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Ecuador is calling and you are ready to go and experience all that this gorgeous country has to offer. However, it’s not as simple as just packing up and moving. Along with the low cost of living, marvelous weather, great food, and the warm, welcoming people, Ecuador has special visa policies. Allow Expat.com to help you understand all the visa rules.

What kind of visa do I need to reside in Ecuador?

Ecuador's visa rules and types changed dramatically for resident visas in 2017. Resident visas now fall into two different categories: temporary resident visa and permanent resident visas. Temporary and permanent resident visas can be either immigrant or non-immigrant, and fall under each of the different types of resident visas. The El Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores website (The Ministry of External Relationships) extensively lists all visas and details all conditions for the visa application.

Procedure for a Permanent Resident Visa

In order to obtain permanent resident visa status in Ecuador, you must first apply for a 2-year temporary resident visa (TRV). The 2-year temporary resident visa can be renewed after 2 years for an additional 2 years if desired. After the resident has resided under this visa for the full 2 years, they may apply for a more permanent resident visa. This permanent visa application process can begin after the resident has lived in Ecuador under the temporary resident visa for a minimum of 21 months.

Once a temporary resident visa has been obtained, the visa holder may only leave Ecuador for no more than 90 days during each of the 2 years of the visa. If they stay outside of the country for more than 90 days, the visa will be canceled and a new visa must be obtained.

Non-immigrant category (work and student visa)

Ecuadorian visas are referred to as either non-immigrant or immigrant visas. An example of a non-immigrant visa is a student or a worker's visa. In the non-immigrant category, many prospective permanent residents who are moving to Ecuador to work are concerned with the 12-VI work visa. A person coming to work in Ecuador with this visa may be accompanied by their closest family members within the second degree of consanguinity and first degree of affinity, i.e., children, spouses, and parents.

However, note that only an immigrant visa allows you to import your belongings from outside Ecuador duty-free within the first 6 months of the date you receive the 2-year temporary visa. Many new residents in Ecuador, once the residency visa has been obtained, plan to ship either a container or a large pallet of personal belongings rather than purchasing everything new in Ecuador. While you can buy everything that you will need in Ecuador, sometimes you might want to bring a bit of home to your new home!

Immigrant category

Most future residents in Ecuador apply for the following visas from the immigrant visa category:

Pensioner Visa 9-I (those who can prove a lifetime retirement income of at least $800, and $100 more for each dependent)

Investor Visa 9-II (those who can invest in either a Certificate of Deposit of a minimum of $27,020 in Ecuador or purchase Ecuadorian real estate valued in Ecuador's registries of at least $27,020 and $500 more for each dependent)

Industrial Investor Visa 9-III (those investing in a type of industry for export, with a capital investment amount of $30,000 minimum)

Agent Visa 9-IV (company agent doing business or religious activities in Ecuador, with the sponsoring entity depositing an investment to cover each agent)

Professional Visa 9-V (those with a minimum of a bachelor's degree at an accepted university of higher learning, listed on Senescyt) http://www.senescyt.gob.ec/

Dependent Visa 9-VI (spouse or children of one of the listed visa holders or spouse of an Ecuadorian citizen)

Important: The visa application fee for a permanent visa is $550 as of January 1, 2016, and for a dependent the fee is an additional $250.

Most large cities in Ecuador maintain an office locally in order to facilitate the visa process. Immigrant visas must be applied for physically in Ecuador. An Ecuadorian consulate outside of Ecuador will not accept immigrant or non-immigrant visa applications directly from you. However, with a specific Power of Attorney, a lawyer or facilitator in Ecuador may file the visa application for you. These Attorney/facilitator fees can range anywhere from $900 to $2,000 for each application. If you do apply for the visa from your home country, if the visa application is accepted, it will then be granted to you in the nearest Ecuadorian consulate in your home country, and therefore you may incur additional fees. After the visa has been granted, you must register the visa within 30 days of your arrival in Ecuador at the nearest visa office (Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores).

Once the permanent resident visa has been obtained after holding the 2-year temporary visa, the permanent resident may be allowed out of Ecuador for up to 180 days during each of the first 2 consecutive years, dating from the date of issuance of the visa, without any penalty or fines. After the first 2 years of the permanent visa, the permanent resident may remain outside of Ecuador for up to 5 years. If the resident overstays these time periods outside of Ecuador, the visa becomes invalid and the visa application process will need to be begun anew.

Once you receive your permanent immigrant visa, you may also apply for and be issued an Ecuadorian National Identity card, called a cedula. The cedula facilitates a host of formalities such as opening bank accounts. Without a cedula, your passport must be used for all financial transactions and purchases.

After residing permanently for three years in Ecuador, the resident may begin the process to apply for Ecuadorian citizenship. In addition, the permanent resident may vote in any election after 5 years of residency.

Important: If you're planning to apply for a permanent or temporary resident visa, you must obtain a criminal background check from every place you have lived in the most recent five years prior to your arrival in Ecuador. It's a good idea to wait until about a month or so before your departure for Ecuador to obtain the background checks as the documents cannot be more than 60 days old prior to the visa application submission. For U.S. citizens, an FBI background check and a state background check are required. For Canadian citizens, an RCMP background check and provincial background check are required.

Good to know: in Ecuador, you only qualify for the status of 'single' if you have never been married. Any other marital circumstances means you will not be regarded as single. You may also be required to produce divorce papers, particularly if your passport name does not match your birth certificate.

All public documents submitted in Ecuador for any visa must be legalized in their originating country. Documents issued in signatory countries of the International Hague Convention, or Apostille Treaty, must be legalized with an Apostille. If your documents are issued from a country who is not a member of the Apostille Treaty, such as Canada or China, these documents must be legalized and certified by the entity governing the document. Apostilles or Legalizations must not be dated more than 60 days prior to the date you apply for your temporary resident visa.

All documents in a foreign language must be accompanied by a notarized translation in Spanish. The translation must be done by a professional third party and legalized with an Ecuadorian Notary. If these documents are translated outside of Ecuador, the translations must also be apostilled or legalized, depending on the country of document origin. In the event that you are unable to get the translations done in your country of origin, documents are easily translated and notarized in Ecuador.

How long must I wait for my visa?

You've completed and apostilled everything and submitted all documents for your visa like a pro. Now when can you expect your actual visa?

Temporary visas typically are quick to be delivered, the T-3 and the 12-IX tourist visa being the fastest visas. You receive the T-3 upon arrival on Ecuadorian soil, and the 12-IX visa can be delivered in as little as two weeks.

As for immigrant & non-immigrant visas, be sure to check your email regularly! All communication regarding your visa from the visa office will be either by email or in person when you visit the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores. If you have submitted all your documents required, paid the fees, and you have nothing missing, it can take anywhere from one to six months depending on how many applications are awaiting approval, if the agents have any questions, if you submitted the application right before a major holiday, etc. One thing you want to pack inside your suitcase is patience, but the reward is usually well worth the wait to become a resident of Ecuador. Bienvenidos a Ecuador!

Useful links:
List of visas for Ecuador
Consulate General of Ecuador in Washington D.C.
Ecuadorian embassies abroad
Ecuador visas

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.