New Ecuadorian Immigration Law: Here is What You Need to Know

New Ecuadorian Immigration Law: Here is What You Need to Know

Written by Sara Chaca,

Attorney-Abogada of “Ecuador Visas”

June 7th, 2017

The new Immigration Law of Ecuador of 2017, also called the “Human Mobility Act” (known in Spanish and to Ecuadorians as “Ley de Movilidad Humana”), has now been officially implemented, and is currently in full force in virtually every respect.  This new Ecuador Immigration Law serves in place and replacement of the previous Immigration Law in Ecuador, and was created and passed so as to decrease the number of categories and make immigration to Ecuador become a more simplified process.  Whether that goal has been achieved or not, still remains to be seen, and surely there will be many different opinions to that affect as we move forward.

Ecuador Tourist Visas (Ecuador Visitor Visas):

Ecuador’s new immigration law permits two separate types of temporary visitors:

  • Tourists/Visitors* – Individuals who are intending to spend up to 90 days in Ecuador on a FREE Visitor Visa (also called an “Ecuador Tourist Visa T-3 Stamp”), plus individuals who are intending to spend in excess of 90 days in Ecuador (generally on a combination of a FREE Tourist Visa and a PAID Tourist Visa Extension that can be obtained while here on one’s first free 90 day stay in Ecuador)
  • Persons in Transit* – Individuals en route to their final intended destination (typically through an Ecuadorian Airport), that are simply passing through Ecuador, without the intention or act of staying/lodging in Ecuador

*Any person who visits Ecuador with the sole intent of carrying out tourism related activities, is NOT permitted to be employed or work in Ecuador for any Ecuadorian company or organization; this rule of course does NOT apply to one’s ability to work remotely by computer or phone while as a Tourist here in Ecuador, for the benefit of carrying out the duties of their own job, business or organization that is officially domiciled outside of Ecuador itself.

As indicated above, a FREE Tourist Visa is valid for a period of 90 days, and is generally provided automatically on arrival to Ecuador to persons from most other countries who do not need to present anything else other than their valid and unexpired Passport from their country of origin, i.e. from the US or Canada (some notable country exceptions to this FREE Tourist Visa of 90 days currently include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Senegal, Cuba, Angola, Cameroon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Philippines, Syria, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Yemen). Also as stated earlier in this article, Tourists have the option to apply for and receive an additional 90 day Tourist Visa Extension here in Ecuador. In the case that a Tourist wants to remain in Ecuador for a more substantial duration of time, the Tourist may also apply for a special class of extension that will provide them with an additional 180 day period as a Tourist in Ecuador (it is important to note though that such special class of extension can only be granted to a Tourist one time in every 5 year period, so simply put, this is NOT a way to stay in Ecuador year round).

“Ecuador Residency Visa” types (for those desiring to “live” in Ecuador)

Currently, there exist two different types of Ecuador Residency Visa types, for purposes of Ecuador’s new visa laws:

  • Temporary Residency Visas
  • Permanent Residency Visas

Temporary Residency Visas (generally valid for 2 years of Residency):

Any person desiring the ability to remain in Ecuador for a more substantial duration of time as compared to an Ecuador Tourist Visa (how was indicated earlier in this article), needs to apply for and receive a type of visa that allows them to be a Temporary Resident of Ecuador for up to two years, on what is aptly known as a “Temporary Residency Visa”.  A person on an Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa is permitted to leave Ecuador up to 90 days in their first year of Temporary Residency, and once again up to 90 days in their second year of Temporary Residency – failure to adhere to this 90 day requirement in each of one’s first two years of Temporary Residency (as counted from the date that a person’s Temporary Residency Visa stamp is placed into their foreign issued Passport), will result in the cancellation of their Temporary Residency Visa by the Ecuadorian Government.

If during or following one’s Temporary Residency in Ecuador, the Temporary Resident of Ecuador desires to leave Ecuador for a protracted period of time (or leave Ecuador forever even), naturally they are free to depart Ecuador, and in such case, they have no need to ever return to Ecuador again for any reason or purpose, if they don’t wish to.  However, if in such case, a Temporary Resident does return to Ecuador after a protracted absence from the country (and in so doing had lost their Ecuadorian Temporary Residency Visa), then they will either need to re-enter Ecuador on a new Ecuadorian Tourist Visa (Ecuador new visa) and/or need to apply for a new Ecuador Temporary Residency Visa, depending on the circumstances and timing of their protracted departure from Ecuador to determine if or what type new visa Ecuador may require.

Permanent Residency Visas (generally valid for a lifetime of Residency):

For any person whose intention it is to become a long-term Resident of Ecuador (i.e. for more than the two year period of Residency that is granted to any Temporary Resident of Ecuador), a type of visa known as a “Permanent Residency Visa” exists for that purpose.  A person on an Ecuador Permanent Resident Visa is permitted to leave Ecuador up to 180 days in their first year of Temporary Residency, and once again up to 180 days in their second year of Temporary Residency – failure to adhere to this 180 day requirement in either of one’s first two years of Permanent Residency (as counted from the date that a person’s Permanent Residency Visa stamp is placed into their foreign issued Passport), will result in the loss of one’s Permanent Residency Visa.  However, after one’s first two years have been completed on their Permanent Residency Visa, a Permanent Resident is permitted to leave Ecuador for up to 5 years and not face any monetary penalty, nor any loss of their Permanent Residency Visa.  Plus, any person who has been a Resident of Ecuador for at least 5 years is permitted to vote in any Ecuadorian election and/or run for public office in Ecuador.  A Permanent Resident is additionally permitted to apply for Ecuadorian Citizenship and Get an Ecuador Passport, once they have been a Permanent Resident of Ecuador for at least three years (though as other requirements and restrictions apply regarding Ecuadorian Naturalization, feel free to read my other article on the “Cuenca High Life” website, that is titled, “ECUADORIAN CITIZENSHIP: HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW”, and which is also immediately accessible by simply clicking on the following link to read it: https://cuencahighlife.com/ecuadorian-citizenship-and-naturalization-heres-the-deal/).

Any SINGLE qualification that is met by a person from the following list of eligible classes under Ecuador’s new Immigration Law, allows a person to apply for a Permanent Residency Visa in Ecuador:

  • Any person who has legally been on a “Temporary Residency Visa” for at least 21 months (subject to the above indicated maximum exit requirements of 90 days per year)
  • Any person who is or becomes married to an Ecuadorian citizen (assuming of course that the marriage wasn’t arranged or fraudulent)
  • Any person who is directly related by blood to an Ecuadorian citizen or any other person who presently maintains Permanent Residency status in Ecuador (as evidenced by an authentic birth certificate showing the direct blood relation)
  • Any person who is a minor dependent (under the age of 18) or who is a disabled dependent of any other person who presently maintains Permanent Residency status in Ecuador (as evidenced by authentic dependency/disability documents and/or birth certificate too if applicable)

Ecuador Health Insurance Requirement (ONLY for “long term” Tourists, Temporary Residents & Permanent Residents)

A Tourist who spends no more than 90 days in Ecuador during any given 12 month period does NOT currently need to show proof of health insurance or travel insurance when they enter/re-enter the country under ANY circumstances (this is the same exact case for returning Residents and Citizens of Ecuador as well because no one presently asks or checks for proof of health insurance upon entering/re-entering through any Ecuadorian entry/exit point since no such health insurance verification system exists at Ecuadorian entry/exit points at this time for that purpose). ONLY persons who will visit the Galapagos Islands at any time or for any reason (whether as a Tourist, Resident or Citizen) needs to show proof of health insurance in order to embark on that specific (memorable) trip, and that again is ONLY at the time of boarding their plane or boat to leave for their travel to the Galapagos Islands and again NOT at the time of entering/re-entering Ecuador (this is even if the person’s travel itinerary has/shows the Galapagos Islands as part or one of their planned visits following their initial entry/re-entry into Ecuador). As well, foreigners do NOT currently need to provide ANY proof of Health Insurance so as to obtain a 90 day Tourist Visa Extension (that being an extension of their FREE Automatic “T-3 Visa” of 90 days) for in advance of them coming to or while already here as a tourist in the country. Notwithstanding the above, ANY foreigner who wishes to acquire the first above referenced “Special Tourist Visa” of 180 days (that being on top of the first type 90 day Tourist Visa Extension referenced above), MUST in such case provide proof of health insurance (or travel health insurance) that will cover them for the duration of their further touristic stay in the country. As well, any foreigner desiring to be or become a Resident in Ecuador (that being for either/both as a Temporary Resident or Permanent Resident, respectively), will also need to provide proof of having a health insurance policy that fully covers them in Ecuador at the time of applying for any type of Residency in Ecuador (which is also the same rule for any foreigner later on applying for Citizenship in Ecuador if/when they want to do so too – though once officially a Citizen of Ecuador the foreigner NO LONGER needs to have or show ANY proof of having health insurance that covers them in Ecuador). Most private health insurance plans in Ecuador currently range in cost from around $50-150 or so per month for an individual, depending on one’s age and/or health condition. The Ecuadorian Government’s Health Insurance system, known as IESS, is another option for Expats, particularly those having serious preexisting conditions (due to its no exclusion period for those). And foreign health insurance that extends full coverage to a foreigner in Ecuador is also yet another permitted option at that.

All in all, still being a fairly new law at hand (in and of Ecuador new visa laws), the Human Mobility Act of Ecuador remains subject to new interpretation/reinterpretation by the Ecuadorian Government, and so it is best to check back regularly as to the applicability and/or enforceability of its provisions.  As always, make sure to consider your options, and to consult with competent legal counsel, prior to making an actionable decision for the benefit of yourself and your family.

Naturally, if you have any questions, feel free to email me directly at sara@ecuadorvisas.com.

 

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 sara@ecuadorvisas.com and her law office’s fully informative website is www.ecuadorvisas.com for you to visit at any time of day or night – plus, her personal 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.