Ecuador's Visa Updates 2021

Last Updated: 3rd March 2021
Written by Jason Scott
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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 🙂

Editor's Note

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).

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.

We'll keep this page updated as news emerges.

Related Video: 8 Ecuador Visa Updates for 2021

Temporary Residency - Unlimited Renewals

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Temporary Visa Changes 2021 Unlimited Renewals
Old Laws Of Ecuador

Old Rule

  • Can only renew your temporary visa once
New Laws in Ecuador

New Rule

  • Unlimited temporary visa renewals

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. 

Temporary Residency Visas - More Travel Time

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Temporary Visa Changes 2021 Unlimited Time Outside of Ecuador
Old Laws Of Ecuador

Old Rule

  • Only allowed outside of Ecuador for 90 days every 12 months. $1200 fine if overstay outside of Ecuador for more than 90 days. 
New Laws in Ecuador

New Rule

  • No time limit on how long you can be outside of Ecuador

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.

Dependant Visas - Can Detach From Principle Visa Holder

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Dependant Visa Changes 2021 Principle Visa Holder Dies
Old Laws Of Ecuador

Old Rule

  • If something happened to the main visa holder then the dependant's visa is automatically canceled
New Laws in Ecuador

New Rule

  • If something happens to the main visa holder, then the dependent's visa is NOT canceled.

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. 

Temporary Dependant Visa - Less Eligible Relationships

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Dependant Visa Changes 2021 Eligible Relationships
Old Laws Of Ecuador

Old Rule

  • A dependant could be a non-immediate family member such as a grandchild 
New Laws in Ecuador

New Rule

  • A dependant is now limited to a spouse and/or kids only

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: 

  • Spouse - whether through marriage or common law; or
  • Kids - evidenced via a birth certificate

Note, this is different from the rules for permanent residency which have not changed and still allow for wider relationships. 

Permanent Residency - Less Travel Time Years 2+ 

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Permanent Residency Visa Changes 2021 Maximum Time Outside of Ecuador
Old Laws Of Ecuador

Old Rule

  • After 2 years of permanent residency, only need to visit Ecuador once every 5 years to maintain permanent residency status
  • $1,600 fine if more than 180 days outside of Ecuador during the first 2 years
New Laws in Ecuador

New Rule

  • After 2 years of permanent residency, your visa will be canceled if you spend more than 2 years outside of Ecuador. 
  • $200 fine if more than 180 days outside of Ecuador during the first 2 years.

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, the fines have now been significantly reduced if you do overstay more than 180 days outside of Ecuador.

Before, they were 4x the minimum wage of $400 ($1,600), but now they are only 0.5 x minimum wage ($200). 

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. 

Tourist Visas - Reduced Fines for Overstaying

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Tourist Visa Changes 2021 Penalties for Overstaying
Old Laws Of Ecuador

Old Rule

  • Fine of $800 & 2-year ban if overstay
New Laws in Ecuador

New Rule

  • Fine of $200 OR 1-year ban if overstay

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:

  • Failed to arrange another visa (including at tourist visa extension) after their initial 90 days; or
  • Did obtain the tourist visa extension but then failed to apply for temporary residency after their additional 90 days. 

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. 

No Health Insurance Needed for Visas (but...)

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Visa Changes 2021 Health Insurance
Old Laws Of Ecuador

Old Rule

  • Proof of health insurance was required for temporary & permanent visas
New Laws in Ecuador

New Rule

  • Health insurance is NOT required for visas. But, it's still needed for your Cedula.

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. 

Possible Rule Change

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 Special Tourist Visa no longer exists
  • The Business Visa has not yet come into effect and they don't know when/if it will.

Commerce Visa - More Flexibility After Tourist Visa

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Special Tourist Visa Changes 2021 Replaced with Business Visa
Old Laws Of Ecuador

Old Rule

  • The most common visa after your initial tourist + extension was the Special Tourist Visa. This was valid for 180 days, but you could only apply for it once every 5 years.
New Laws in Ecuador

New Rule

  • New Commerce Visa gives you 180 days, but you can apply for it every year

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.  

Final Words

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.

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.

And, if you haven't checked out our Residency Visa Calculator, we suggest spending the next 30 seconds doing exactly that.

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43 comments on “Ecuador's Visa Updates 2021”

  1. This is great news well presented Jason! Those limitations with the Temp Visa were the primary reasons I was not considering applying.

    Although they are not calling it a Digital Nomad Visa (they should) it will now be one of the most affordable and flexible DN visas in the world!

    1. Thanks Siobhan. Yes, lots more flexibility with these temporary residency visas. I think it will be a long time before Ecuador embraces any sort of digital nomad visa and I'm actually a little on the fence as to whether they are a good idea as they generally hike up the income requirements. If they don't, then I'm all for it. My full opinion if you're interested (https://expatsecuador.com/visas/digital-nomad-visa-countries/).

  2. Major bummer for us... We have had our visa for 9 years now. We were thinking of moving somewhere else for a few years, and then returning before our 5 years was up. Suddenly cutting that to 2 years is a royal PITA...

    It doesn't say how long we must stay upon returning inside that 2-year mark. Can we just pass through immigration and catch the next plane out, perhaps on our way to some other country we are visiting?

    1. Hey Burt - I know these changes do decrease some of the flexibility with the time allowed outside of Ecuador. There is no minimum amount of time required for your visit to Ecuador to keep the visa afoot. So long as you pass through immigration once within 2 years you shouldn't have any issue maintaining your visa. As you've been in Ecuador for 9 years, perhaps it's worthwhile applying for citizenship as this would give you the flexibility you desire?

  3. Thanks for the excellent write-up. This is good news for people with temporary visas.

    A question- I have my Rentista Visa...when the 2 years are up and I want to renew, do I have to go through the full process again? FBI fingerprints, birth certificate, divorce decree, etc. (all of these bing apostilled).

    Thanks.
    Brad

    1. Hey Brad - No, you don't need a new set of documents to renew the temporary resident visa. You'll only need to obtain a new criminal report from abroad if you spent more than 90 consecutive days outside of Ecuador. Of course, the other option is to apply for permanent residency rather than renewing your temporary residency. Let us know how you get on 🙂

  4. I have asked several people and no one can give a clear answer, but do you know if this applies to people who already have their temporary visas or to people who get their temporary visas after this new law? We got our temporary visas in September 2020 and would love this to apply to us!!

    1. Hey Heather, unfortunately, the new laws only apply to temporary residency visas obtained after 5 Feb 2021. I know it's a bit of a downer as I'd also like to be able to take advantage of these changes, but alas I cannot. Note, the changes to the permanent residency visas apply regardless of the date the visa was obtained (I know this may not affect you - but it may be helpful for others).

  5. Hey, I was wondering about the $400 dollar fee. Could I pay that fee and re enter Ecuador I’ve been gone for about 3 month and really need to go back. But i overstayed (112 days). TIA

    1. Hi Bryan - if you want to come back within one year, then you'll need to pay the fine for overstaying (currently $200) at Migración. the fine for overstaying has been reduced to $200 and needs to be paid at Migración before you can return. You can have someone in Ecuador pay it on your behalf. I know some visa facilitators also offer this service (contact us if you want a recommendation). The other option is to simply wait out the one-year ban, but I understand this may not be your preferred option.

  6. In an earlier comment you said a background check to renew a temp visa was not needed if you spent less then 90 days abroad.

    Does that also apply if you currently have a resident visa but plan to apply for a permanent visa later this year?

    1. Hey Carol - I believe so yes. I had to get a new criminal check when I applied for Permanent Residency, but that was only because I was outside of the country for more than 90 days (due to COVID).

  7. Hey a quick question. On Monday 5th of april i have got a cita to get my profesional visa. Now however i read a out this "commerce visa" for additional 180 days. Could you tell me how much does it cost and what are the requirements to get it? Have a great day

    1. Hey Przemek - I believe this change is still making its way through the system. There is also the chance that it's been scrapped completely and will never see the light of day. Bottom line is that this visa does not have any history - so I would suggest sticking with the proven temporary residency visa path you're currently on rather than changing courses now.

  8. Interesting changes. I live in Ecuador since 1996 always with en investment visa. Two years ago I got the permanent residenca without requierements, my question: the new visa was issued May 19,2019, so I can leave Ecuador after May 19, 2021 for maximum 2 years? I'm german so I'm not interested to get ecuad. Citizenship.

    1. Hey Kornelia - yep, that's my understanding. But, if you did need to spend more than 180 days outside of Ecuador within your first 2 years, then the fine has been reduced to $200 - which might be much cheaper than making a special trip back to Ecuador just for this.

    1. Hey Lisa - the changes to both temporary and permanent residency laws apply to all visa categories, including investor visas. Is there a particular question you had in mind?

  9. Hi im interested in becoming a permanent resident in retirement which is not for 10 years. Is it possible for me to just go for a 1 weeks vacation and apply for temporary residence go back home and wait for approval etc or would I need to stay there an extended period of time? Then in say a year i could come back and apply for permanent residence and just pay the $200 fine the first 2 years and come back every other year to maintain permanent residency until im ready to move down for good.

    Is this possible or will i run into problems? Thanks and sorry for the long message.

    1. Hey Jason - I like your long-term thinking. However, a lot can change with the visa laws in 10 years, so I wouldn't necessarily recommend this approach. Your biggest hurdle right now are the permanent residency requirements - you need to have your temporary residency & reside in Ecuador for 21 months before you can apply for it. So, this means you'll need to commit to staying here longer than your current plan allows. You could theoretically keep renewing a temporary residency visa every 2 years, but if you aren't going to be spending much time here, then it may not be worthwhile as you can already get your first 6 months in Ecuador every year easily just with your initial 90 tourist stamp + 90 day tourist visa.

  10. I’m on the fence about obtaining Dual nationality (USA/Ecuador), so that’s not a priority at the moment for me. And while travel flexibility is a high priority, with COVID, travel is more complex now. So now, with these changes coming it seems that renewing my Temp. Visa is the best option for now. Then, renewing every two years after this first renewal. So how does this scenario look to you: First off, My Temp. Visa was issued Jan. 23, 2020. OK, since I’m allowed one renewal under current law. QUESTION: is this CORRECT? Then, just renew my temp. Visa for an additional 2 years. Then, watch to see if the rule change allowing 2 year temp. Visa renewal takes effect. Then simply decide to renew or change to permanent status at some point down the line when the renewal comes due? Does that sound doable? QUESTION: What docs./fees are required to do a simple temp. Visa renewal? I did not get my Cedula after issuance of my Temp. visa, since we went into lockdown immediately after issuance of my visa. I plan to obtain a cedula now. QUESTION: Is a cedula required to renew my temp. Visa? And finally, I do not have IESS insurance. I plan to obtain it as soon as I have my Cedula. However, QUESTION: I’m being told I must show six months of Insurance “history” prior to applying for a permanent visa. Is this also required for renewing a temp. Visa?

    1. Hey BT - that's a lot of questions, but I'll try to help you out.
      1) Cedula: You'll need health insurance in order to obtain your cedula. I suggest you obtain this first.
      2) Temp Visa: The new temporary visa rule changes do not apply to you, so you have one renewal. I would not suggest waiting to see if they will change (ie unlimited renewals for older temporary residency visas). You may find yourself needing to reapply for a new visa rather than renewing (renewing is a much simpler process).
      3) Permanent Residency: If you're already in Ecuador, and likely to be here for 21 months during your temporary residency visa, then I'd suggest the better long-term option for you would be to apply for permanent residency. I know travel is important to you, but as you've said it's more difficult right now, so perhaps it's the perfect time to bunker down in Ecuador to ensure you can obtain your permanent residency.

  11. So you can’t get a temporary visa and leave you must stay there 21 consecutive months to apply for permanent residency?

  12. Muchas gracias. So IESS first in Loja (I was told I need a cedula to buy it!) Then Cedula in Machala, then criminal history check in Guayaquil. Etc. and go for perm. Visa, got it! I’ll report back on how I do.

    1. BT - I'd suggest getting your cedula first. But, they may require you to have private health insurance before they issue it. I'd check with your Migracion office in Machala to check how long you'd need private health insurance for before they'll give you the cedula. You may need to prepay 3-6 months private health insurance & take the letter they provide to say you're covered (ie Ecuasanitas or similar).

    1. Dena - these are the most recent substantial updates to the visa laws, yes. They tend to make large updates every 3-4 years. Are there likely to be smaller, more recent changes that aren't covered here, yes. We've focused on these changes as they are the ones that will likely affect expats the most. We'll cover any future substantial updates as they come to light.

  13. I overstayed my visa by 2 days. I am in the process of getting the $200 fine. After I pay this, will I need to apply for a visa or will I automatically get my 90 days back?

    1. Abbie - after you pay the fine you shouldn't have any restrictions when re-entering Ecuador and your normal entry rules should apply. ie If you're from one of the countries that need a visa to enter Ecuador, then yes, you'll need a visa. I suggest you read this article about Ecuador's general visa requirements 🙂

  14. Hey Jason. Thank you for this information- it is more than helpful!

    I live in the US. I just started the process of registering my degree with SENESCYT (going for the professional visa in the future). However, I don't actually plan to relocate too Ecuador until a couple more years.

    With that being said, would it make sense to go ahead and apply for the professional visa once I'm approved in SENESCYT (since there is no time frame on how long you can be outside of Ecuador now)? Would there be any issues in doing this?

    I ask because I'll be in Ecuador for three weeks this summer. So, I am trying to get an idea if going ahead and applying for the professional visa while I am visiting would make things more convenient moving forward in the future before I physically relocate.

    1. Thanks Dusty. You can theoretically get a temporary residency visa now and renew, but I wouldn't go through this process & expense until I know that I want to move to Ecuador (I've done this with another country and it didn't work out so well...). If I was in your shoes, I would:
      a) Visit Ecuador for 3 weeks as you've planned
      b) Decide if Ecuador residency is something you want to pursue.
      c) If so, start planning your date of entry.
      d) Gather all of your documents for the professional visa (including criminal check)
      e) Bring these to Ecuador with you and then apply for your visa. If you run out of time with your tourist visa, you can always apply for a 90 day extension which should be ample time for you to get your residency visa.

  15. Thank you for all the information. Do you have the specific resolution number or specific law that details the changes in the penalties for overstaying on a tourist visa?

    1. Hey Micheal, I do not. This change came from the visa facilitator that we use and we've confirmed with the ministry. If you have any doubts, then I suggest also confirming with your closest migracion office. If you are able to dig up the resolution then please feel free to share 🙂

    1. Thanks Michael - This doesn't appear to be updated with the overstay fine of 0.5 basic salaries though. It still mentions 1 basic salary is the fine (but in practice it is currently 0.5).

    1. Hey Geoffrey - my experience is that you can always find someone to do anything cheaper. I've found visa facilitator fees generally range between $500-$2000. I don't suggest choosing a facilitator solely on price though as I don't believe this is necessarily a reliable indicator of quality in this type of market. Look at their track record and reputation. Of course, the cheapest option is to apply for the retirement visa yourself rather than through a facilitator. It really depends on your risk profile. I generally only recommend those with advanced Spanish apply for the visa themselves as there's quite a bit to the process.

    1. Good question Matt. They did reduce the types of relationships that can obtain dependant visas, but I'm not sure if they made any changes to exclude adult children from obtaining dependant visas through their parent(s). I'd suggest checking with a visa facilitator on this question before making any decisions.

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