Unfortunately, the answer to this question is more nuanced than it really should be. This has led to some confusion amongst expats, and even lawyers and facilitators.
What is clear is that you need health insurance before you can apply for your cédula. This is universally accepted. But, whether you need health insurance as part of your permanent or temporary residency visa applications depends on the migration office you apply through.
There was a slew of visa changes in February 2021. But, the Azogues office has decided to interpret these rules differently from other migracion offices. Effectively creating two sets of rules. One for Azogues, another for the rest of Ecuador.
We help a lot of people obtain their temporary and permanent residency visas for Ecuador. Our strong preference is to always avoid the Azogues office because they have their own set of rules, the processing time is generally longer and they are just more difficult to work with.
We've had considerably greater success working through the Quito migracion office. If possible, this is the office we generally choose to work through.
Within the past two weeks, we've helped obtain temporary & permanent residency visas through the Quito office. All without the need for health insurance with the visa application. This is 1st hand information that comes directly from the source.
As for Azogues, I personally visited the office immediately prior to writing this article and they confirmed they do need health insurance as part of the visa application.
The other main rule that Azogues interprets unfavorably is the time allowed outside of Ecuador during temporary residency and still be eligible for permanent residency.
Azogues has taken a very strict interpretation whereby spending just one day outside of Ecuador during your temporary residency will automatically prohibit you from obtaining permanent residency. They'll request that you renew your temporary residency instead.
Again, Quito immigration does not share this interpretation. So, it is certainly possible to spend time outside of Ecuador and still obtain your permanent residency.
For many applicants, the difference is negligible as you'll most likely want health insurance here anyway. The only difference for Azogues-based applicants is that you'll need to purchase your insurance earlier in the process.
But, there are also those that only want to meet the minimum insurance requirements in order to obtain the cedula (or visa - if appropriate). There can be many reasons for this. They may already have medical coverage via their travel insurance or are planning on obtaining IESS rather than private health insurance.
So, if you're really trying to minimize your health insurance expenses, you may be able to reduce the time you're paying for insurance by around 1 month (ie time between applying for visa and cedula) by applying via Quito as opposed to Azogues.
I really wish I knew. For many outsiders (myself included), it seems rather absurd to have multiple sets of interpretations for something that seems so basic. There is clearly little national oversight to ensure consistency amongst the different migration offices.
On a personal level, it would be so much more convenient for us to use Azogues as our 1st choice because it's a 10-minute drive from our house - we live in between Cuenca and Azogues. Operating predominantly out of the Quito office requires more coordination (and slightly more expense), but we believe the better visa outcomes for our clients are worth it.
The end result of all of this confusion is that we find many people turning to us for visa assistance. And yes, we are able to help you obtain your visas in both Quito and Azogues.
Obviously, we have a current preference towards Quito, but if you really have a strong preference for Azogues, we can assist here too. Just reach out to us via our contact us form and leave your details. We respond within 24 hours (normally a lot sooner).
Ecuador's new Minister of Tourism, Neil Olsen, is in talks with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to create a 'Nomad Visa'.
The Minister has pointed towards the economic benefits that foreigners working remotely from Ecuador will bring as the core reason for the possible new visa.
Neil uses the following example on his Facebook post to illustrate the economic benefits:
"Mike, an American living in New York earns $6,000 / month. He spends $2,000 in rent, $800 in food, $200 in transportation, miscellaneous expenses $1,000. Total $4,000.
Mike could move to Puerto Lopez (or anywhere in Ecuador) and work remotely as he did in his cramped apartment in New York. In Puerto Lopez, his expenses would drop from $4,000 to $1,000, he would work on the waterfront with a largely vaccinated population, same time zone, great weather and fresh seafood, Internet access and of course, whales and manta rays just minutes away.
You will be spending your salary in Puerto Lopez and traveling around Ecuador injecting foreign currency into our economy and generating new jobs."
I applaud Neil's intent. He wants more digital nomads to take up residence in Ecuador. I support this 100%. For the record, I also support Neil and his vision for tourism in Ecuador.
But, I've previously argued that Ecuador's current visa laws are really already very attractive for digital nomads. The main problem? Very few digital nomads know about them.
My main concern about Ecuador pursing a specialist Nomad Visa are the potential high income requirements generally attached to these types of visas.
If we take an example from our latin neighbor, Costa Rica. They are also considering a Nomad Visa, but they already have a Rentista Visa that digital nomads can obtain. The biggest difference is the income requirements. The new Nomad Visa doubled the monthly income requirements from $2,500 to $5,000.
Now, if Ecuador takes a similar approach, we could see the current monthly income requirements for the current residency visas increase from $400 to whatever Ecuador thinks a typical North American remote employee makes.
From Neil's example, this is $6,000 per month.
Now, let's not jump to conclusions about the eventual income requirements. But, if I was to guess I would put it at much more than the current $400.
Are you a digital nomad in Ecuador? Feel free to join our Digital Nomad Ecuador FB Group.
Main image: Clave.com.ec
Ecuador routinely updates visa requirements for tourist, temporary & permanent residency visas. They announced numerous changes in February 2021 that may affect you, so we've covered the most important updates below.
Not sure which Ecuador residency visas you may be eligible for? Our Residency Visa Calculator will guide you in less than 30 seconds. Go try it out 🙂
1. Article 65 of the Human Mobility Law was introduced on the 5th February 2021 and is now in effect. It may still take some time for the accompanying regulations to be adopted by the migration offices around the country. As this is uncharted waters, we'd encourage anyone with doubts to contact their visa facilitator (or contact us for a recommendation).
2. There was one anticipated rule change where the 6-month Special Tourist Visa was to be replaced by a more flexible Business Visa. However, this rule has not yet come into effect and we don't recommend relying on this new visa.
3. If you want to apply for permanent residency, it currently is not clear how long you need to spend in Ecuador on your temporary visa. In particular, there is confusion as to whether you can spend any time outside of Ecuador at all. There is a new regulation expected to the passed during May 2021 that will address this.
We'll keep this page updated as news emerges.
The temporary visa rules have been updated to allow for unlimited renewals. This applies to all temporary visa types such as the Professional, Investor, Rentista, Retirement, Volunteer, Student & Dependant.
This matters to those that are on the fence about whether they should take the next step and apply for permanent residency. This change effectively allows you to keep your temporary residency for as long as you like, provided you're ok with renewing it every 2 years.
If you're thinking about eventually becoming an Ecuadorian citizen, then it's still best to obtain permanent residency sooner rather than renewing your temporary residency a few times.
The fees for renewing your temporary residency are the same as your original application.
This visa change is a real bonus for digital nomads or anyone that works remotely from Ecuador.
The old rule limited temporary visa holders to a maximum of 90 days outside of Ecuador during each 12 month period.
So now, it's theoretically possible to visit Ecuador and apply for your temporary residency. Then once you've received your visa & cedula, you can leave the country for say 1 year, and then return and either renew your temporary residency or apply for permanent residency.
I'm not aware of many other countries that offer this level of flexibility during temporary residency, so this change alone could really help drive more visits from digital nomads or really anyone that doesn't want to be tied down in one location for too long.
This can also potentially give remote workers more ammunition to ask their current employer for permission to work from Ecuador as you now have complete freedom to spend as much or as little time in your head office.
If you really value your travel freedom, then perhaps continuously renewing your temporary visa every 2 years is the best option. Why? Because permanent resident visas still have a maximum of 180 days every year allowed outside of Ecuador.
This update makes a lot of sense, especially given the difficult circumstances that dependants can find themselves in if they're no longer with the main visa holder.
For example, a common scenario for a married couple of retirement age is to move to Ecuador and apply for a retirement visa. But, perhaps only one person is eligible because they meet the social security income requirements. Then, the 2nd person could still apply as a dependant of the main visa holder. It's also considerably cheaper than applying for 2 retirement visas.
But, what if something then happens to the main visa holder? Perhaps they are in an accident and they pass away. What then happens to the dependant? Previously, this very difficult time was made even worse with the added stress of needing to figure out how they can legally stay in their adopted country. And, they only had 30 days to organize it or they'd need to leave the country. How stressful!
There still might be good reasons to apply for 2 individual retirement visas, so I'd consider using a visa facilitator before making this decision.
They've decreased the types of relationships that are now eligible for the dependant visa when applying for temporary residency.
The previous rule allowed for a wider range of relationships such as grandchildren, brothers, brothers-in-law etc that could obtain a dependant visa.
But now, you'll only be able to obtain a dependant visa for your:
Note, this is different from the rules for permanent residency which have not changed and still allow for wider relationships.
This update mainly affects those that spend little time in Ecuador, but still wanted to keep their options open.
The first 2 years of your permanent residency have also changed a little bit. You're still allowed a maximum of 180 days outside of Ecuador each year for your first 2 years. But, instead of being able to pay a substantial fine, you'll lose your permanent residency and need to start again with temporary residency.
But, the previous rule allowed for an incredible amount of freedom to spend time outside of Ecuador and still maintain your permanent resident status. You could basically just fly into Ecuador for 1 day, then fly out and then keep your permanent residency status for another 5 years. This clearly doesn't help the Ecuadorian economy, so I'm not super surprised that they've rolled this back to a more reasonable 2 years.
The catalyst for this rule change appears to be the many people that were effectively stranded in Ecuador during the COVID pandemic.
Many visitors on tourist visas could not leave the country and were forced to stay and then apply for tourist visa extensions. But, what happens once that 90-day extension expires? You either had to apply for a different visa or accept the $800 fine and the 2-year ban on entering Ecuador.
This new rule eases that burden on these visitors that have either:
They now have the option of accepting a one-year ban on entering Ecuador OR paying the $200 if they want to re-enter within the one-year period. The $400 fine will automatically be voided after one year.
I applaud the Ecuadorian government for using common sense and decreasing the fines for overstaying during the pandemic. Let's hope they don't increase the fines again anytime soon.
You should have health insurance whilst living in Ecuador. This can be either private or public (IESS).
Health insurance was previously a requirement before any temporary or permanent visa was issued. They've now gone away with that is, but have introduced a substantial caveat - you still need to have health insurance before they'll issue your cedula.
A cedula is like a driver's license that you carry everywhere with you and you'll quickly memorize your number because everyone asks you for it when you buy anything or do anything official like open a bank account.
You normally receive your Cedula after you've received your temporary residency. So, the effect on most applicants will be the same. You're going to need health insurance as you'll definitely want your cedula.
All of the preceding rule changes mentioned have now come into effect. The following is an anticipated rule change that is not yet in effect. We've been in contact with the Ministry (late March 2021), and they have confirmed that
The first 180 days in Ecuador are pretty straightforward for citizens from most countries. You obtain a tourist stamp when you enter which is valid for 90 days. Then, a Tourist Visa Extension is easily obtainable for another 90 days.
But, now what happens after these initial 180 days? You can apply for a temporary residency visa if you're ready. However, for many (myself included) it can take quite a while for you to even gather all of your documents, have them apostilled, and then finally sent to Ecuador.
In the meantime, your visa clock doesn't stop ticking, so it may be necessary to obtain some sort of bridging visa. The previous best option for this was the Special Tourist Visa. This visa was valid for 90 days, but you could only apply for it once every 5 years - which means it's really not practical to use it any more than once. This visa has now been repealed.
The new Commerce Visa is much more practical as it allows you to spend 180 additional days in Ecuador every year! I believe the 'commerce' requirements are pretty loose, but as it's a new visa it's still hard to say what activities will be eligible.
Wow, that is a lot of visa changes to comprehend. Do these changes affect you? Feel free to let us know in the comments below.
And, if you haven't checked out our Residency Visa Calculator, we suggest spending the next 30 seconds doing exactly that.
If you have any questions about these changes or are not clear about the visa requirements in general, feel free to reach out and we can put you in touch with our recommended visa facilitator.
We've been trying our best to answer your questions in the comments. But honestly, it's getting a little out of control. We're effectively giving free mini-consultations based on your personal circumstances. If you do value our work and would like to support us (and this site), please consider buying us a Coffee Tree for our family's eventual farm.
Note, providing a donation does not guarantee a response to your visa question, but it will provide a small additional incentive for us to do so. This token amount (it's only like $5+) is really just an acknowledgment of our work.
Ecuador provides several visa options for expats wanting to stay in the country for more than 6 months. The most popular options for obtaining temporary residency in Ecuador are ‘Investor Visa’, ‘Retirement/Pensioner Visa’, ‘Professional Visa’, 'Rentista Visa' and ‘Dependant Visa’.
Each of these visas has its own requirements and bureaucratic processes. Our article on Ecuador's visa requirements provides an overview of the different visa types, but today we’re only focusing on the Professional Visa requirements for Ecuador.
Before diving into the details of applying for a Professional Visa, let’s take a minute to discuss your options before you need to apply for a temporary resident (migrant) visa.
Visitors from most countries (incl US, CAN, AU, EUR) can visit Ecuador for the first 90 days on a Tourist Stamp obtained upon entry. Residents of 34 countries need to obtain a permit prior to entry.
Once your initial 90 days are up, you can then get a ‘Tourist Visa Extension’ whilst in Ecuador for an additional 90 days. Bringing your total stay in Ecuador to 180 days.
After the initial 6 months, it used to be possible to obtain a ‘Special Tourist 6 Month Visa’ which allows you to stay for another 180 days. It did cost $450 + $5.60 for the Migratory Movement Certificate & you also needed proof of health insurance.
However, the government removed this visa during their extensive round of visa updates during Feb 2021. To make matters worse, they have not added any similar visas. There is talk of a 6-month 'Business Visa' or 'Commerce Visa' which would perform a similar function, but this has not yet eventuated (as of July 2021).
So, your only option for most wannabe migrants after the initial 6 months is to apply for a temporary residency visa.
6 months in Ecuador is definitely long enough to apply for your temporary residency, but you'd want to consider bringing all of your documents with you as this will work out a lot cheaper than trying to organize them from Ecuador.
A professional visa may be a great option if you have a university diploma and you took the course in-person.
The main requirements that separate the professional visa from other temporary resident visas are:
The other main consideration is ensuring you allow enough time for the documents to be apostilled in your home country and brought into Ecuador. You can post them via DHL (or similar) if you’re already in Ecuador, but it can be expensive.
You can bring the documents with you, BUT you may have a problem with the police record expiring as it’s only valid for 6 months. So, unless you’re making a visit back to your home country or have friends coming to visit in Ecuador to bring it for you, sending via private courier might be your only option.
Note, you should also peruse the official requirements from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility (“the Ministry”), but also note that this information still requires interpretation and is not regularly updated. I wasted two trips to the Ministry in the South of Quito trying to find out first-hand information because there was a discrepancy between the requirements they’d posted online and what they actually needed.
The full list of requirements and an explanation is provided below.
Get these documents issued and apostilled in your home country before sending to Ecuador:
Available from your home country. Only valid for 6 months. Time this well or you’ll need to send another apostilled criminal report.
Available from your university. They may charge a fee for this. Ideally, your university is already on the list of SENESYCT approved universities (download here or here). If not, then you can still apply and SENESYCT will most likely accept it if it’s from the US, Australia, Canada, or Europe, but it may take longer.
Available from your university. They may charge a fee for this.
The mode of study letter needs to be issued from your university and needs to indicate that you took the course in-person. For some reason, SENESYCT does not like to recognize online-based learning.
When I applied for my professional visa there was a lot of back and forth with SENESYCT before they were satisfied that my course was taught in-person. The uncertainly arose because although I completed two degrees, I only needed one to satisfy the professional visa requirements and decided to just register that degree with SENESYCT. It proved difficult for SENESYCT to separate the transcription results for each course, and then ensure that all of those subjects were taught in-person.
The lesson here is that if your application doesn’t fit very neatly within the requirements, then you are likely to face issues and delays.
We've had several people request an example Mode of Study letter. You can download the letter I used as an example. This example is only 1 page, but there are 5 similar pages to cover the entire course duration (1 year per page). Each page needed to be apostilled.
But please note that my example is a little more complicated than it needs to be. Whilst I studied two degrees, I only wanted to use one when applying for my professional visa because this simplified the process. Having the two degrees nominated in my Mode of Study letter did complicate the process, resulting in an additional 2 emails back and forth with SENESYCT.
If I was doing this over, I would request my university only included the degree I wanted to register with SENESYCT.
Regardless of whether you hire a facilitator or go down the DIY route, you’re going to be largely on your own to ensure you have the above documents at the time of application.
Once you’ve got all of the documents, including those that needed to be apostilled, the basic process is:
This is easiest done by booking an appointment online. This also gives you the ability to choose the office where you’d like your appointment. Waiting times can vary significantly between offices, so it may be worthwhile traveling further than your closest Ministry.
This English guide may help you navigate the Ministry's website and book the appointment.
Hiring a visa facilitator really helped me decrease the waiting time for an appointment. I booked an appointment online, but the closest available appointment was 2 months away. My facilitator was able to reschedule my appointment for the following week! Now, I have no proof, but I assume some money changes hands for this to happen.
There’s no shortage of official notaries in Ecuador. Don’t forget your completed visa application form in Spanish.
Go to the immigration office and ask for the Migratory Movement Certificate. They’ll give you an invoice you need to pay at a bank and then return to collect your certificate.
The immigration office may not be very close to the Ministry. For example, in Quito the Ministry is in South Quito (near Terminal Quitumbe) whilst the Immigration office is near Parque Carolina (opposite Mall de Jardin). There’s a 45-minute taxi ride between the two offices so don’t get confused!
Today is the big day! Armed with all of your documents (including translations and apostilles), take yourself to the Ministry office where you’ll be directed where to go. Be prepared to visit several different officers to complete various procedures.
Wait times can vary a lot at the appointment. My facilitator was again able to bump me ahead in some lines which helped reduce my total time at the Ministry to 2 hours.
Ask at the Ministry what payment options are available. I was able to pay in cash directly at the Ministry in Quito. The payments are separated into a non-refundable $50 visa application fee and a $400 visa fee if your visa is approved.
Processing times can vary. I was able to collect my cedula the very same day as the last part of the process at the Ministry.
Now, I was only able to pick up my cedula the same day because I was ok with my education level being stated on my cedula as ‘inicial’, which is the lowest level of education. This is despite applying for a professional visa that requires a higher level of education.
This happens because SENESYCT then needs to go through their education verification requirements. I could have waited until SENESYCT approved my application and then printed off my cedula with my appropriate level of education, but I decided a cedula in my hand was better than waiting and I could always apply for a replacement cedula if I wanted.
The biggest impact of having ‘inicial’ as my education level on my cedula was that it makes it harder to transfer your existing driver’s license to an Ecuadorian license.
Whilst at my Ministry appointment, I received an email from them with a copy of my new visa attached. I was expected them to print out a sticker and attach it to my passport. But no, I needed to print it out and keep it with my passport.
I’ve actually forgotten to carry a copy of my digital temporary residency visa when entering Quito on an international flight. The customs officer asked a few questions but when he saw I also had my cedula, he eased up a bit and eventually let me through without seeing the visa. I’m not saying that your customs officer will be as sympathetic, so always try to keep your printed visa with your passport to avoid these uncomfortable situations.
You have 3 months from the date the temporary visa is issued to when your documents need to be registered with SENESYCT. Mine took longer than this because there was a lot of back and forth with SENESYCT about the specific degrees I studied.
This was actually a fairly frustrating exchange because it wasn’t clear exactly what SENESYCT wanted from my university. We provided everything, but as my case was a little bit different (2 degrees studied simultaneously), SENESYCT didn’t know how to process it. I’m still not convinced they got the answers they wanted, but they eventually approved my application after a bit of pressure.
So, now you know the requirements and the process, getting a professional visa should be a breeze right? Woooah, slow down there! I also thought it would be fairly straight forward to apply on my own.
But, after doing the research, realizing there is a gap in what the Ministry says on the website and what they actually expect, two trips to the south of Quito to visit the Ministry to find out the actual requirements, I got frustrated and hired a facilitator.
If your Spanish is below intermediate/advanced, then I’d absolutely recommend at least taking a native Spanish speaker with you because there will be hiccups. One of these can easily derail your entire application.
With a facilitator, you just need to provide the documents and turn up to the Ministry for your appointment and cedula.
Ultimately, I’d generally recommend a facilitator for expats unless they have an advanced level of Spanish, possess lots of patience, and have the luxury of time on their side.
Feel free to contact us If you’d like details for visa facilitators in your area.
Have you applied for a Professional Visa? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.
Our Ecuador Residency Visa Calculator helps you quickly determine which temporary residency visas you may be eligible for. Try it out below, it should only take 30 seconds!
Ecuador has some of the lowest income requirements for residency visas in the world!
There are numerous visa types. These responses will help determine your eligibility for them.
Like most countries, Ecuador does require a basic criminal background check
Oh no, it appears you may not be eligible for the Investor, Professional, Retirement, Rentista, or Amparo (Dependant) residency visas for Ecuador.
But, it may still be worthwhile checking your individual circumstances with a visa facilitator. Would you like to send a message to our recommended visa facilitator?
Yay! It appears as though you may be eligible for the following Ecuadorian temporary residency visa(s):
Even with an old misdemeanor, you still have the possibility of obtaining the following Ecuadorian temporary residency visa(s):
Your criminal conviction does mean your visa application will have a higher risk of not being accepted. It may still be possible for you to apply for the following Ecuadorian temporary residency visa(s):
Amparo (Dependant) Visa
Are you planning on applying on your own, or would you prefer assistance from a visa facilitator?
We can put you in touch with our preferred facilitator if you'd like? You can ask questions or start the visa process directly with them.
We do encourage all applicants with a criminal conviction to seek legal advice on the likelihood of their application being accepted.
Would you like to send a message to our recommend visa facilitator?