Editor's note: This article has been contributed by our friend, Ian. Whilst this guide specifically focuses on how to extend your tourist visa in Cuenca, it's a very similar process if applying at other migration offices around Ecuador.
Ecuador may not be a big country but there is definitely plenty to see. With beautiful cities, mountains, jungle and beaches, 90 days in Ecuador may just not be enough to see it all. But did you know how easy it is to get a visa extension in Ecuador?
Well, don’t worry. For a small fee and just a little paperwork, the Ecuadorean government will let you stay for another 90 days if you wish.
As I had been enjoying Ecuador so much and traveling rather slowly, I decided I was going to get a visa extension in Ecuador for another 90 days. I happened to be in the city of Cuenca when my 90 days were up. This turned out to be a great place to take care of things.
I will walk you through the process of how to get a visa extension in Cuenca. But I can’t guarantee it will be this easy everywhere. To be honest, if you have survived 90 days in Ecuador already then you are probably smart enough to figure out this process without too much help.
If you can speak Spanish, a quick visit to the Ecuadorean’s government website will tell you most things you need to know. The most important thing on this page is the list of immigration offices that you can go to, to extend your visa.
Supposedly you can extend your visa online, and also download the paperwork you need on this site. When I applied for my extension, neither of these features were working. As long as you are not staying too far from an immigration office, I think a quick trip there is probably the easiest way to take care of things.
My closest immigration office was at the airport in Cuenca. This was an easy bus ride from the house I was staying at. If you are staying in downtown Cuenca, the Tranvia will drop you right at the front door for only 30 cents. You can even walk there in about 30 minutes, or just a 5 minute walk from the main bus terminal.
I arrived at the immigration office on the morning of my 90th day in Ecuador. Well, that was a mistake. You actually have to wait until your visa has expired and you are in the country illegally. Only then can you apply for an extension! You don’t have to actually extend your visa on your 91st day in the country. I was told there is a 20 day grace period for you to take care of things. But as I was close by, I did it on the morning of day 91.
Luckily the women at the Cuenca office were very friendly and helpful on my first visit and let me know everything I needed for the next day:
The lady gave me the correct form to fill out for the next day. It is such a simple form it’s really not worth downloading and printing ahead of time.
To obtain the color copy of my passport, she directed me to one of the restaurants in the nearby food court of the airport. Lomos Restaurant has a copier under the counter and will give you a color copy for just 50 cents.
The most helpful part of visiting a day early was that she gave me a payment slip for the bank. She filled out all of the details for me and gave me the address of the nearest bank.
You can make the payment at any Banco del Pacifico. But I chose to pay at the one she told me was closest. The fee for 2021 is $133.33. Why this amount you may ask? It is based on the minimum wage in Ecuador and the fee is a third of that amount.
The lady was very, very specific in that the fee must only be paid on the same day that you plan to extend your visa. Do not go into the bank and pay the day before!
So on my 91st day, I headed back into El Centro. I headed straight to the Banco Del Pacifico that I was told about. It is about a 15-minute walk from the airport, or a quick Tranvia or taxi ride if you prefer.
Now if you have been in Ecuador for 90 days already, then you have probably noticed the huge lines outside the banks every day. I showed up, fully expecting to be waiting for an hour or more in one of these lines. Well, I was pleasantly surprised. Shocked. No line at all! After a quick temperature check at the door, I was directed straight to the counter. The bank teller knew exactly what I was there for. Within a couple of minutes, I was walking back to the airport to get my visa extension.
The immigration office is on the second floor of the Cuenca airport. It’s just to the right of the stairs leading up there. Cuenca airport is very quiet and you should have no problem finding it.
It is open Mon – Fri from 8 am to 4.30 pm. Both times I visited, I walked straight up to the counter with no waiting. That’s probably something to do with how few tourists there are in the country at the moment. During normal, non-covid times, I expect things might take a little longer.
The lady at the counter remembered me from the day before. She took my passport, completed form, color copy of my passport, and the bank receipt. Within less than 5 minutes I was out of there with another 90 days in Ecuador in my hand. Getting a visa extension in Ecuador really is that easy!
Your visa extension just comes printed on a piece of paper. Nothing is actually put in your passport. Be careful not to lose this expensive piece of paper.
Also, remember that you cannot leave the country and re-enter with this extension. It is not good for multiple entries like your original visa. Once you leave, you will not be able to re-enter Ecuador until one year after your original entry date.
How was your experience extending your visa in Ecuador? Was it as easy as mine? Did you do it in a different city. Let me know your experiences in the comments below.
Now that many countries are considering offering 'digital nomad visas' or 'remote work visas', it's time to ask ourselves whether any of these are actually worthwhile for digital nomads.
It's clear that many countries that started offering digital nomad visas in 2020 have done so as a way to bolster their local economies on the back of the devastating impact of COVID 19. Tourism around the world has decreased by 70% in 2020, so trying to open up non-traditional tourism markets makes sense. At least on the surface.
However, this approach can seem a little short-sighted when you dig into the actual requirements for each country. It then becomes obvious that these measures are only designed to increase the tourism sector of the economy, with few countries seemingly willing to embrace digital nomadism and the benefits of growing their digital ecosystem.
There are some notable exceptions such as Estonia that have been developing their digitally focused visas for several years.
These countries offer visas specifically aimed at, or are otherwise potentially suitable for, digital nomads, remote workers and freelancers. I've also included the main requirements - but obviously do your own due diligence before applying for any.
Data taken mostly from Expert Vagabond
As you can see, the income requirements for many of these visas are quite steep, with many countries deciding to only open their doors to individuals earning $5K/month consistently. This pushes these types of visas out of reach for many digital nomads, making them more appropriate only for remote workers or some freelancers.
To illustrate, let's focus on one of the largest digital nomad vocations, online English teachers. Do you think many of these digital nomads are earning $5K/month? I know many that consistently earn $1.5K - $3K, but $5K/month is out of reach for most.
A quick calculation means that at $20/hour, they'd need to teach 250 hours each month to hit $5K. This would mean 8.2 hours every day, including weekends. This is a lot of online teaching. It's just not doable for most.
The table above includes countries that have either:
Ecuador is a great example of a country that doesn't have a specific digital nomad visa, and perhaps doesn't need to.
Why? Because many digital nomads can already legally work using one of Ecuador's several types of temporary resident visas. The most popular amongst digital nomads is the 'Professional Visa', which has the lowest monthly income requirement of any country at $400. You'll also need a bachelor's degree (or higher), background checks and health insurance.
Sure, the process to apply for the visa can be a little tedious and time consuming, but even if you opt to use a visa facilitator, the entire visa cost is still likely to be less than $2K. And this is for a 2-year visa.
Yes, I might be a little biased because I live in Ecuador. But, my decision to live in Ecuador came after years of digital nomading. The ease of which to obtain residency was an important factor in my decision.
There are rare circumstances where a country actually fits into both of the above categories. The best example of this is Costa Rica that, at the time of writing, is currently pushing a proposal to create a new type of visa suitable for digital nomads that have employment outside of Costa Rica.
But, they already have a temporary residency visa, the Rentista, that allows foreigners to stay for up to two years. The main difference is that they require a guaranteed monthly income of $2,500 such as property investments, annuities etc, or depositing $60K into a Costa Rican bank. Whilst the visa allows you to work for yourself, you can't work for another company.
What is interesting about their current digital nomad visa proposal is they've basically doubled the minimum income requirement; from $2,500 to $5,000. Given the monthly minimum wage in Costa Rica is less than $500, the new visa is basically asking digital nomads to earn 10x what locals do.
Is this healthy for the economy long-term? I'm not so sure. But, I do know that if their digital nomad visa is successful, you can expect the income inequality gap to increase as more wealthy remote workers take up office on their shores.
Whilst it's great to see many countries starting to offer digital nomad visas, the income requirements make them less than welcoming for many. It's a move in the right direction for sure, but there is much more work to be done if they actually want to attract digital nomads in volume.
And remember, you may be better served by applying for a visa in a country such as Ecuador that doesn't offer visas specific to digital nomads, but is still very digital nomad friendly.
What's your experience with digital nomad visas? I'd love to hear it in the comments below.
Ecuador is one of the easiest countries to obtain a long term visa. There are multiple pathways to residency and the investment is relatively low.
After reading this guide you should have all the Ecuador visa information you need to decide whether Ecuador is a viable long-term option for you.
You may even have 2 or 3 different residency visa options open to you. Let's find out together!
Please note that visa requirements for Ecuador change frequently and these changes are not always well-publicized (if at all). So, it's always best to check with an immigration lawyer or at least a visa facilitator first.
Let's touch on some basics visa facts:
Citizens from most countries, including the US, Canada, UK & Australia, do not need to obtain a visa prior to entering Ecuador as shown by the following map:
Nationals from the following 30 countries require a visa:
Nationals from countries that do not require a visa can are issued a tourist stamp on arrival. This is valid for 90 days within a rolling year.
This does confuse visitors, but it's relatively simple. Unlike many countries that use a calendar year, Ecuador uses your date of entry as the start of your 365 days.
For example, say you enter Ecuador on July 20, 2021. Then, you're allowed to stay 90 days until your year finishes on July 19, 2022.
You can come and go as you please, providing you haven't used up all of your 90 days.
No. Sorry. Border runs are popular in countries like Thailand and Vietnam where you can reset the number of days you're allowed to stay in the country by popping into a neighboring country and then returning.
As such, visiting Peru, Colombia or any other country will not reset your 90-day allocation.
Yes, you can extend for another 90 days relatively easy. After that you can potentially even extend for another 180 days with a Special Tourist Visa (available once every 5 years).
The main types of residency visas popular with expats are:
We've broken down each visa type, including the requirements and costs below.
Ecuador's Pensioner Visa (or Retirement Visa, Pensionado, Jubilado) is the most popular type of visa for retired expats wanting to spend their golden years in Ecuador.
The main requirement is that you receive a guaranteed income for life. This is most often satisfied via regular social security checks, but it is not limited to this income source only.
You can also have income from other guaranteed sources such as pensions, annuities, superannuation, etc. But, the main point is that the income must be guaranteed for the remainder of your life.
If you are using social security, then you'll need to obtain an official letter from Social Security Administration. This also needs to be signed and notarized.
Dependants can also be included on a Pensioner Visa. This includes spouses, children, and grandchildren. However, this can be risky because it's tied to the primary visa holder. If something happens (ie relationship breakdown or death), then the dependants need to apply for their own visa(s).
The law was changed in Oct 2020 to make this visa even more attractive. They reduced the amount of monthly income required from $800 to $400. They also removed the additional $100 income requirement for each dependant.
This makes Ecuador one of the most expat-friendly destinations for retirees wanting to maximize their social security.
Ecuador's Investor Visa (or Real Estate Visa, Inversionista) is popular amongst expats that don't receive social security benefits.
The two main pathways are:
There's also the possibility of other investment options such as investing in an Ecuadorian business, but we're going to only focus on the 2 popular pathways listed above.
This is generally the preferred option because it's a whole lot easier and less risky than purchasing a property.
The best part about Certificates of Deposits (CDs) in Ecuador? The high interest rates of course. The most popular banking option in Cuenca (JEP) currently offers 8.5% as their standard rate. Obviously, the rate changes, but you should expect significantly higher interest rates than in the US etc.
Of course, all investments carry risk and this one is no different. Many banks and co-operatives that offer CDs do have protection up to $32,000. But, as the minimum CD amount is $40,000, this still leaves $8,000 unprotected if something does happen.
And no, you can't mix and match your CDs at different institutions in an effort to ensure all the $40K is protected. It needs to be one CD.
You can't touch the principal amount for the duration of your visa (ie 2 years initially). However, you can take out the interest or just let it compound so you have yourself a nice little bonus at the end of your two years.
ie At the end of two years @ 8.5% interest:
Your profit on the original investment is $7,079. Not bad at all. Time to treat yourself to a little shopping holiday!
When setting up your CD make sure you take notice of the terms and conditions. Especially the default roll-over provisions should you want to request your money back. You'll likely have a very limited window as the term of the CD expires to request your money or you may have to wait another term. It's VERY difficult to try and obtain your money mid-term. We aren't talking about penalties for early withdrawals, it's more along the lines of "Sorry, you can't access your money. Period."
Ecuador has some of the most affordable property prices for expats. And, prices are likely to continue to fall as COVID forces more distressed owners to sell. This can make it very tempting to kill two birds with one stone by buying yourself a cheap property that you can also use to obtain your Investor Visa.
However, buying property in Ecuador is very risky and not something we generally recommend unless you really, really know what you're doing & have already lived here for at least a year. Take our quiz on Buying vs Renting to see if you're ready.
Ecuador is a very different property market than what you're used to. It's very easy to get burnt and can be frustratingly difficult to sell.
If you do decide to go down the property path, note that it isn't the purchase price that matters. It's the assessed value (ie the amount you pay tax on) that needs to be over $40,000 plus an additional $500 for each dependant attached to the visa.
You're still required to prove that you have the finances to sustain yourself for the 2-year duration of your temporary residence visa. This is generally not a substantial burden as they accept printed statements from your internet banking and these do not need to be apostilled or translated.
The source of the income is not important. They just want to see regular income coming in over the previous 6 months.
Other popular residency visas generally only allow you to stay outside of Ecuador for 90 days. However, the Investor Visa does not have any restrictions on how long you can stay outside of Ecuador and still maintain your Investor Visa.
This can be a significant advantage for seasonal or 'bluebird' expats that like to escape their cold North American winters in favor of Ecuador's more temperate climate.
The main caveat is that if you're considering eventually applying for permanent residency (and eventually citizenship), then you'll be limited to a maximum of 180 days each year for the first 3 years of your permanent residency.
So, if you aren't considering permanent residency or citizenship, then it might be best for you to re-apply for an Investors Visa every two years. Yes, this will mean more paperwork and costs over the long-term, but that might be a small price for having Ecuador as your second home.
If you do decide to leave Ecuador, you should be aware of the current 5% exit tax on cash leaving the country. There has been continuous talk of removing the tax, but until it actually happens you should be prepared to lose 5% on any capital leaving Ecuador.
Now, if you've had your money earning 8.5% interest for two years, then you're still going to come out significantly ahead. But it's still a hit to your hip pocket.
Ecuador's Professional Visa is the most popular choice amongst younger, university-educated expats. I have this visa and it's served me well.
This is a very flexible visa because the only significant requirement is that you have a bachelor's degree (or higher). The idea being that professional migrants will help the Ecuadorian economy.
You don't even need to have any post-graduate experience in your chosen degree or work in that field in Ecuador. Nothing. You'll find many 'digital nomads' or remote workers using this visa.
The most difficult part of the process for me was registering my degree with SENESYCT. They made me jump through numerous bureaucratic hoops before they would accept my degree.
The problem? They had issues with my Mode of Study Letter and wanted to be sure that my degree was taken in-person and not online. I did study in-person, but because I studied two degrees and my transcript didn't differentiate between them, they had a hard time satisfying themselves that the singular degree I wanted to register was taught in-person. This took many emails between my university, SENESYCT, my facilitator and myself before it was finally resolved.
The main take away is that if your visa application doesn't fit perfectly into how they want it, then you will face delays and possible rejection.
You do need to provide evidence that you're receiving more than $400 income each month. But, print outs from your internet banking suffice and they don't need to be apostilled, translated, or notarized (phew).
We've previously covered the requirements and process if you need more details on how to obtain a Professional Visa.
Ecuador's Rentista Visa is similar in many ways to the Pensioner Visa. The main difference is that income from the Rentista Visa does not need to be guaranteed for life.
You only need to prove that you have $400 of recurring income from a legal source. Common sources include property leases and investments such as annuities. You may also qualify for this if you have an employment contract that continues whilst you're in Ecuador.
The evidence you provide (ie lease agreement) needs to be apostilled in your home country before being translated into Spanish and notarized in Ecuador.
Income can be from inside or outside of Ecuador.
The biggest challenge with this visa is that it's relatively new and unproven. There are a lot more applications for the Pensioner, Investor and Professional visas. This uncertainly also means that the requirements are not necessarily consistent across each visa processing office.
Ecuador's Dependent & Marriage Visas come under the broad category of Amparo visas.
The biggest difference with this visa is that you're pigging backing off someone else's legal residency. The three most common scenarios are spouses, children and marrying an Ecuadorian.
In the case of an expat married couple, then one person needs to qualify for a temporary residency visa (ie Pensioner, Investor, Professional, Rentista etc) and the second person applies as their dependent.
This can be very useful if the second person does not qualify for a temporary residency visa on their own. ie Perhaps you're an older married couple, but only one of you receives social security to qualify for the Pensioner visa.
You'll need to prove your married by having your marriage certificate apostilled in your home country. But, you only have 6 months from the date the certificate is apostilled to submit your application - the clock is ticking! And then it will need to be notarized and translated once you're in Ecuador.
If possible, it's generally better for each person to apply for their own visa. Why? Because if something happens to the primary visa holder, then the dependent is stuck and will need to apply for their own visa to remain in Ecuador. Not an ideal scenario, especially so given you've just been through a stressful life event. No need to pile on.
Another common scenario is using the dependent visa for minors that are under the care of the primary visa holder.
In this instance, you'll need to provide an apostilled birth certificate from your home country and apply for the visa within 6 months. If you fail to submit within 6 months, you'll need to provide another apostilled birth certificate. Again - better to have this translated and notarized once you arrive in Ecuador.
Marrying an Ecuadorian citizen won't automatically grant you citizenship. You still need to apply for a visa. The biggest difference in this circumstance is that you can skip the temporary residency requirement and go straight to permanent residency. Yay!
You'll need to provide your Ecuadorian marriage certificate or in the case of a de-facto relationship (union marital de hecho)- a certificate confirming you've registered your de facto reunion in Ecuador.
The documents and process for getting married in Ecuador is a topic for another day.
If you're all trying to apply for the residency visas together, bear in mind that you may need to have the primary visa holder's visa approved before you can apply for any dependency visa(s).
This can significantly increase the total processing time as it generally takes 2-3 months for each visa to process. So, you're looking at around 6 months total for all visas to be issued.
The additional timeframe shouldn't be a significant burden if you're on the ball and have planned ahead, but it certainly throws a wrench in any last-minute visa planning.
The visa fees for dependents are currently $200 - or half of the primary visa holder's fees. This fee is only payable once the visa is approved.
The application fee remains the same ($50).
On top of proving income for the primary visa holder, you'll also need to show $400 monthly recurring income for each dependent. This can be proven by printing the last 6 month's worth of bank statements from your internet banking and does not need to be apostilled, notarized, or translated.
On top of the specific or 'special' requirements for each of the temporary residency visas included above, you'll also need to provide the following requirements that are mandatory for all Ecuadorian temporary residency visas.
Download from the official immigration site.
This needs to be completed in Spanish and witnessed by a notary.
Whilst the official requirement is that your passport is valid for 6 months, we recommend having at least 2 years (ie the duration of the initial visa). Why? Because it can be a real hassle to try and transfer your visa to a new passport and cost another $100 to transfer your digital visa to a new passport number.
This can mess up the entire process if you don't plan properly. Your background check should be completed at both the state and national level which can take time.
You only have 6 months from the date the background check is issued to apply for your visa. And, you need to have them apostilled during this time too.
Then, once in Ecuador, they need to be translated and notarized.
You need to show proof of health insurance before they will issue your cedula. This can be private or public health insurance.
But, you'll only be able to apply for the public health insurance (IESS) once you have your cedula.
So, your best option is to obtain private health insurance just before you apply. You only need your passport to apply. The cost varies on numerous factors such as age and smoking habits, but factor in about $80/month for this.
Make sure you obtain a letter from your health insurance provider stating that you're covered and the period of coverage.
Get this from the Immigration office for $5.60
On a white background. Neutral face or natural smile accepted.
You'll need to have most of your documents notarized, and those that aren't in Spanish will also need to be translated first.
There are many notaries in Ecuador and they now charge set prices for each service.
Fees for Ecuadorian temporary residency visas are:
This applies to all of the visas mentioned in this article except for the dependent visa that has a reduced cost of $200 for the visa fee. The application fee is the same at $50.
On top of the visa fees, you'll also need to pay for:
How much you're going to pay is going to depend on individual circumstances such as: how many documents you need to have apostilled, translated and notarized.
Translations and notaries are readily available in Ecuador for a reasonable fee. Budget $100+ for this.
Postage fees can also add up. If you're not aware, Ecuador no longer has a public postal service. So, you'll need to use private couriers like DHL and expect to pay $100+ to send a document.
So it makes financial sense to try and bring as many documents with you to Ecuador as you can just prior to submitting your application.
If you decide to use an immigration lawyer or visa facilitator, then you'll need to budget for this too. Fees vary by provider and some include variable costs like notarizations and translations in Ecuador.
Expect to pay around $1,000 in legal fees for an immigration lawyer to prepare your application.
There are many small steps involved before you'll receive your Ecuadorian temporary residency visa. Expect the process to take approx 4 months, but just know that there are many variables that will impact total processing time and few that you can control.
The process for applying for temporary residency is:
The short answer is yes. The requirements change often and the process itself takes around 4 months even if you've submitted everything perfectly.
If you make a mistake and your visa gets rejected, you may need to start all over again - including getting your documents apostilled once more!
I initially tried to obtain my professional visa on my own. I took two long trips to the Ministry in Quito to try and understand the requirements and process straight from the horse's mouth. Both trips were a complete waste of time for me as I was just shown the exact same incomplete information from their website. It didn't include any of the finer details I really needed to know.
So, I gave up and used an immigration lawyer that was recommended to me.
My story is not unique. Many others have had similar difficulties when trying to complete it on their own. If you want to DIY then I'd recommend only doing so if you speak Spanish at an advanced level and have experience dealing with the inefficiency and frustration of Ecuadorian bureaucracy. Even then I'd recommend having an Ecuadorian friend go with you.
My Ecuadorian partner did try to help me, but she doesn't know the immigration system and so we still needed to get legal assistance.
Feel free to reach out if you'd like recommendations for visa facilitators or immigration lawyers.
Yes. Unlike many countries that don't allow you to upgrade from a tourist visa to a more permanent visa, Ecuador has no problems with it. I'd argue the best way to apply for your visa is whilst on tourist visa (or an extension).
Yes, you can. Just note that some of the processes will change from outlined here.
Yes. Your visa fees are reduced by 50%.
It can. Obviously it depends on the gravity of the offence and whether your explanation is reasonable. I'd definitely be engaging legal advice if you have doubts about this.
Ecuador's generous visa program is suitable for a wide range of wannabe expats. From pensioners to young professionals and even investors, there are suitable pathways for many that want to come and enjoy Ecuador on a more permanent basis.
Just do your research well (you are if you're reading this!), pay attention to the time constraints, and don't be afraid to reach out for legal assistance should you have any doubts.
Did we leave anything out? Please comment below if we have so we can update if required. We'd also like to hear about your experience applying for residency visas in Ecuador.
Ecuador provides several visa options for expats wanting to stay in the country for more than 1 year. 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 29 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 that, you have a few options. One option not many people talk about is the ‘Special Tourist 6 Month Visa’ which allows you to stay for another 180 days. It costs $450 + $5.60 for the Migratory Movement Certificate. You’ll also need proof of health insurance.
This will bring your total stay within Ecuador to 1 year. This should be enough time for you to make a thorough exploratory trip and spend a few months in various cities and towns that you’re interested in.
Or, you can apply for one of the temporary residence visas after your initial 3 or 6 months from inside Ecuador. Either way, we strongly recommend an exploratory trip rather than just moving here sight unseen.
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.
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.
Guides from a mixed expat & Ecuadorian family.
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