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 an Attorney. Would you like to send a message to our recommended visa Attorney?
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
What type of assistance do you require when applying for your visa?
We can put you in touch with our preferred visa facilitator if you'd like? You can ask questions or start the visa process directly with them.
We can put you in touch with our preferred Attorney 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 Attorney?
We've created a cheat sheet that summarizes these eligibility requirements that you can print out or just keep for future reference when you're ready to apply for a temporary residency visa.
Download it by leaving your details below.
Start by answering the first question. Your response will determine the next question, and so on. Continue answering the questions until you've established which visas may apply to you.
It should only take you 30 seconds to 1 minute to run through the questions & determine your eligibility.
We've focused on the 5 visas that are most popular with expats moving to Ecuador. These are:
There are other visa types such as student and volunteer visas that we have not included. Feel free to get in contact with us if you'd like to enquire about your eligibility for these other visa types.
Absolutely not. This visa calculator is designed to give you an idea of the types of visas you MAY be eligible for. We've covered the main visa requirements, but we always suggest contacting a visa facilitator if you have any questions about your specific circumstances. You can contact us if you'd like a facilitator recommendation.
Yes, this calculator uses Ecuador's updated visa rules from February 2021. We'll continue to make sure the calculator is updated with any major new updates.
Did you find this residency visa calculator useful? Awesome, please let us know in the comments below. Hated it? That's great feedback too - please share your thoughts on how it can be improved.
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. You can download the extension application form.
Having issues extending yourself or just want a professional to take care of it for you (minus the legal fees)? Ecuador Visas is offering tourist visa extensions with no service fees for YapaTree cardholders - view the offer here.
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 government of Ecuador's 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 30 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 you may not find it 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 time doesn't stop if you leave the country and re-enter with this extension. This is different from your original 90-day tourist visa/stamp where time does stop if you leave the country. Once your additional 90-day extension expires, you'll either need to apply for a temporary residency visa or leave the country and re-enter 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.
This YapaTree Card offer from Ecuador Visas allows you to get professional help to extend your visa for you. They've removed all of their service fees, so you'll only pay the government fees. This means you get a professional attorney to complete your application but you'll pay exactly the same if completing the application yourself. Winner.
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.
Ecuador's Minister of Tourism, Neils Olsen, started discussions with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to create a 'Nomad Visa'. The main purpose is to bolster the economy with the injection of foreign cash & create new jobs.
There are no details at this stage, but we'll be watching closely to see what impact this has on the minimum income requirements for the new nomad visa and the current visas.
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. Once you've read this article, we suggest checking out our Ecuador Residency Visa Calculator to give you more insight into your visa options.
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 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 34 countries require a visa:
|Iraq||Ivory Coast *||Kenya||Libya|
|Mali *||Myanmar *||Nepal||Nigeria|
* Added on May 17 2021 (source)
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 easily. 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 SENESCYT. 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, SENESCYT, 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.
He's processed over 5,000 visa applications and was my choice when applying for residency and I personally recommend Joseph's services.
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.
If you haven't already, spend the next 30 seconds with our Residency Visa Eligibility Calculator to narrow down your visa options.
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.