Written by Sara Chaca, Attorney – Abogada
April 25th, 2019
Whether you’re planning on retiring to Ecuador, or you’re just visiting the country, it’s important to make sure that you apply for and receive the right kind of visa(s), based on your own unique scenario and qualifications, respectively. As well, just like is the case with many if not all other countries, in Ecuador there are multiple kinds of visas available that can be considered and/or issued to foreigners.
And so, in this short article, we’ll take a look at the most common types of visas, and examine the general attributes and requirements of each of them, which are presented in the below for your review and understanding.
Tourism Visas: Temporary Visitors in Ecuador
When visitors enter Ecuador, they’ll receive a Tourist Visa, officially known (and shown) as a T-3 admission stamp. This visa is valid for up to 90 days – these are rolling days though and not calendar days of January 1st to December 31st). In order to stay in Ecuador for more than 90 days within any single 12-month measuring period, a foreigner can obtain a Tourist Visa Extension of 90 additional rolling days and/or a Special Tourist Visa which will allow them to stay in Ecuador for up to 180 additional rolling days in that same 12-month measuring period. The Special Tourist Visa of 180 days is only available once every five years, so it is not possible to extend a stay in Ecuador indefinitely on a tourist visa, though one could potentially stay a total consecutively running time period of 360 days in Ecuador, that naturally being 5 days short of any full 12-month measuring period, respectively.
Residency Visas in Ecuador
Any foreigner moving to Ecuador will generally first receive a Temporary Residency Visa (TRV), and they must maintain this visa for 2 years before they can apply for a future Permanent Residency in Ecuador.
As alluded to immediately above, a Temporary Residency Visa is only valid for 2 years, and can only be renewed one time (i.e. for a second 2 year period on top of one’s first Temporary Residency Visa of 2 years). In order to maintain the status of being a Temporary Resident of Ecuador, the TRV holder may only be out of Ecuador for up to 90 days in each of their first 2 years of Temporary Residency, as counted from the anniversary date shown on the TRV holder’s applicable visa stamp. Otherwise, the TRV holder may be fined by the Ecuadorian government and/or their TRV can be canceled, depending on the exact circumstances (this varies on a case by case basis).
Once someone has lived in Ecuador for at least 21 months under a Temporary Residency Visa, they are able to apply for a Permanent Residency Visa (PRV). Under a PRV, a person may only be out of Ecuador for up to 180 days in each of their first 2 years of Permanent Residency, as again counted from the anniversary date shown on the PRV holder’s applicable visa stamp. Then, after the second year of Permanent Residency, they can keep their Permanent Residency Visa status with a permitted absence of up to five years at a time. If a person doesn’t follow these Permanent Residency rules, again the PRV holder may be fined by the Ecuadorian government and/or their PRV can be canceled, depending on the exact circumstances (once more this varies on a case by case basis).
TYPES OF RESIDENCY VISAS IN ECUADOR
There are numerous residency visa options available to foreigners whom are moving to Ecuador. Here as follows are brief yet straight to the point descriptions of each of them:
- Pensioner Visa (Pensionado): In Ecuador, a pensioner visa requires the applicant to show that they have a steady income from a guaranteed source that is sable and reliable, such as from Social Security or from a city/state or corporate pension. There is a minimum income requirement of $800 a month for a pensioner visa, plus $100 per familial dependent moving to Ecuador with the Primary Applicant pensioner.
- Investor (Inversionista): Investor visas are available for people who have economic resources and assets that they will use to develop productive or commercial activities. They may invest in either Ecuadorian Real Estate Property or in an Ecuadorian Certificate of Deposit at a bank for at least 100 times the Ecuadorian minimum wage. The current minimum wage in Ecuador is $394 USD per month, and hence the current minimum investment is of $39,400, plus $500 additional per familial dependent moving to Ecuador with the Primary Applicant investor.
- Professional, Technician, Technologist or Master Craftsman (Profesional): Professionals with a 4 year Bachelor Degree from a recognized college or university can come to Ecuador under this visa in order to develop their profession, technical activity, technological activity, or handcrafted activity, governed under the respective regulation(s) that control these activities, though there is no requirement to work in Ecuador under this class of visa, as in fact many Expats whom are retired elect to move to Ecuador on this type visa, which for short has affectionately been referred to by foreigners as the “Professional Visa”.
- Independent Income/Revenue (Rentista): This visa applies when a person has their own resources (i.e. monthly income) brought to Ecuador from abroad. If they are generating their income from those resources or any other legal income that originates from an external economic source, such as from earned “Rental Real Estate Income”, then they can fall under this type visa, but as it is a new type of visa, the proof of income requirements and type of income at that aren’t at all set in stone, and thus are very much subject to change over time in terms of both application and interpretation, respectively.
Dependent OR Marriage Visa (Amparo): This visa type is for foreigners who are already married to or will soon marry an Ecuadorian Citizen (hence the reference to “Marriage Visa” in the title), as well as for ANY Dependents of Ecuadorian Residents whom are moving to (or already have moved) to Ecuador with a foreigner under any one of the other visa types shown in this full listing of 13 such total visa options. This type visa (“Amparo Visa” being its comprehensive general term in referencing all possible permitted classes of familial Dependents), broadly applies to spouses, children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, and common-law partners (i.e. Union de Hecho), respectively.
- Worker (Trabajador): A work visa is for someone who has been authorized to perform paid work in an employee-employer relationship. This applies to work in public service, work in a private industry, and people who are self-employed.
- Scientist, Researcher or Academic: This visa requires the applicant to be specialized in scientific activities, such as working as a researcher, or in academics, and is contracted/hired by public or private entities. It also applies for a person who is part of the Ecuadorian education system who is working in there area of specialty. This visa can be renewed depending on the duration of the academic program.
- Athlete, Artist or Cultural Agent: This visa applies for people who are hired by a natural Ecuadorian person or entity to develop activities of these types.
- Religious, Religious Volunteer or Missionary of an organization having legal authorization and duly recognized by the Ecuadorian government: The religious visa is for a person who will be developing activities related to religion.
- Volunteer (Voluntario): Volunteer visas apply to people who are, in a voluntary and altruistic way, providing services to the community under the regulations of Ecuador’s Human Mobility Law. They may be working by their own means or with the support of a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), also known as a Not For Profit (or Non-Profit) organization.
- Student (Estudiante): Student visas are for people who come to Ecuador in order to attend school, whether it is Basic Education, High school education, University education, or Masters level education. They must be a regular student in a private or public educational facility that is recognized by the Ecuadorian government. Student visas are also for people who come to do an internship program in Ecuador. This visa can be renewed based on the duration of the academic program.
- International Convention (Convenio): This visa is for a person who enters Ecuador under the umbrella of an International convention to which Ecuador has subscribed and recognized (i.e. Mercosur or Unasur, and when/where applicable).
- International Protection: This final visa category is for those who have been recognized by the Ecuadorian government under refugee status, asylum or stateless, and cannot fulfill any of the requirements of the above-mentioned categories. Those persons can also be able to get the migratory status of international protection in Ecuador.
While the above isn’t a fully comprehensive or totally exhaustive list of all the requirements and ways in which someone can become a Resident of Ecuador, it does in my experience cover at least 99% of the respective scenarios and situations that I have personally come across in serving and working with my foreigner clients, for purposes of making Ecuador be and become their new home.
Sara Chaca (Attorney – Abogada) is a seasoned Ecuadorian Lawyer, who principally serves Expats in making their moves to Ecuador, as well as for any legal issues that arise or become actionable for her Expat clients to undertake in their new lives here in her beautiful country. Sara resides in Cuenca with her family, which consists of her American husband and 2 daughters (as well as her parents and siblings), and when not working, she enjoys spending time with her family in Cuenca’s majestic Cajas Mountains and local parks & fairs of Cuenca, plus visiting the coast as well as the many gem towns of Ecuador. Sara’s personal email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and her personal cell phone number is 099.296.2065. Sara has a less than 24 hour first response policy, in that if you email or call her, she WILL return your first email or first phone call in less than 24 hours (more typically closer to 24 minutes). Most importantly, all first time consultations with Expats for any type Visa or Legal matter(s) are always FREE OF CHARGE.