What you must bring to Ecuador to get a residency visa

ecuador resident visas

This week I got a question from a friend…

“Dom, I heard you offer a free visa consultation for those interested out of your B&B in Guayaquil, I’m headed back to the US for 3 weeks, what documents and things do I need to bring back to Ecuador in order to get a residency visa?”

Great question.

As with any visa process, there is a laundry list of requirements all attainable rather pain-free once already in Ecuador. BUT there are a few requirements you CAN’T get in Ecuador, so you will need to bring them from your home country.

Regardless of your choice of visa, you will need to bring…

1. A birth certificate apostatized by your secretary of state (for US citizens only) or have your birth certificate certified/legalized by an Ecuadorian Embassy in your HOME country. I recommend getting your documents certified by an Ecuadorian Consulate, some state apostles no longer look like apostles so some immigration officials won’t accept them even though they should. Ecuadorians love STAMPS.

2. A local police record check from where you’ve lived the last five years… you’ll need this document apostatized or legalized by an Ecuadorian consulate in your home country. A federal or FBI check is not necessary.

3a. For MARRIED folks, you’ll need an official copy of your marriage certificate apostatized or legalized/certified by an Ecuadorian consulate in your home country.

3b. For SINGLE folks, your proof of “single” status can be obtained from the Secretary of State in your former home state (in fact NOT from a consulate like the Ecuadorian Cedula employee told me earlier this week), but a certified divorce decree, will also serve the same purpose. This document also needs to be apostilled or legalized by an Ecuadorian consulate in your home country. (THIS IS ONLY NEEDED FOR THE CEDULA, NOT THE RESIDENCY VISA.)

For folks applying for the PENSIONERS resident visa…

4. You’ll need a document serving as proof of your pension from the issuing institution legally apostatized or certified in an Ecuadorian Consulate in your home country. For instance, this can be a BENEFITS STATEMENT from a social security or disability pay out.

For folks looking to get an investors visa the first 3 requirements are all you need to bring to Ecuador, the rest is attainable once here and translations of foreign documents to Spanish IS necessary but can be done cheaper once in Ecuador.

Random visa notes and Q&A based on yesterdays email…

– First a correction, as of July of 2012, you can, in fact, get both your residency visa AND cedula (Offical Ecuador ID card) in Cuenca as well as in Guayaquil and Quito. I think many are still unaware of this, like I was, cause many folks still come to Guayaquil to get cedulas when they no longer have to.

– Sc@m alert… one subscriber emailed me.. “I was told by someone that there were coming changes that would make getting a residency visa harder and that if I give him $1395 that he could get me “grandfathered” in so that I wouldn’t have to deal with all the new requirements.” … my response. This is simply not true, the requirements MAY change, who knows, but their are currently no plans to do so. This sounds like a dishonest sales pitch.

– Question… “[one guy] said he could get me my residency papers right away, but I wouldn’t have to come down right off, they’d be ready for me when I came down. In other words, that’s all bunk too?”

My response… I would NOT start this process from abroad… just wait until YOU ARE IN ECUADOR to begin the residency process… AND DONT use a lawyer who will likely overcharge you and then not do the work! It is really NOT necessary to use a lawyer for visas in Ecuador. This is something you can do yourself if you speak Spanish or to save a bit of hassle you could hire a facilitator (like me when I have free time :)), for instance, I charge $350 and within one month you can get both your residency visa and cedula. That’s about the going rate. Lawyers usually charge double or triple that and often take MUCH longer to complete the job.

– Question: “I just received my 12-1x visa yesterday and am going back the states next thursday. What effect does my leaving have on my visa. Do I save days on the 180 for time spent away?”

My Response… I’ve seen people leave Ecuador with time left on a visa and when they come back they are given ONLY the remaining time until the visa expires. For a different scenario, as for the free 3 month stamp upon entry, for example, if you come to Ecuador for 2 months, leave for a month, and come back they probably will stamp your passport upon entry allowing only a 1 month stay because in a year you are only allowed to be in Ecuador for 3 months on the free tourist stamp. It works similar for visas like in your case.

– Question: “Can you explain the requirements once a residence visa has been obtained? Must a permanent resident reside in Ecuador full time or is part time sufficient?”

My Response… technically, they say officially that you need to be in the country for at least 9 months a year your first two years, but unofficially I know several people who have spent less time in Ecuador with no problems. The only time I foresee a problem is if you plan to apply for Ecuador dual citizenship as allowed after 2-3 years of residency.

– Question: “How long is the residency visa or cedula valid?”

My Response… Residency visas in Ecuador are “Indefinite” meaning you never have to renew them as long as you meet the requirements of which you used to get your visa.

– Question: “I can’t move to Ecuador yet do to my job, but should I get the residency visa now?”

My Response… you can be in Ecuador up to 6 months a year on tourist visas, so just do that if you don’t plan on living here… why go through the hassle and expense if you aren’t even going to live here, for now. If you don’t move here now, chances are you never will… that’s just how life is, am I wrong?

– Question: “Dom, I’m already in Ecuador, but I forgot the aforementioned documents, can I still apply for the residency visa?”

My Response… no! You will need these documents before applying but you CAN send away for them from Ecuador if you have a good friend in your home country who can gather these documents for you and DHL them to you… I just did this this week for someone and from the US to Ecuador DHL delivered in 2 days!

– Question: “Dom, how long does it take to get the residency visa and cedula once submitting the application?”

My Response… 3 weeks to one month. If it takes longer there may be a problem or you may have selected the person to help you get your visa and cedula poorly.

– Question: “Dom, oops, I overstayed my visa in Ecuador, is there a fine or sanctions I will be subject to?”

My Response… As of 2012, there is no more fine for overstaying your visa although corrupt immigration officials may still try to charge you it… I’ve seen it happen, just a few weeks ago!…You can however hold firm and they likely won’t insist. There is however restrictions on when you can come back into the country unless you get approved for a visa before coming back to Ecuador. Always best to stay legal.

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