So you want your Ecuador residency visa, so you can move to Ecuador or stay for an extended period of time…. There are several options for your residency visa, see the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores website. Some of the more popular among expats is the pensioner’s visa and the investment visa, or obviously if you have family who are citizens. If you invest $25,000 in the form of a CD or real estate, you will qualify for the investment visa. However, if you plan to stay less than the rest of your life, and you want to take the money out of Ecuador, they will charge you 5% (i.e. $1,250)
I personally chose the professional Ecuador residency visa 9-V, which is more complicated to obtain, but without the 5% hit of the investment visa, and because I am not on a pension. The process to get a residency (just your visa/permit to stay in the Country) is separate from the process to get a cedula (akin to a Social Security number, it allows you to work in Ecuador, and is required sometimes for other items, such as getting a postpaid cell phone plan.)
Here’s how…. (Disclaimer, I’m not a lawyer, and this was not particularly easy for me, even though I would say my Spanish is now getting close to bilingual).
Verify that you qualify for the Professional Residency Visa:
- You must have a degree is from a University on the approved list at Senescyt (the office of higher education of Ecuador) on Senescyt’s website here.
- NOTE: If you just need this for residency, a bachelor’s degree is fine. I actually have a masters degree also but I left it at home because it would be 2x the paperwork. You don’t actually need a job offer or a work contract.
Documents you must bring from your home country:
- Get a notarized copy of your original University degree (the notary form is called Certificate of Document Custodian).
- If you will apply for a cedula, also get the following <Note as of July 2013, expats are saying the requirements have changed and these are no longer needed (unless your degree is in a maiden name not on your passport in which case they ARE needed):
- Your birth certificate from the county clerk’s office
- Your marriage certificate, divorce record, or in my case, go to the County Record office and ask for a Certificate of Single Status (i.e. they search the marriage record database, and print out a page certifying that they looked for marriage records in your name and couldn’t find any).
- Get a police report. I did the Livescan fingerprint version which searches your fingerprints digitally through government databases. Do this last because it expires in 90 days.
- Get all of the above apostilled. The reason you apostille a notarized copy of your degree and not the degree itself is that the State department will never apostille stamped signatures (i.e. my University of California degree has a stamped/mass-printed and not an ink signature of government officials).
Once in Ecuador, apply for the residency visa
- Get any other visa than the T-3 visa, if you don’t have it already. I got the 12-IX visa (extended 6-month tourism visa), although if you have a work visa or other non T-3 visa you are fine also. If you read the fine print at Senescyt, you can’t register your degree with a regular T-3 visa. This process for the 12-IX is reasonably straight forward. Requirements you need to bring to the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores are listed in English here. This will take approximately 1 month to process and they will make an appointment for you to come pick up your visa. Ask for the earliest appointment possible, because you’ll wait another month for Senescyt to register your degree and the clock is ticking on the 90-day validity of your criminal report. Costs $230 (plus the cost of the notarization, etc)
- NOTE: You can get a copy of a round trip ticket leaving Ecuador without actually buying the ticket by registering with lan.com. Create an account, search for flights, and then select the option just to make the reservation and to pay in person at a LAN office. Print the confirmation page. When you don’t show up at the LAN office to pay in cash, the ticket will be cancelled, but the printout is sufficient for this process.
- Register your degree with Senescyt. Once you have the 12-IX visa (or any other visa than the T-3), go to the Senescyt office in Guayaquil or Quito. Get there early and be prepared to wait all day. You need to bring:
- Get a notarized copy of your apostilled, notarized copy of your degree. HUH? That’s right, you won’t be turning in the original apostille, so they want an Ecuador-notarized copy of the apostille page, the US-notarization page (Certificate of Document custodian), and the copy of your degree. If you degree is not in an approved language, get a notarized translation of everything. The approved languages are English, Spanish, French, Italian or Portuguese.
- Notarized copy of your passport
- The application form filled out (Click on “Solicitud escrita en formato de Senescyt” on Senescyt’s website)
- They will look over your paperwork, and enter the data into the system. You will need to wait ~20 days for the process to be completed and for your data to be finished registered in the system.
- NOTE: I recommend you eagle-eye watch them enter your data into the system because I ended up with a registered degree to the wrong university!
- Go back to Senescyt’s website to the “Consulta de Titulos” area after the 20 days are up. They won’t notify you by email or phone, you just need to keep checking if your degree is registered. You enter your passport number and either it will return no records (not yet registered), or it will show your name and degree in the system. Print out the page that has your name, and the registry number on it.
- If you have questions (i.e. what I had to do when I saw my name registered with the wrong unviersity), email email@example.com.
- Apply for your Ecuador residency visa. This costs $30 in application fee, and $320 for the visa. Bring the following documents:
- Written request in Spanish
- Visa Request form
- Get (another) certified copy of your passport, and the page that has your current visa on it (mine was the 12-IX for example).
- Migratory Movement (get from the immigration office)
- Get a certified translation of your apostilled, notarized copy of your degree. (This should now be 6 pages….. Apostille page, Notarized certificate of document custodian page, copy of degree, translation of apostille page, translation of notarization, translation of degree).
- Bring the printout showing your degree registered from Senescyt’s website.
- Translated, apostilled police report (should be 4 pages including the translation).
- Wait 2 months, keep following up with them….and TADAAA! Ecuador Residency without investment! They will email you when it’s ready, you have to go in and cancel your 12-IX (costs $60 and requires some more photocopies of your passport) and get the residency visa.