Getting Your Ecuador Visa And Residence
U.S. citizens may enter Ecuador without a visa and remain in the country as a tourist for a maximum of 90 days per trip. If you wish to stay longer than 90 days, you need a “long-stay visa” in your passport before you leave the United States. You may be asked to present your visa or proof of onward travel upon arrival. If you have neither, you’ll be required to buy a plane ticket to exit the country before 90 days.
If you want to stay beyond 90 days (up to 180), you should get a 12-IX visa from the nearest Ecuadorian consulate before you travel. It will cost US$230 plus US$50 for each dependent; but it’s worth it to avoid the renewal process and enjoy an uninterrupted, six-month visit.
Regardless of the tourist visa you hold, you are limited to a total of 180 cumulative days in any 12 months. And if you’re living in Ecuador as a part-year resident, this may be all you ever need.
How to Apply for an Ecuador Visa
Residency visa applications are made at an immigration office within Ecuador, rather than at a consulate. (Your lawyer can do this with a Power of Attorney.) There are offices in Cuenca, Machala, Guayaquil, and Quito. The office in Cuenca actually has English-speaking personnel.
In addition to the visa application, residency visas require the police records from each country of residency over the past five years, along with photos and your passport (valid for at least six months).
The requirements for the police record check are a bit fuzzy, and the immigration law doesn’t actually specify who you’re supposed to get the check from. To be safe, we suggest the most-conservative FBI background check in the US, or the RCMP background check in Canada. No matter which immigration office you go to, these will be accepted…while in some cases, local or state police records may not be.
Any documents from your home country—such as a marriage license, proof of income, etc.—will need to be authenticated in accordance with international standards. To save yourself a trip home to get these records (and have them authenticated), make sure you bring them with you when you plan to apply for a visa. You must apply while you have 30 days or more remaining on your current tourist visa.
Residency in Ecuador
Ecuador offers a number of attractive residency options, with low thresholds of qualification. If you intend to live in Ecuador and would like to come and go as you please, you should get a residency visa.
If you can live with the in-country time restriction, obtaining residency is well worth the effort because you have almost all the rights of a citizen (except voting). Having a national ID card (cédula) makes your life easier all around.
Holders of residency visas may only be out of Ecuador for a maximum of 90 days per year, for each of the first two years. After that time, you may not be out of the country for more than 18 consecutive months. The process for revoking visas is much more efficient than for obtaining them.
But if you can live with the in-country time restriction, obtaining residency is well-worth it. Many people find that during their first two years they have plenty to do just to get themselves set up in a new country; so that being out of the country for more than six months is not an issue.
Here are the two most-common residency visas used by expats:
- 9-I: Rentista (for someone with income or pension from outside Ecuador)
- 9-II: Inversionista (for investors in real estate or fiduciary instruments)
To sum this up, the two most-common visas used by expats are for pensioners and investors.
The 9-I visa: Ecuador’s pensioner visas don’t have a specific amount of money required by law, however in the past few years they’ve accepted an income of only US$800 per month from a stable source (plus an additional US$100 for each dependent). The 9-I visa’s income can be from a number of sources. If you have a pension or social security, that’s the easiest. But if you don’t have such a pension or Social Security, you can set up a trust that will fund your retirement in Ecuador at any age. A version of the 9-I visa called Fideicomiso Depósito en Efectivo, which allows you to deposit five years’ worth of minimum income into a trust (The total would be at least US$48,000). Once you’ve qualified, you don’t have to re-qualify or re-substantiate your income.
The 9-II Visa: This is the Ecuador visa geared toward investors. There are three different 9-II visas, depending on the type of investment you’re making: such as real estate, an investment in an Ecuadorian company, or the purchase of a government-issued financial instrument. It used to be that regardless of the type, any 9-II visa required an investment of at least US$25,000, plus an additional US$500 for each dependent. That has recently changed and is now based on multiples of the minimum wage and will depend on the particular type of investment.
The sale of your qualifying investment will be restricted while you maintain residency (although you may substitute one investment for another). And be aware that with real estate, the normally lower municipal (assessed) value of the property is used to qualify, rather than the purchase price.
If you’re qualifying using a financial investment, remember that bonds, CDs, and other financial instruments have maturity dates, and you’ll need to record the new instrument with immigration when the old one expires to maintain residency.
Among other options, this investment can be your residence.
Residency in Ecuador can lead to a second passport and dual citizenship.
In Ecuador, whether you are on the real estate or securities investor visa, the industry, agriculture, livestock, or export investor visa, or the pensionado visa, you can apply for full citizenship after three years of uninterrupted residency. Note that it must be three uninterrupted years. Due to Ecuador’s stringent in-country requirements to maintain residency, many foreign residency holders will lose their resident status, reapply, and then try to apply for citizenship after three nonconsecutive years of residency. That won’t work.
*Please note that Ecuador’s visa policies are currently undergoing changes, as new laws signed by President Moreno are coming into effect. Some of the content published could be subject to change over the coming months as more information on the new regulations are verified.