same for both temporary and permanent visas.

The Main Choice for Residence

There are 13 different visa options in Ecuador, but the vast majority of expats gain residence with a Pensioner’s visa. This is what was formerly called the 9-I visa, but is now the 60-III.

  • 60-III: Pensioner: For expats with retirement income this is usually the preferred option since it requires no major capital investment. You are required to demonstrate permanent income from a source outside of Ecuador of at least $800 per month. An additional $100 of monthly income is needed for each dependent. Typically, this comes from the applicant’s pension, Social Security, or fixed-income annuity (since funds cannot be withdrawn once the distribution phase begins). Income from sources like rental properties or stocks is not acceptable with this visa; however, those investments can be used for the 60-II (Rentista) visa.

If you are applying for any residence visa while you are in the country on a T-3, that visa MUST have at least 30 days remaining at the time of application.

Requirements for Residence

The requirements to obtain a residence in Ecuador are relatively simple, although it is important that your attorney guides you through the process.

Following are some general requirements to keep in mind:

  • Documents submitted for this process must be originals or certified (notarized) copies and must be apostilled if your home country is a signatory of the United Nation’s Apostille Convention (the U.S. is; Canada is not). In the U.S., the office of the secretary of state for the state in which the documents are drawn is responsible for applying the apostille stamp.
  • Documents must be translated into Spanish (do this after you arrive in Ecuador to avoid getting more documents apostilled).
  • You must register your home address with immigration authorities and report any change of address while living in Ecuador.

All applications for residence require the following to be submitted:

  • A completed form solicitud de visa de inmigrante for the appropriate residence type.
  • One notarized copy of an up-to-date passport (make sure it doesn’t expire in the next six months), with the notary attesting to the fact that its status is legally current.
  • A completed form hoja de datos para la cédula (a data sheet, subsequently used for your identity card).
  • Two current passport-size photos, in color with white backdrop. You can easily get these once you’re in Ecuador.
  • If applicable, a marriage certificate or common-law certificate. If you have previous marriage(s), you will also need copies of either a divorce decree or death certificate.
  • Birth certificates for the applicant and all dependents. For the visa itself these are necessary only for dependent children, but birth certificates for everyone are needed to apply for your cédula (Ecuadorian ID card) after your visa is approved. So go ahead and get them upfront and save the hassle later.
  • A criminal-record report. This applies to all immigrant residencies (Type 9) to Ecuador. The report must be issued by the country where the visa applicant resided during the last five years.

Other Visas

If you are seeking permanent residence in Ecuador, there are several other visa options available to you:

Professional Visa, Category 60-X

Applies to:

  • Professionals of high technical levels.
  • Professionals of specialized fields.

Applicants will need:

  • Passport, valid for at least the next six months.
  • Police certificate indicating that there is no record (criminal) for said person.
  • Two photographs.
  • Authorization to work, issued by the human resources office from the Ministry of Labor—duly legalized.
  • Copy of the working contract duly protocolized by the Ministry of Labor.
  • Certificate of payment to the Instituto Ecuatoriano de Seguro Social (Ecuadorian Social Security Office), duly authenticated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  • Certificate of the fulfillment of requirements established by the Superintendent of Companies.
  • Legalized copy of the company’s bylaws.
  • Affidavit from the hiring company or person assuming the responsibility for expenses incurred by the foreigner as a result of abandoning the country or deportation, accompanied by the appointment, duly registered, of the legal representative—all documents duly legalized.
  • Note that a new requirement, imposed in October 2011, now calls for a deposit of $12,500 in an Ecuadorian bank account in order to launch a company in the country. The $12,500 must be on deposit in order to qualify for a work visa.

Student Visa, Category 60-IX

Applies to students (at all levels, regular school year) and family members accompanying the student can qualify for dependent visas.

Applicants will need:

  • Passport, valid for at least the next six months.
  • Police certificate indicating that there is no criminal record.
  • Two recent photographs, passport size, in color.
  • School registration or proof of admission to an Ecuadorian school or institution duly recognized by the Ministry of Education.
  • Certificate from a bank indicating good economic standing with a letter from the parent/guardian indicating that they will support the student while in Ecuador.

Dependent Visa, Category 60-XII

Applies to dependents of all primary visa holders.

Applicants will need:

  • Aplicación de Visa (visa application) completed and signed.
  • Certificado de Visación form completed and signed.
  • Passport, valid for at least six months.
  • Police certificate indicating that there is no record.
  • Apostilled birth certificate.
  • Apostilled marriage certificate (if applicable).
  • Two recent photographs, passport size, in color.
  • Any additional proof of dependency on primary visa holder.

Other new or dramatically altered visas include:

Work Visa, Category 60-I

This visa is for foreigners who are hired to work in Ecuador or who is self-employed, but earning a monthly wage equivalent to the Ecuadorian minimum wage.

Rentista Visa, Category 60-II

You can qualify for this visa if you have monthly income from a stable source outside of Ecuador. This could include investments, rental properties, or wages. The monthly amount required is yet to be determined.

Note: Please keep in mind that rules and fees are subject to change. Again, we strongly suggest that you contact an Ecuadorian immigration attorney prior to pursuing any visa application. Understanding the visa process will save you time, money, and aggravation.

Ecuadorian Citizenship

After three years of residence it is possible to obtain Ecuadorian citizenship. This allows you to apply for an Ecuadorian passport and maintain dual citizenship, if you choose. Ecuador allows dual citizenship, as does the U.S., Canada, and most European countries, and hundreds of thousands of Ecuadorians are dual citizens.