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Ecuador Visa and Residency Questions

From our 3rd Q&A Coffee Hour: Cuenca – May 20, 2013​

1. What is the documentation required for residency?

To answer this question you must first decide what type of residency visa you are most interested in and/or qualified for. There are a number of different types available but these are the most common:

  • 9-I Pensioner: If you receive over $800 per month from a foreign source

  • 9-II Real Estate Investor: If you invest a minimum of $25,000 in real estate

  • 9-II Investor: If you invest a minimum of $25,000 in a bank or credit union

  • 9-V Professional: If you have a degree from an approved college or university

Requirements vary somewhat based on the type of visa you apply for, but there are some that are standard for all residency visas:

  • Request for visa, written in Spanish and signed by you or your legal representative.

  • Visa application form with a passport-sized photo attached.

  • “Migratory Movement Certificate” showing all your comings and goings to and from Ecuador. (May be obtained for free at the Immigration Police Station)

  • Notarized color copy of passport front page and stamp page

  • Notarized color copy of visa page (if you already have a 12-IX or other visa)

  • Apostilled, translated criminal background check (Cuenca requires either a state or FBI check, not local)


  • Make sure your written request and application form are both dated according to the day on which your application is sent in. (If your application is rejected you will need to reprint any forms that are incorrectly dated.) This is why it is a good idea not to date your application form until your entire application has been approved.

  • If you fill in your application form by hand, make sure that nothing is crossed out or whited out.

  • All documents coming from outside Ecuador (except passports) need to be apostilled by the foreign government’s secretary of state. (see below)

  • All documents written in a language other than Spanish (except passports) must be translated to Spanish and the translator’s signature must be certified by a notary in Ecuador or, if the translation is done abroad, by an official in an Ecuadorian consulate.

2. What is an apostille and how do I get it?

An apostille is a type of certification that is issued by the Secretary of State of a country (or of a state in the U.S.) that makes a document legal on an international scale. Just as a notary certifies that a copy is exact or a signature is true, an apostille certifies that a notary or public official is a real legal authority. This certification is necessary to make any document legally acceptable in Ecuador. EXCEPT for in a handful of countries (including Canada) that were not party to the apostille treaty signed in 1961 at the Hague Convention. For those countries, documents need to be legalized by the nearest Ecuadorian consulate.

To find out the exact requirements and procedures for acquiring an apostille, you will need to contact the Secretary of State of the country or state where the documents in question were issued and/or notarized.

3. Do I need a bank account in Ecuador in order to get residency?

Not at all. Only for the 9-II investor’s visa based on a Certificate of Deposit do you need to open a bank account. For any other type of visa a bank account is not necessary but of course you may open one if you wish.

Different banks and credit unions have different policies in terms of allowing foreigners to open accounts. Banco ProCredit is one of the easiest banks to get involved with as they have very few limitations and requirements for foreign account-holders. Banco Pichincha requires foreigners to have been in the country for at least three months before opening an account, but they do not directly require a residency visa. Banco del Pacifico is a bit tougher. They will accept either a missionary, volunteer, work or residency visa but will not grant an account on a 12-IX (the standard 180 day visa). These policies are of course subject to change at the discretion of each individual bank, and there are a number of other banks and credit unions that have different policies not mentioned here.

4. Please clarify requirements for staying in Ecuador as a resident, after the first 2 years.

There is a lot of confusion and misinformation floating around about this section of law so we will try to be as clear as possible.

Article 10 of the Law of Migration states that foreigners will not be allowed into the country upon leaving if they are Ecuadorian residents...

IV.- Que permanecieren en el exterior más de noventa días en cada año durante los dos primeros años de su admisión e inscripción o más de dieciocho meses consecutivos en cualquier tiempo o dieciocho meses o más con intermitencia durante cinco años.

IV.- Who have stayed abroad more than ninety days each year during the first two years of their admission and registration [as residents] or more than eighteen consecutive months at any time or eighteen months or more intermittently over five years.

The phrasing of this law leaves a little bit of room for interpretation. The most conservative interpretation, and the one that we at EcuaAssist stand by is this:

Year 1 - You can leave for up to 90 days total throughout the 365 day period since you got your "Empadronamiento"

Year 2 - You can leave for up to 90 days total throughout this second 365 day period since you've gotten your "Empadronamiento"

Years 1 through 5 - You can spend up to 18 months outside of Ecuador including any time you may have spent abroad during the first two years.

5. I have a new passport, but my visa is in the old passport. Do I need a “renewed visa” in the new passport?

Yes. You need to “transfer“ your visa from the old passport to the new at the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores or Ministry of Foreign Relations (commonly known as just the Visa Office). The required documentation is similar to that required for the original visa, as follows:

  • Request for visa transfer, explaining reason for new passport (loss, robbery, expiration) written in Spanish and signed by you or your legal representative.

  • Visa application form with a passport-sized photo attached

  • “Migratory Movement Certificate” showing all your comings and goings to and from Ecuador. (May be obtained for free at the Immigration Police Station)

  • Notarized color copy of old passport and visa page

  • Notarized color copy of new passport

  • Notarized copy of an official report of loss or robbery of the old passport (If Applicable)

  • Notarized copy of cedula and either Censo Card or Certificate of “Empadronamiento.” You should have received one or the other upon receipt of your original visa, depending when you got it.

The final requirement(s) depend on which type of visa you have. Here are some of the most common:

  • 9-I Pensioner: Original proof of receipt of your most recent pension

  • 9-II Real Estate Investor: Current certificate from the Property Registry verifying unimpeded ownership of the property (Certificado de Gravámenes)

  • 9-II Investor with a CD: Current certificate of custody of the account

  • 9-V Professional: Certified copy of diploma and official document acknowledging registration with SENESCYT

This procedure costs $60.

6. I initially got my residency in Quito. When I need to get my new passport, do I have to get the visa transferred in Quito as well?

No. You can transfer your visa to your new passport simply by requesting here in Cuenca that they retrieve a confirmation of your visa from Quito. This process is free of charge and should take about 5 business days. Once your original visa has been confirmed you can go on to apply for the transfer of your visa here in Cuenca as described above.

7. Can a US citizen/Ecuador permanent resident avoid getting a visa for Brazil?

The ALALC (Latin American FREE TRADE Association) has an agreement that eliminates the requirement of obtaining a visa for travel between certain South American countries, including Brazil. However this only benefits citizens of Latin American countries, thus you must be Ecuadorian by birth or complete the naturalization process in order to enjoy those rights.

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