Other than for random, one-off real estate investment opportunities, Ecuador has never been high on my list of top offshore destinations. This country is more a lifestyle choice than a place to think about planting an offshore flag… with one important and notable exception.
Obtaining Ecuadorean citizenship is fairly easy… as long as you can meet the residency requirement, which, again, can be straightforward.
Ecuador offers several residency options, including one for pensioners and another for investors.
To qualify as a pensioner (that is, for the pensionado visa), all you need to do is prove a minimum monthly income of US$800 (for an individual; the requirement is US$900 for a couple).
That plus a clean police report, copies of your passport, two photos, a birth certificate, and, if relevant, a marriage certificate… and you’re set.
To qualify for residency as an investor, you need to invest 70 times the unified basic salary (monthly minimum wage) in a CD or 80 times the minimum wage in real estate.
The current unified basic salary is US$386, meaning the current required investment amounts are US$27,020 and US$30,880, respectively.
You could also invest 70 times the unified basic salary in shares of a company registered in Ecuador or in your own business in the country.
The investment (in a CD, in real estate, or in a business) must be maintained for as long as you hold your residency permit. This means that, if you invest in real estate, you can’t sell the property without disrupting your residency status. If you’re not certain you want to own real estate in Ecuador indefinitely, an investment in a bank CD might be the way to go instead.
However, parking a large sum in a CD in an Ecuador bank for the rest of your life (assuming you intend to remain a resident of Ecuador until you expire) may not appeal either. This is one very practical reason why obtaining an Ecuadorean passport can make sense.
Competitive Citizenship Requirements
The required residency period before becoming eligible for naturalization in Ecuador is only three years. That’s very competitive compared with requirements in other countries you might be considering.
Once you’ve held legal residency in this country for those three years, you’re eligible to apply for naturalization. Again, the process is straightforward, nothing more than a matter of paperwork.
The even better news is that you can expect to be approved for citizenship in less than a year… and without taking a test. Most countries require at least a basic test on the country’s history, geography, politics, etc., in the local language. Again, that’s not the case in Ecuador.
Once you’re an Ecuadorean citizen, you can liquidate the investment you made to obtain residency.
The other benefit of obtaining citizenship is that it means you can eliminate the time requirement that comes with residency in this country. During your first year as a resident here, you can’t leave the country for more than 90 days. After that, you can’t leave the country for more than 18 consecutive months without putting your residency status at risk. Become a citizen, and you can come and go as you like.
As a travel document, an Ecuadorean passport isn’t a top choice. With your Ecuadorean passport, you’d be able to travel to fewer than 90 countries visa-free, including most of Latin America, some of Africa and Asia, and only a couple of countries in Europe. However, Ecuador allows dual citizenship for citizens of countries where they have a treaty in place, (including the United States and Canada). So you could use your Ecuadorean passport when traveling in Latin America and your current passport when traveling to Europe.
The biggest hurdle to Ecuadorean citizenship is the required time in the country. You’ll need to live in Ecuador full-time for four years—three years before qualifying to apply for naturalization and then the year that it will take for your application to be processed.
However, this is less than the five years that most countries require before allowing you even to apply for naturalization.