Ecuador Visa and Residency: Everything You Need to Know about the Many Options Available
There are many attractive features that make Ecuador an excellent destination for expats of all demographics. One of the biggest advantages of relocating to Ecuador is its relative ease of obtaining an Ecuador visa.
Whether you’re a recent college graduate who wants to spend a few months abroad before entering the workforce, a young entrepreneur who wants to invest in tourism or real estate, or a retiree with guaranteed income from a pension or annuity, Ecuador has a visa suited to your particular situation.
Compared to a lot of Latin American countries, an Ecuador visa has lower income requirements. The process itself also generally costs less (between $500-$1000), due in part to the fact that the quick turnaround time (two to four months) cuts down considerably on attorney fees should you decide to hire one.
An immigration lawyer is something you might want to consider, unless you’re only seeking a temporary visa. Their help can be invaluable in sorting through the stipulations and requirements, obtaining and certifying the necessary paperwork, and dealing with the immigration officials who can often up and change the rules on a whim.
If your stay in Ecuador will be a short one, you can probably figure things out on your own. This detailed guide will give you a great start, but you’ll still want to double-check everything with the Ecuadorian embassy or consulate in your home country before starting the process.
Ecuador Visas for Tourists
Under 90 Days (12-X Visa)
We should first note that, if you hail from the U.S., Canada, or most European countries, you don’t need to apply for a visa of any kind in order to visit Ecuador as a tourist. All you need is a valid passport (good for the next 6 months), proof of your planned departure from the country (via air, land, or sea), and evidence of your financial solvency (like a bank statement).
As long as your total time in the country won’t exceed 90 days in any calendar year and you don’t plan to draw income from an Ecuadorian source, then you can get by as a tourist on merely your T-3 tourist stamp in your passport.
90-180 Days (12-IX Visa)
If you need to stay longer than 90 days you can apply for a 12-IX visa, which is good for an additional 90 days (for a total of 180), but only once in a calendar year. Common reasons for such a stay, besides tourism, include studying abroad, conducting research, participating in international sports, or even traveling for business (just not for an Ecuadorian entity).
You’ll still need to prove that you have sufficient funds to support yourself while in the country. You can also provide a letter from any sponsor who might be providing you with support. The cost for this visa is $50.
Ecuador Visas for Non-Immigrants
Also known as non-resident, these visas remain in force for a specified amount of time, usually a year or two, but can be renewed as long as your status is unchanged. You’ll just need to show up again with all the required paperwork and fees you provided the first time around.
Below are some common types of non-immigrant visas:
- Student (12-V Visa) – Those studying abroad in Ecuador need only provide proof of their registration in an Ecuadorian educational institution, as well as proof of solvency. Acceptable forms include a statement from a relative who’s supporting the student, proof of a domestic bank deposit to cover the student’s financial needs, and several others. This visa costs $50 and must be renewed annually.
- Work (12-VI Visa) – If you’re traveling to Ecuador for business, government, or other professional reasons, you’ll need documentation from your company, government, or other agency to verify your need to be there, as well as their financial support. You’ll also need a labor contract certified by the Ecuadorian Labor Court, a work permit from the Ministry of Labor, and possibly a certificate from the Superintendency of Companies. There’s also a $50 fee for this visa, and the length of its validity is dependent on your work requirement.
- Volunteer/Missionary (12-VII Visa) – When traveling to Ecuador with a religious or volunteer organization, you’ll need a certificate from them stating why you’re there and describing what you’ll be doing. You’ll also need copies of the decree showing the organization has been authorized to work in Ecuador, the rules of the organization, and the document showing who legally represents the organization in Ecuador. This visa is free and good for two years.
- Cultural Exchange (12-VIII Visa) – Foreign students and teachers are permitted a one-year stay in Ecuador and need only provide a copy of the application they submitted to the institution sponsoring their visit, as well as a copy of the organization’s agreement explaining their exchange program. Teachers must also sign a statement to verify they won’t receive pay from an Ecuadorian source for their work abroad. There is no charge for this visa.
Ecuador Visas for Immigrants
Unlike non-immigrant status, immigrant (or resident) visas are issued for an indefinite period of time (as long as you continue to meet the requirements for the specific visa). They also allow their bearers to seek employment in Ecuador, unlike their non-resident counterparts.
Examples of immigrant visas are as follows:
- Pensioner (9-I Visa) – This visa option is available to people of any age who can prove income from a guaranteed source (like a pension or annuity) that equals at least $800 per month. Another income option is a cash deposit in an Ecuadorian bank that generates the required amount of monthly cash flow. Dependents are also eligible, but require an additional $100 each.
- Real Estate Investment (9-II Visa) – Foreigners can qualify for this visa by either purchasing property valued at $25,000 or more or by purchasing a certificate of deposit in an Ecuadorian bank for the same amount (plus $500 for each dependent) for at least a one-year fixed term.
- Industry Investment (9-III Visa) – Another investment option is to pour in at least $30,000 to an Ecuadorian enterprise, such as industry, agriculture, livestock, minerals, and more.
- Professional/Technical (9-IV and 10-V Visa) – These visas are offered to company representatives or technical experts who are working under contract for a company based in Ecuador (10-IV) and professionals with college degrees who wish to work in Ecuador (9-V). Applicants for the latter must have a degree that’s recognized by a local university and must also fulfill all other requirements for practicing their profession (i.e. exams and licensing).
- Economic Dependence (9-VI Visa) – This Ecuador visa is granted to family members of applicants receiving the above visas, as well as dependent spouses of current citizens or those whose child is an Ecuadorian citizen.
General Ecuador Visa Requirements
In addition to the specific documents needed for the individual visas mentioned, the following Ecuador visa requirements may also be requested:
- Passport valid for more than 6 months into the future
- Police certificate from the applicant’s state of residency, detailing their criminal record
- Medical certificate to verify the applicant’s good health
- Two photographs
- Visa application form
- HIV test
Some Important Restrictions
While it’s relatively easy to obtain and maintain an Ecuador visa, the country does have a few quirky little nuances that you need to be aware of.
- If you overstay your 90-day tourist stamp on your passport, don’t think you’ll be able to just scoot right out of the country without anyone noticing. Instead, you’ll need to visit an immigration office to receive a stamp called a “salida” before you’ll be permitted to leave.
- While immigrant visas are issued indefinitely, you can lose them if you stop meeting the required criteria or if you fail to comply with one of the next requirements discussed.
- After being granted residency, you can’t be out of the country for more than 90 days (total) per year for the first two years. The 90 days apply separately to each year and can’t be carried over.
- After your initial two years as a resident, you can’t stay out of the country for more than 18 months at a time without losing your resident status.
- If your visa depends on a deposit made in a local bank, you can lose your residency if you withdraw it. The same applies if you sell the real estate you used to qualify, so any proceeds will need to be immediately reinvested.
- While some of these violations might not be immediately obvious, these Ecuador visa requirements are all reviewed when you go to renew your cedula (your Ecuadorian ID card). So, while you may not be immediately ejected from the country for a violation, you will still be found out eventually.
It’s true that the Ecuador visa requirements and application process are relatively straightforward and hassle-free. However, we still don’t advise you go it alone, particularly when it comes to finding qualified investments or conducting other real estate or business transactions.
The services of a qualified attorney can make this already simple process even easier. They can also save you a lot of time, money, and headaches. Just make sure you choose someone who has plenty of experience with immigration issues, yours in particular.
Check out local expat forums or blogs for recommendations on professionals who can help you. And hop on over to our other Ecuador articles to learn more about the exciting things that await you once you arrive.