Written and Revised by Sara Chaca, Attorney – Abogada
January 1st, 2022
While most Expats who move to Ecuador simply desire a stress-free life or restful retirement, following their many years of hard work in and of their country of origin (i.e. typically having previously been from the US, Canada or Europe), some still continue to (or newly) feel the itch to not let go of their urge for doing and creating things, even in their now “new home away from home”. And so, to those who aspire and inspire to reach and make something of themselves and their ideas here in Ecuador itself, this document’s contents has been assembled in and for your favor, and as well, in respectful salute of your refusal to stop being, doing and making to your heart’s content!
And so now, in line with those aspirations of so many Expats who can and will admired for their vision, please note that firstly, ALL actual importers must obtain an Ecuadorian tax id number (“RUC”) that is issued by the Ecuadorian Internal Revenue Service (otherwise known as “SRI”), and then inscribe oneself in the “Servicio Nacional de Aduanas del Ecuador” (or “National Customs Service of Ecuador” – otherwise known as “SENAE”) via a ‘Token’ (that being a USB Flash Drive) which is obtained in person at the Registro Civil (“Civil Registry”) office of either Cuenca, Quito or Guayaquil. This particular process itself, needs to be coordinated via obtaining an appointment at the applicable Civil Registry office, that is made via the website of the Banco Central, and which is typically scheduled at the Civil Registry office via the Banco Central’s online system at least 10 business days in advance, and is done so through the use of a portal accessible on the Banco Central’s website). The necessary documents and requirements that you need in order to provide to the Banco Central for this specific purpose (as referenced above), are as follows:
- Evidence your RUC from SRI (Banco Central’s online system can/will look this up and confirm your RUC’s validity)
- Provide your last month’s electric and water bill, i.e. for your personally and/or commercially rented location where you plan to begin your import activities at
- Receive and print out an email from the Banco Central giving you the exact day and time of your meeting at the Civil Registry office
Once you complete the above with the Banco Central via its above referenced website portal, on the day/time of your arrival to the Civil Registry office, you will need to pay a fee to the clerk there of around $80 in cash, for them to provide you along with your above mentioned Token. Within 3 business days following the receipt of your Token at the Civil Registry office, you are then permitted to register with SENAE via their online system known as “ECUAPASS”, as per a portal accessible on their website. Each time you begin a new registration procedure (“tramite”) on the ECUAPASS online system, there will typically be around an 8 business day delay for you to be able to import more of (or import for the first time) your product(s) to Ecuador.
Please note that the desired or necessary form of company, corporate constitution, accounting methods, number of partners for any importer or product creator and container shipping costs/procedures is and shall be beyond the scope of this article.
Thus, the following documentation is generally required for purposes of importing products into Ecuador:
- Commercial invoice
- Original or copy of the bill of lading or airway bill
- Insurance policy in accordance with the Insurance Law
- Income tax registry number (RUC)
- Certificate of origin when applicable (to qualify for tariff preferences, if available)
- INEN-1 certificate (standards compliance) – this itself can be around 10-20 day process depending on if it is the first time that the particular product at issue is being brought into Ecuador (if is a brand new product then this can take several weeks and the documentation needed is typically obtained from “Codex” or “Panamericanas” (at the Importer’s selection), which both such organizations establish the international normative rules for any particular product.
- An ARCSA food sanitary registration for processed food products OR a health certificate for animal, plant, or by-products that meet AGROCALIDAD’s import requirements the Ministry of Health must also grant prior authorization (sanitary registration or notification) for imports of processed foods, food ingredients, beverages, cosmetics, pharmaceutical products, reagents, natural products and pesticides
In conjunction with the documents listed above, ALL shipments to Ecuador must also include detailed weight information, including net weight and individual gross weight of each product. Labeling in Spanish is generally also required.
If your business plan is alternatively to export products from Ecuador to any other country(ies), whether for a self-created product or for an already existing product in Ecuador that you didn’t self-create, then you must STILL comply with the above mentioned procedures, in addition to complying with each destination country’s own individual requirements (for which you’ll generally need to contract the services of a specialized customs agent in each such country in order to do so). This is besides the fact that to be able to export ANY type of food product from Ecuador to any other country, you’ll need to additionally comply with the rules of the internationally respected “Food and Agricultural Organization” (FAO) for norms related to edible products. And as well, in order to export products outside of Ecuador, you can/will also need to register as a shipper with the Ecuadorian government’s online system known as “Exporta Fácil” (i.e. for the export of products having a maximum value of up to $5000 and a maximum shipping weight of 30 kilograms for each individual shipment). Becoming an exporter of and from Ecuador can take up to several months, naturally depending on the type of product(s) and a number of other factors.
If your plan, however, is to instead create a new product here in Ecuador itself (i.e. thus not actually importing a product from another country to Ecuador), then in that such case, you will INSTEAD of the above mentioned procedures, need to alternately engage in separate registration/certification procedure(s) with that of the “Ministerio de Industrias y Productividad” (or “Ministry of Industries and Productivity”) via the applicable portal accessible on their website (the specific portal varies based on the type of product and procedure you wish to engage in). In addition, for self-created food products themselves, the Ministry of Health must also grant prior authorization (sanitary registration or notification) for imports of processed foods, food ingredients, beverages, cosmetics, pharmaceutical products, reagents, natural products and pesticides. This registration process typically takes up to 30-60 days, but can vary considerably, again depending on the type of product(s) and a number of other factors.
In conclusion with respect to the above, naturally there are (and will be in the future) multiple other facets, factors and considerations in and of Ecuadorian Import law and such, notwithstanding other possible import taxes and regulations anew (including both expected and unexpected changes thereto), and so the above should only be utilized and relied upon as a general guide, rather than in the context of a “how to book”. Finally, competent Ecuadorian legal counsel, in complementary coordination of their own contracted food engineer (for food products) and/or industrial engineer (for non-food products), is highly recommended for any pursuit with respect to the importation or creation of any product(s) in or for Ecuador, especially when done so with the primary intention being one of “for profit”.
Sara Chaca (Attorney – Abogada) is a seasoned Ecuadorian Lawyer, who principally serves Expats in making their moves to Ecuador for Visa and Legal matter purposes, as her Expat clients begin their new lives here in her beautiful country. Sara resides in Cuenca with her family, and when not working, she enjoys spending time with her family in Cuenca’s majestic Cajas Mountains, including the many local parks & fairs of Cuenca, plus visiting the coast as well as many gem towns of Ecuador. Sara’s personal email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and her law office’s fully informative website is www.ecuadorvisas.com – her Ecuadorian cell phone number is 099-296-2065 and her Toll Free “800” phone number for US & Canadian callers is 1-(800)-655-1581. 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 in 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. VIEW ATTORNEY SARA CHACA’S SELF-PUBLISHED “KINDLE” BOOK ON MOVING TO ECUADOR, THAT’S AVAILABLE FOR YOUR PERUSAL ON AMAZON.COM HERE.