One of the most critical aspects of a relocation abroad, with Ecuador being no exception, is navigating the often complex Visa process and the myriad of possibilities that exist. The intent of this overview of visa options is not to replace specialized attorney services or to supplant case-by-case review and legal analysis. It is merely offered as a starting point, for the consideration of anyone contemplating a move to Ecuador.
The first bit of good news, with regard to entering Ecuador as a visitor and obtaining a permanent Visa status, is that the country is very expat friendly. Constitutional mandate has established that an expat enjoys the same rights, privileges and freedoms as an Ecuadorian national, with the exception of a limited number of rights to initially participate in the electoral process.
Your first introduction to the VIsa process, at least if you are from the USA (if not, inquire with us for details), is that you will receive a T-3 stamp on your passport, allowing you up to 90 days of free access travel throughout Ecuador. This is a readily available and good amount of time to explore the country and determine if it is a good fit for you. For those that really want to explore their options to the fullest, they may request an additional 180 day extension, via a 12-IX Visa. They are fairly easy to come by, relatively inexpensive and are generally granted. Now that is a total of 270 days to settle in and discover if Ecuador is right for your lifestyle!
Assuming you like what you see, and I am betting you will, your mind will soon wonder towards a relocation to this enchanting nation. Your next thought will likely be, “How can I establish permanent residence?” The following is a list of current Visa options, which allow for full, or some degree, of permanent residency.
12-V Visa: Also known as the traditional “Student Visa”, generally granted for the course of stay required, for the individual to complete their full course of studies. This Visa category is generally categorized by the need to frequently renew the Visa status and prove a continued pattern of studies.
12-VI Visa: Known as the “Employment or Management Visa”, which can be granted for two (2) consecutive years (renewable). It will require a hiring institution to vouch for the individual and provide ongoing proof of gainful employment and regular income.
9-I Visa: Know as the “Pensioner’s Visa” is at once the most highly recommended and easily granted permanent residency option, for those that qualify. The reasonable qualification criteria requires an individual to show a steady pension income (or Social Security benefit) of $800/month + an additional $100/month for each additional dependent. If one qualifies for this type of Visa, it just doesn’t get any easier than this option.
9-II Visa: This is recognized as the “Investment Visa”, generally viewed as the second most simple and direct option to establish permanent residency in Ecuador, other than the 9-I Pensioner’s Visa. The most common ways to meet the investment criteria is through the acquisition of real estate, the formation of a locally registered business enterprise, or through establishing a Certificate of Deposit (CD) bank account. Regardless of which option you select, the investment minimum is only $25,000, with an additional $500/per additional dependent that will be included in the Visa.
One caveat with regard to the 9-II Investment Visa. While it would be easy to group the investment vehicles under one “banner”, some distinct differences change the application process and Visa experience, depending on the investment vehicle selected. For example, the business enterprise option, requires a bit more paperwork and, quite often, a considerable amount of additional time. Also, the CD bank account option, while technically the easiest process, is fraught with one limitation. If at anytime one closes the CD bank account, de facto, you have terminated your permanent residency. You have to be careful to understand that it is not merely the act of opening the CD account, but also maintaining it, which grants you the permanent residency. As a rule of thumb, for most that select this Visa option, the real estate purchase path is the most viable.
While one could play “alphabet soup” with additional, more esoteric, Visa options, the ones that have already been cited are the traditional routes for the vast majority of expats, who wish to call Ecuador “home”. The full extent of required documentation will vary according to the specific type of Visa selected. Any documents which are issued outside of Ecuador (which is most) will need to bear an Apostille stamp or be legally validated at the nearest Ecuadorian Consulate/Embassy. Never underestimate the length of time which getting a document appropriately Apostilled can take. It is not something to be taken lightly or left for the last minute.
Finally, one oft overlooked piece of information. The passport of the Visa applicant and all dependents that will be included under the Visa must have a minimum of six (6) months validity before expiration – no exceptions! If your move time is somewhere in the future and you believe that you could be cutting it close, renew all applicable passports first, then initiate your Visa application process. It could save you much time and additional headaches.
If someone is looking for qualified attorneys, well familiar with the Ecuadorian VIsa process, or If you have any other questions regarding the topic(s) covered in this article, please contact: Hector G. Quintana, email: HGQ@ecuador.escapeartist.com, or call +1.786.220.4987 (global). A good attorney will be able provide details, for example, as to required Visa processing time. Candidly, the process has so much current demand and is in such a state of flux, I wouldn’t even hazard a guess. A good attorney will also provide details as to visa processing costs, which can also vary.