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.
Guides from a mixed expat & Ecuadorian family.
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