Ecuador Relocation Guide

Jun 21, 2022

Note from the editor: For the readers convenience, the links in this thorough guide open in separate tabs, so clicking on them will not cause you to lose your place.

Written by Sara Chaca, Attorney – Abogada

This Guide is intended to assist Expats in their country of origin determine the “Who, What, When, Where, Why & How” of moving to Ecuador, and so as the sections are bolded with respect to the applicable areas that are of most interest or need to you, please review it as you will (whether in whole or in part), and I might suggest utilizing your computer’s “Find” function, so as to seek out the things most important to you, such as for Real Estate Property, Residency (Visa) and Container Shipping purposes. 

Do with and utilize it as you wish, and feel free to write to me directly at sara@ecuadorvisas.com and/or visit my website of www.ecuadorvisas.com so as to ask any questions you have with regards to the information shown herein for your benefit.

Ecuador Tourist Visas

Most nationals in the world (i.e. all persons from North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, China and Japan) can enter Ecuador with a short-term tourist visa (T-3). There is no cost associated with this sort of visa, which permits visitors to stay in the country for a total of 90 days within a 12-month period, whether those days are consecutive or not. A T-3 visa with the appropriate expiration date will be stamped into your passport at the border.

You will need a visa to enter Ecuador on the basis of you being a Citizen/National of one of the following nations:

  • Afghanistan
  • Angola
  • Bangladesh
  • Cameroon
  • Cuba
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Egypt
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • India
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Kenya
  • Libya
  • Nepal
  • Nigeria
  • North Korea
  • Pakistan
  • Philippines
  • Senegal
  • Somalia
  • Sri Lanka
  • Syria
  • Vietnam
  • Yemen

On the basis that you AREN’T a Citizen/National of ANY of the immediately above shown nations, then ABSOLUTELY you may enter Ecuador on the first above referenced T-3 visa, as long as your passport has at least six months of remaining validity and you have a ticket for your return or next destination. Additionally, you may want to purchase health or travel insurance which can pay for any medical costs you may accrue while there. Although you might not have to provide proof of this health insurance, it is still a good idea to have it around just in case.

You must choose between applying for the first above referenced 90 day Tourist Visa Extension or alternatively a Residency Visa based on your applicable qualification (as discussed further below) if you intend to stay in Ecuador for a period of time longer than the initial 90 days allowed. After receiving your T-3 visa, you’re able to submit your application for EITHER a Temporary Residency Visa (again based on your applicable qualification to be discussed more in depth herein this guide) OR a Permanent Residency Visa based on your blood relation or marriage to another Permanent Resident or even Citizen of Ecuador.

These short-term visas can all be used for travel, business, volunteering, religious travel, or education.

Short-Term (Tourist-Only) Type Stays in Ecuador

Because of its relatively lax visa requirements, moving to Ecuador is one of the simplest countries to move to, though of course it’s still a process for which a professional such as an Immigration Attorney is highly suggestible. As first stated above, MOST Citizens/Nationals of other countries do NOT require a visa to enter Ecuador, though they still could be asked why they are going there even if they’re technically on the approved countries list for a FREE T-3 Visa on arrival to any International Airport of Ecuador (i.e. Guayaquil or Quito). You might also be required to show documentation of your departure or subsequent trip when you arrive. You will be allowed a stay of 90 days, but you can obtain a visa before your trip by contacting the Ecuadorian embassy in your country of residence. Once you are in the country, you’re able to apply for an extension of your first FREE 90 day (T-3 visa) stay for an additional 90 days, at a very low cost without too much paperwork or processing required for that – again, you’d do well to request a professional to assist you with it so that there’s no issues (especially if your plan is to thereafter apply for Residency in Ecuador, though once more a Tourist Visa Extension specifically isn’t generally a highly invasive procedure.

Prior to the expiration of your 90 day Tourist Visa Extension, you may submit an application for a visa at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility of Ecuador. According to the Ecuadorian “Organic Law for Human Mobility” (that being its actual name translated to English), you will be fined if you stay longer than your authorized time and do not apply for a different type of visa. You will NOT be allowed to travel back to Ecuador for two years if you DON’T pay this fine/penalty.

Residency in Ecuador

The two types of residency permits offered by Ecuador are temporary and permanent. For immigrants and non-immigrants, each visa has different requirements.

Generally for most Citizens/Nationals of other countries, it’s required to submit an application for the above referenced Temporary Residency Visa (TRV) in order to qualify 2 years later to apply for a Permanent Residency Visa (PRV). If requested, this may be extended for a further two years following one’s initial two years as a Temporary Resident. However, you can only apply for a permanent resident visa if you have been in the country for a minimum of 21 months (EITHER consecutively or non-consecutively) on your Temporary Residency Visa.

You are not allowed to leave Ecuador for longer than 90 days within any two-year term after obtaining a temporary resident visa. Your Temporary Residency Visa will be terminated if you leave Ecuador more than 90 days TOTAL during that two-year term, and the procedure will start over when you return.  

Ecuador Visa Prerequisites

The following general categories of temporary residency permits are offered:

Working, Investing, Volunteering for Charities/Organizations, Participating in Sports or the Arts, becoming a Student or Professional, and Sponsoring.

Each has different requirements, but for all you must AT THE VERY LEAST submit the necessary application form, along with respective documentation and Apostilles/Legalizations (certifications from your country/ies of origin), your Foreign Passport having a minimum of 6 months of validity left, a personal Passport style photo, and the appropriate fees payable to the Ecuadorian Government.  See the following article I wrote with respect to this very topic: https://cuencahighlife.com/ecuador-visa-options-for-expats/ 

Categories of Non-Immigrants

Student Visas and Work Visas are two types of Non-Immigrant visas. Some Non-Immigrants who want to become Permanent Residents submit their application for a Work Visa that allows their parents, spouses, and children to join them too, though this is NOT typical as it’s ONLY if one has NO other relevant qualification so as to move to Ecuador.

Immigrant Class

Immigrant Visas are frequently requested by future residents, those specifically (most typically) being of the following type shown as follows:

  • Dependent Visa (also known as an “Amparo Visa” – applied for by Marriage or Family Relation) 
  • Investor Visa (based on a MINIMUM investment of at least $42,500 in an Ecuadorian Bank Certificate of Deposit or Ecuadorian Real Estate Property that in either case is held/untouched for a minimum period of 2 years, except for any interest/rental income received thereon either type of investment) – See the following article I wrote with respect to this very topic: https://cuencahighlife.com/ecuadors-new-investor-visa-now-travel-as-often-as-you-like/
  • Nomad Visa (based on income derived from Online Work such as from Teaching or Trading)
  • Pensioner Visa (based on a GUARANTEED Lifetime Pension)
  • Professional Visa (based on a University Bachelor Degree or possibly even Associate Degree)
  • Rentista Visa (based on a NON-guaranteed income that is certified by Contract or Document

Visa applications for Immigrants must be made in person in Ecuador. Most major cities have offices where visa application management is possible. Processing times for all visas, whether they are for immigrants or not, can last up to six months.

Individuals are allowed to depart Ecuador a maximum of 180 days each year during the first two years after receiving a permanent residency visa. A permanent resident is permitted to leave the country after this time for a maximum of two years without returning during that time. If you do not follow these rules, your visa will be canceled and you will have to start the application again when you get back to Ecuador.

You can apply for an Ecuadorian Cedula ID Card, a crucial document that takes a similar form to that of a US “Green Card”, as it makes requirements like opening bank accounts easier, in addition to obtaining or proving your Residency in Ecuador. See the following article I wrote with respect to this very topic: https://cuencahighlife.com/the-4-or-5-best-ecuador-visa-types-for-ecuador-residency/ 

Ecuadorian Citizenship (i.e. Holding an Ecuadorian Passport)

A person may petition for Ecuadorian Citizenship after three years of continuous Permanent Residency in Ecuador – there are however, MULTIPLE other nuances and specific rules that are  formally required so as to apply to obtain one’s Ecuadorian Citizenship holding an Ecuadorian Passport. Just as an example of these, note that there’s an absolute INABILITY to apply for Ecuadorian Citizenship if you’ve been outside of Ecuador for more than 180 days in ANY of your first two or three years of Permanent Residency (depending on the type of Permanent Residency qualification you have), or if your Ecuadorian Cedula ID Card wasn’t granted to you until long after you received your Permanent Residency (or in regards to those who never received their Ecuadorian Cedula ID Card). As always, it’s best to obtain the assistance of a Professional (a.k.a. an Ecuadorian Immigration Lawyer) so as to navigate through the ins and outs of the process and requirements based on your particular circumstances. See the following article I wrote with respect to this very topic: https://cuencahighlife.com/ecuadorian-citizenship-and-naturalization-heres-the-deal/ 

Purchasing Ecuadorian Health Insurance 

As the cost of healthcare in one’s country of origin is costly and/or since specific treatments and procedures are not available, many expats get private medical insurance, even if it is not a condition of residence.

When purchasing any type of health policy, always review the policy’s annual and lifetime limits, any exclusions that may apply to you, any restrictions on the sorts of healthcare providers you can receive treatment from, and if emergency medical evacuation is covered by the policy.

Too often, people looking to get health insurance focus exclusively on finding the cheapest premiums rather than taking into account the precise features and coverage areas they may actually require. Some plans are less expensive for a purpose. They frequently severely limit the benefits you receive under the plan and may impose high deductible costs in respect of applicable health/medical claims you could submit in the future. Prior to determining their yearly healthcare insurance budget, clients should first describe their demands, ascertain the specific area of coverage they require. They should turn to premium comparisons only after that.

Never purchase a plan without thoroughly reading the policy text. Ask questions if you are unsure, and only once you are confident enough to proceed should you fully and accurately complete all application forms.

To Buy Or Rent A Property, that is the Question..

Property Rental

If you’re already aware of the place in Ecuador you want to reside in, you can wander around the neighborhoods and keenly be on the lookout for signs that say “Se Alquila” or “Se Arrienda,” which both translate to “To Rent.” These signs will probably have phone numbers on them that you can dial at a moment’s notice if you have any questions. In Ecuador, most one-on-one transactions are made in the local’s native language (i.e. Spanish), thus if you don’t have a good command of the language, you might want to find a local interpreter. Additionally, local newspapers might be used to find properties.

There are numerous websites that might be able to assist you in finding your perfect property, for instance:

For any rental property you choose, you will generally have to provide an upfront deposit. Additionally, you might be required to pay one month’s rent up front, which could be applied to either your first or last payment.

The majority of homes will be sold without furnishings (often though this still includes a washer, dryer and/or refrigerator), that besides being the case that they lack furnishings, but also likely any kitchen amenities, such as a microwave, oven, toaster, etc. As a result, you will need to account for this in your spending plan.

It’s best to not provide money in advance to reserve a property you have not seen. You might not see your money again, and also potentially you’ll never even get to see the property itself.

Although not uncommon to have written leases and naturally that’s the most preferable, rental contracts are often undesired by traditional landlords who have simply always done business without putting agreements to paper. If you do not speak Spanish well, try to acquire your rental contract in a formally typed document and have it translated. You might want to employ your own solicitor to review the contract since it will not be legally binding in Ecuador unless it is property notarized in Ecuador. Although it will cost a little bit more, you could regret not doing it sooner or not all.

Check the property for issues, such as improper construction, plumbing or roofing issues, plus confirm that anything requiring maintenance or repair is specifically mentioned in writing before signing anything or moving in. Decide precisely who will deal with them as well.

Propane is used to heat a lot of buildings. Heated water devices can come from the landlord, but you will need to rent the gas tanks and have them filled by the local service which does so via trucks slowly driving through the neighborhood, usually playing a song on the truck’s highly audible loudspeaker, such as “Por Eso Te Quiero Cuenca” (“That’s Why I Love Cuenca”). See the following article I wrote with respect to this very topic: https://cuencahighlife.com/ecuador-rental-laws-banking-utilities/   

Purchasing Real Estate Property in Ecuador

Foreign ownership of property is generally permitted anywhere in Ecuador, however, within 50 kilometers of Ecuador’s borders or coastline, authorization from the local government/municipality may be required – your Ecuadorian Lawyer can naturally clarify if this will be any issue for you. When requested, permission is typically granted, but that is not always the case.

Once you have all the required documentation, you will be automatically qualified for a Temporary Residency Visa if you buy real estate in Ecuador for $42,500 or more (as of the date of this writing).

The entire home purchase procedure per Ecuador is often a straightforward process if an Ecuadorian Lawyer is contracted to handle the Real Estate Closing (i.e. there’s NO Title Insurance in Ecuador so in effect your Ecuadorian Lawyer is your insurance policy!), and it typically takes less than a month to complete a Real Estate Closing on that specific basis.

When you have located the property you desire, inspect it to confirm you’re happy with it. Local building codes might not meet your expectations from your more likely and professional first world country perspective. 

When choosing an Ecuadorian Lawyer (Abogada), attempt to choose one who comes highly recommended or has references that can be checked. Your Ecuadorian Lawyer in ensuring your best and most reliably possible Real Estate Closing with transfer of property ownership, will in regards to the property and the claimed to be sellers, obtain copies of the following:

  • Certificado De Gravamenes (Certificate of Liens) and/or Certificado Simple (Simple Certificate), demonstrating no one else has any claims on the property in the form of liens, encumbrances, and so forth..
  • Certificado Del Historial De La Propiedad (History Certificate of the Property), which lists all transactions involving the property.
  • Certificado De Registro De Propiedad Actualizado (Registration Certificate of the Property), demonstrating the property’s legal existence.
  • La Linea de Fábrica (Boundary Lines), which depicts zoning and prospective land use limitations and attests that the property’s legal borders correspond to its physical boundaries.

Your Ecuadorian Lawyer will create a Promesa de Compraventa (Promise of Purchase/Sale) document, unless you are willing to make an immediate purchase (which is relatively uncommon but is not recommended) (promise of sale). The terms of the sale, such as the purchase price, penalties for default, and the completion date, are set down in this legally binding pledge to buy. Both you as the Foreigner Buyer and the generally Ecuadorian Seller must both sign this in the notary’s presence. You can via document grant a Power of Attorney (POA) to someone else (i.e. generally your trusted Ecuadorian Lawyer) so they can sign on your behalf if, for any reason, you are unable to be in the country.

The language of all documents is Spanish. A certified translator is required by law to represent you if you do not speak the language well. The notaries may speak with you for a small period of time to determine whether you are sufficiently proficient to continue without a translator.

You might need to put down a down payment (earnest money) at this point, which will likely consist of around 10% of a to be agreed upon sales price. Make no remittance before the executed as well as fully notarized document is securely in your possession.

The Compraventa, a purchase agreement, is then created by your attorney (sale). Both parties will have signed and notarized two copies of this document. You now pay the agreed-upon purchase price or the remaining balance. While the parties engaged in the transaction—the Lawyers, Notary, and Translator, respectively, may reasonably prefer a personal check or cash, remittance in respect of the property purchase/sale is typically paid via bank transfer to the Seller.

The land registry then performs the relevant investigations per the property, identical to the ones you would have conducted at the beginning of your search, after your solicitor has registered your property there. One duplicate of your Compraventa is then kept by them for their records, and the other is sent back to you after being stamped. Your Minuta, or last deed, to the property, is now in effect.

You as the Buyer are responsible for paying the required taxes in conjunction with your Real Estate Property purchase, which, depending on the area and municipality in Ecuador, can range from 1 to 3 percent of the purchase price. In addition, there is generally around a $250-500 flat fee plus a tax of 1% or so for the registration, per the amount stated in the deed for recording any Real Estate Property’s associated transfer to you (the Buyer) as the new owner. Transfers of real estate are generally exempt from VAT and so NO 12% tax is paid on that, UNLIKE with purchases made in Ecuador for goods and products.

Both purchasers and sellers are responsible for paying any obligations incurred outside of the sales transaction, such as those related to the cost of insurance, real estate agent commissions, and other expenses.

Although there are national estate agencies, given how locally focused the market is, it is still doubtful that an estate agency in Quito would be aware of any properties in Cuenca. Hire a local realtor if you do not already live in the area where you wish to buy. They will be aware of current events and have a stake in retaining satisfied clients.

Due to the absence of a national sales bureau for real estate, no single database is available for sales information, making it impossible to compare past and present pricing. You will need to conduct your own study to acquire a sense of what a reasonable pricing is.

One strategy, if you live nearby, is to make speculative approaches to owners of prospective houses. Although many homes are not officially on the market, their owners can nonetheless have a keen interest to sell if someone contacts them out of the blue. Newspapers and websites, which were mentioned in the part above that discussed rentals, also have listings for homes for sale.  See the following article I wrote with respect to this very topic: https://cuencahighlife.com/buying-property-in-ecuador-heres-what-you-need-to-know/ 

The mortgage market in Ecuador is small, and it can be challenging for expats to get a mortgage. You must have lived in Ecuador for a two year minimum before applying for one (even for an Ecuadorian credit card at that). Therefore, expats frequently pay in full up front or determine a payment plan in cash (usually via bank wire) that’s spread out over a period of generally between six to twelve months at most (with rare negotiated exceptions to this most typical rule of thumb). This can be included in the legally enforceable Promesa de Compraventa. Being able to pay in cash provides you a lot of negotiating leverage because interest rates are high.

Where banks are willing to lend money, they nevertheless favor short-term loans over long-term ones in order to reduce their exposure. Of course, if the Seller is in line with the Promesa de Compraventa, Buyers are always free to obtain a mortgage in another nation or via private (i.e. non-traditional) means.

Shipping Your Household Goods to Ecuador (a.k.a. Containers, Lift Vans and/or Boxes)

A Container Shipping company (service) that specializes in foreign moves may be necessary if you do not have the time or ability to transport your stuff yourself. You will likely require expert assistance to ship your belongings unless you are traveling very light or undertaking a relatively short transfer by car. First, request bids from a few such type services, making sure they visit your house to assess your needs. If you want the removals company to pack your belongings for you, it can be worth the extra cost if you are sending them to a faraway nation and they need special handling throughout the lengthy flight. Any fragile or priceless items that require extra care in packaging and wrapping should be brought to their notice.

Make sure the service being offered satisfies all of your criteria and that you fully understand what is included in the pricing before accepting a quotation. Does the service, for instance, cover the upfront packaging and subsequent unpackaging in regards to the personal belongings you ship to Ecuador? What about moving furniture around and reassembling it? Will the total cost be inclusive of the actual arrival as well as unpackaging of your household goods at the new abode you’ll be living in, or shall it be necessary to make arrangements for collection of the things if you intend to store anything in your destination country while you look for housing? Get a solid estimate of the time your belongings will likely arrive, and find out who will be handling the removal in the country where you plan to travel. Make sure to inform the moving firm in respect of all relevant or practical details about your particular new home’s layout, such as the absence of an elevator in your flat or potential parking issues.

You could be compelled to purchase their insurance coverage for your belongings if you use a Container Shipping service. Regardless of whether that is necessary, make sure you have enough insurance to cover any items with sentimental or monetary worth that might be misplaced or destroyed during the move. As this will serve as the foundation for all possible risks in respect of losses or damages that may occur during the shipping process, take the time to carefully compile or check an inventory of your belongings that will be transported. Find out if the Container Shipping service’s price quote for insurance includes it or if you must pay extra for it.

If you are organizing the move yourself, you will need to learn what documents are necessary and what import charges and taxes are due. The Container Shipping service should organize any customs and importation documents on your behalf, besides determining if your shipment of household goods is able to be sent tax-free to Ecuador, as generally is expected to be the case for any new Resident of Ecuador.

Make sure to separate the crucial papers necessary for your trip, for example, always keep your passport and flight itinerary/boarding pass in your own personal possession at all times, thus it’s suggested to keep them in your hand luggage at all times so they are easy to get to.

Ecuador’s State Healthcare Program of IESS Is Now Open To All Residents of Ecuador

Over the past ten years, there have been major changes to Ecuador’s healthcare system, and government financing has expanded. The country spends about 8% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on healthcare. Major upgrades have been made to the relevant Ecuadorian institutions as well as the construction of new hospitals and clinics. The country presently has one of South America’s top healthcare systems.

Additionally, healthcare expenses are substantially reduced as compared to in North America, which means that healthcare insurance is also much more affordable.

Utilizing IESS in Ecuador

Two levels of care are provided by the public healthcare system. The IESS program is typically the most alluring to foreigners. The Social Security Administration is in charge of managing this.

IESS makes up the vast concentration of persons who participate in state healthcare programs. The employer withholds a portion of each employee’s wages each month and sends it to IESS.

Other members sign up voluntarily and contribute a predetermined monthly amount. For roughly a usual maximum around $100 per month or so, you can get coverage for a typical sized family.

Anyone is eligible to enroll in the IESS program. No matter your age or medical history, you will be accepted.

The program covers both primary and urgent care, as well as medications. You don’t need to pay any deductible, but you will need to make separate payments for any services or medications that IESS does not cover.

Being aware that the documentation is in Spanish will help you if you do not have any language barriers.

The IESS System of Public Health Care

The second layer of the public healthcare system is again specifically represented (if not entirely run) by IESS, which is an open system that is free to use upon paying the minimum monthly premium cost of around $75 per month and not much more than $100 for a standard sized family of four. Many of the resources and personnel used to provide public services are also used to deliver IESS services. Both primary care and significant needed procedures are covered.

The financing per patient is lesser because it is a different program. As a result, under this program, some healthcare services are rationed.

Private Health Insurance

You frequently have a choice as to who will treat you if you utilize medical options in any particular city of Ecuador. English-speaking employees, notably those educated in the US, are easier to find here. A good English-speaking general practitioner may be recommended by your local consulate.

Private healthcare means you will not have to deal with the IESS paperwork, along with shorter wait times for visits and testing and more individualized attention.

A two-tiered pricing structure exists at certain medical institutions, which in effect means that foreigners pay more than Ecuadorian Nationals do. This however is not ever done by the public system of IESS.

Your age, any current medical issues, and any other pertinent considerations will determine how much you will pay to obtain private care. Health coverage from an Ecuadorian health insurance company might be more reasonably priced for you to purchase. This is due to Ecuador having less expensive medical services, treatments, and medications than other countries.

You can even purchase a policy that will have cheaper deductibles and premiums if you choose a certain hospital. The amount of any deductible naturally shall be increased if you have treatment at a different hospital.  See the following article I wrote with respect to this very topic: https://cuencahighlife.com/ecuadorian-health-insurance-matters-for-expats/ 

Finding Work in Ecuador (IF applicable/desired – otherwise you can skip this section..)

Ecuador is an incredible nation that is currently (and for quite some time now) extremely popular with Expat retirees, though also foreigners in general seek job prospects based on their qualifications to work in Ecuador. And so, to work legally in the country, you will require a work permit, which might be difficult to obtain. Being a teacher of English will be your greatest option for finding employment in this South American country (if desired), but we will look at some of your other options below, which also include the possibility of volunteering, which is now in high demand.

If you don’t already have a Residency Visa for Ecuador, in which case you will be authorized to work, you must have a Work Permit (i.e. a Non-Immigrant Work Visa) in order to legally work in Ecuador. Finding casual work, for instance in the hotel industry, can be challenging because the country has a low incidence of actual unemployment but is thought to have a significant underemployment rate. 

The significantly reduced cost for living will be advantageous when balanced by an international wage level, thus you might also want to look into openings in foreign corporations with branches in Ecuador.

For your visa application, naturally you will have to pay the applicable costs, and it’s highly recommended that you contract a formal Immigration Law Firm (Ecuadorian Immigration Lawyer) with which to do so in navigating the many administrative matters, bureaucracies and burdens there from, problematic vagaries as a result of local customs and things you just wouldn’t know without being from Ecuador, etc. 

Language schools in urban areas, like Quito, frequently recruit from abroad due to the high demand for TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language). You should be aware that the income is often low; while it will offer you enough money to live locally, there will not be many opportunities for savings. However, living expenses are also quite modest (this is just a number of reasons why Ecuador is such a well thought of as well as highly acted upon option for one’s retirement needs). See the following article I wrote with respect to this very topic: https://cuencahighlife.com/top-10-benefits-of-retiring-in-ecuador-top-15-cities-to-live-in/ 

It will be beneficial to be bilingual in both Spanish and English. Also frequently in demand are translation services.

There are of course a plethora of opportunities to obtain a job in the much acclaimed tourist industry, though naturally you must learn or already well know Spanish in order to do so.

A typical work week consists of around 40 hours, which can often be split up throughout any usual 7 day week. The typical working day starts between 6 and 10 in the morning and goes till the evening. Education (i.e. at any applicable Spanish school) begins and ends the day sooner than retail, which typically starts and ends later in the day.

The current minimum wage is currently (as of this writing) $425 per month. Keep in mind that each month, your company will deduct a certain amount for social security. If you’re working for a university or a private school, you may expect to make between a fairly wide range of the low being $425 (minimum wage) and say $2,000 (maximum for highest level degrees) a month as a TEFL teacher.

In addition, you will be granted most of the abilities like those of any Ecuadorian citizen, such as the entitlement to severance compensation, which is due regardless of the situation.

Job Openings

You can submit speculative applications, but several expats advise against doing so in favor of seeking work offline when you are in the country.

Training and Qualifications

An applicable Certificate for TEFL as well as a Bachelor’s degree are requirements if you want to teach English in Ecuador. It is advised that you look for employment within the Ecuadorian University system as compared to a private scholastic institution if you have a Master’s degree or higher.

Opening a Small Business or Company in Ecuador

You as a Resident of Ecuador (even as a Non-Resident) able to open a Small Business or Company in Ecuador, though the requirements are quite different than one is used to in North America or Europe, and a Small Business is particularly intended for things like a Restaurant, Store or Personal Services, whereas a Company is meant to be for things like engaging in Importation/Exportation to and from Ecuador. Hence, depending on what exactly your economic, logistical and strategic plans are with doing so, it’s wise to contract an Ecuadorian Lawyer so as to assist you in getting everything property set up, administered and maintained, so that you stay on the right side of the law in Ecuador and don’t do anything which can cause any number of problems with the various Government Ministries of Ecuador (i.e. IESS for employee matters, SRI for tax enforcement, and your local municipality for permitting needs). See the following article I wrote with respect to this very topic: https://cuencahighlife.com/opening-a-small-business-in-ecuador/  

Getting an Ecuadorian Driver’s License

Also you as a Resident of Ecuador are permitted to apply for an Ecuadorian Driver’s License, as ONLY persons having a Tourist Visa are allowed to (just) drive on their FOREIGN Driver’s License in Ecuador. And so, it’s necessary to obtain the appropriate documentation from your country of origin and have those be Apostilled/Legalized (as the case may be of whether yours is a Hague Apostille country or rather a non-member of same and thus instead a Legalization country), plus comply with the specific requirements so as to have your Ecuadorian Driver License be issued to you. See the following article I wrote with respect to this very topic: https://cuencahighlife.com/getting-a-drivers-license-in-ecuador-how-do-i-do-it/   

Getting Your Ecuadorian Bank Account Opened (Let’s Get This Party Started!)

Moving abroad can require extensive planning. Each nation, including those that deal with banking, has its own laws, procedures, and regulations. The good news is that anyone in Ecuador, including foreign nationals, are able to get an Ecuadorian bank account with the proper documentation. Therefore, the following information is necessary if you want to have an Ecuadorian bank account.

What Papers are Required in Order to Have an Ecuadorian Bank Account?

It is possible that you would like to still maintain a banking ability in your country of origin, as many expats do. But you will also need to open a bank account in Ecuador if you are relocating there. If you intend to work in Ecuador, it’s generally necessary you have an Ecuadorian bank account so as to receive your either bi-weekly or once per month salary.

If you do not speak Spanish, you might want to have a trusty translator so as to not have any issues or misunderstandings when trying to open your Ecuadorian bank account. Additional documents that you must bring with you are listed below.

Depending on the type of account you want to open and the bank you want to open it with, different documents (and photocopies!) will be required. But typically, the following is required:

  • Both your original Passport Photo ID Page and a color copy of it (that being the one that shows your photo with personal data on it).
  • A utility bill that is no older than two months and a signed rental agreement can serve as your proof of address.
  • IF you’re a Resident of Ecuador then your original Ecuadorian Cedula ID Card AND a color copy of it (front and back on the same side of one single piece of paper).
  • A Recommendation Letter from another account holder of the same bank you wish to open an account with.
  • The Minimum Amount necessary to open the account, that typically being about $200 USD (this varies by bank).

Although the aforementioned documents are frequently required, naturally every financial institution requires bank accounts to be opened according to their particular specifications. It is therefore best to contact them in advance if you are unsure of what you will need. By doing this, you will not need to go so many times to/from the bank to get it done and all be set up correctly.

What are the Names of Ecuador’s Principal Banks?

There is only one international bank that maintains operations in Ecuador, that being Citibank. That said though, there are lots of trustworthy local and even national banks to select from, including as follow:

  • Banco Bolivariano
  • Banco de Guayaquil
  • Banco del Pacífico 
  • Banco Internacional
  • Banco Pichincha
  • JEP Cooperativa
  • Produbanco

It is worthwhile to shop around if you are unsure of which bank to choose in order to determine which bank’s requirements you can meet and which has the best banking benefits and options per your individual financial situation. 

Steps for Opening a Bank Account in Ecuador

It is best to visit a branch physically and ask a representative to assist you in opening a bank account. You must inform them which type of account you wish to open (i.e. Checking or Savings). Generally it’s only possible to have a checking account if one has Residency in or has invested in Ecuador, such as by buying real estate.

A notarized copy of your real estate deed (Escritura), or evidence that you have invested at least $42,500 USD (as of this writing) are required if you are opening a checking account. You could have done this by opening a business or making a bank deposit.

You will not need these papers for savings account purposes if you are just visiting Ecuador for a short while.

It is important to keep in mind that in Ecuador, standing in line at the bank is kind of like a national sport, so you will need to develop your endurance—especially since using a phone while waiting in line is prohibited!

You will get your debit card about a week after your contract has been effectuated so that the set up of your account has taken place. Make sure you’re able to obtain money from other sources of funding (i.e. from the bank account of your country of origin via the use of ATMs for cash withdrawal in Ecuador – usually permitting up to $500 per day) until you can withdraw money from your Ecuadorian bank account.

Conveyance of Funds to Ecuador

Money can be transferred between nations in a variety of ways. Expats will always be best to do some research and look around for the best deal.

Worldwide Bank Transfers

The majority of expats perform currency transfers by regularly transferring small to medium-sized sums in their home currency via a bank account in their country of origin to a new one abroad (i.e. Ecuador). These could be salary, pensions, or additional kinds of income received legally.

Usually, the bank you work with in your country of origin will be happy to help. You can set up “on demand” facilities with them whereby you email, fax or call them, so as to cause them to make a transfer to the new account you have in Ecuador, and always as US Dollars in that being Ecuador’s only formal currency utilized for any and all type financial transactions. You can also make transfers via electronic/web portals with some banks. Transfers typically take between three and seven days, depending on the method you use. However, transfers done in 24 to 48 hours are frequently available too, but they can cost more.

Additionally, you can program automatic processing of recurring transactions to occur on a specific date during each monthly period. Many public benefits and pensions can be transferred directly from the government to a foreign bank, bypassing your home bank entirely. Similar services might also be provided by some private pension organizations.

Withdrawals from ATMs (Cash Machines)

Thanks to modern technology, the majority of people traveling abroad can use an ATM or cash machine to withdraw money in local currency that is simply deducted from the balance of their bank account in their country of origin. For expats, having this option is helpful, but use caution because many banks charge a lot to use this kind of facility. Even if you have a sizable amount of money in your account at home, withdrawal limits might still be enforced (as a prevention/spendthrift measure).

You can also use your credit cards in the form of VISA, Mastercard and even AMEX to get cash in this way, and if you pay the money back right away and avoid interest fees, that is fine. However, credit card fees for cash withdrawals can be quite high. Examine the prices thoroughly.

Pick A School (or Means of Schooling) in Ecuador, IF/WHEN you have Children

According to OECD reporting standards, the Ecuadorian Government devotes roughly 4 to 5 percent of its GDP to education. But many people believe that the educational system only serves to exacerbate the problems that the rural and underprivileged population face. Despite this, there has been a strong government-led push to develop additional chances for youngsters in Ecuador to obtain further vocational qualifications. The literacy rate currently stands at about 94 percent. However, a lot of students still leave school early, particularly outside of the cities, as younger students in those places often still help in providing support for their families these days by working on farms and plantations after school.

Ages 6 to 14 in Ecuador are required to attend public school, which is free but requires that families pay for supplies and transportation. The Ministry of Education determines the education requirements for every grade from junior kindergarten up through the end of high school. Massive systemic changes have been made, and ongoing initiatives to raise standards and equity are being driven by the government. In addition to the public system, there are multiple private scholastic institutions, many of which (but certainly not all) are managed by Churches. There are a lot of technical/vocational institutions, as well as about 60 colleges and universities.

There are also a few privately owned international schools, where classes are typically taught in English and Spanish and bilingualism is heavily encouraged.

Naturally, Ecuador’s educational system differs significantly from that in North America and Europe. To begin with, Spanish will be the language of instruction in all public schools. In the case that the foreigner child/children of yours require Spanish instruction in order to enroll in the public school system, it is advisable to make arrangements in advance or locally once you arrive.

Due to its flexibility, homeschooling is becoming a more and more common choice among expats. If you are thinking of homeschooling your kids in Ecuador, do your homework extensively and get in touch with other Expats with children in your local area who are specifically in the know, because the laws governing it are now being reviewed.

The curriculum in private schools will typically be comparable to that in public schools, but Ecuadorian nationals and Expats are increasingly using them because they believe they can provide a better education for their children than the government. Homeschooling has recently grown in popularity in Ecuador, especially as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, when in effect virtually all classes or studies for at least an extended period of time became monitored or even fully run by parents on a daily basis.

Some of the most well known foreign schools in Ecuador are listed below:

  • Colegio Aleman in Cuenca, Guayaquil and Quito (Spanish, English and German are taught)
  • American School in Guayaquil (bilingual, IBDP)
  • Inter-American Academy in Guayaquil (last 2 years of US high school accredited diploma)
  • Alliance International Academy, Quito (accredited for US & ACSI purposes)
  • Ecuador’s Colegio Sebastian de Alcazar (bilingual state-funded IBDP)
  • Brit School in Quito (accredited for UK purposes, plus Spanish, IBDP & US SAT1)
  • La-Condamine Franco-Equatorian Lyceum in Quito (French)
  • U.S. School in Quito (US, IBDP)

There are different options available based on your demands, your budget, and your final destination in the country.

You should be aware that foreign schools are generally highly well-liked by expatriates, so you should get in touch with them right away to reserve a spot for your child. Additionally, fees might be somewhat costly, though in any case significantly less than compared to North America and Europe, which may need to be taken into account when considering your move to Ecuador.

Discovering the Language (Spanish, Silly..)

Your ability to communicate will likely be one of your first concerns if you plan to reside in and/or even have a job/business in Ecuador. How common is English used in Ecuador? What languages are spoken there? Below, we provide answers to some of your queries.

Spanish is Ecuador’s official language, however the country also has a large multilingual population.

If Spanish isn’t a language you’re very conversant in, it could be difficult for you to get by in Ecuador. In the country, English is not widely spoken, and many citizens are illiterate. As a result, it is crucial to acquire a bit of Spanish, specifically prior to traveling to Ecuador, for both etiquette and practical purposes. Spanish is the official language of business in Ecuador; English is most frequently used in the travel and hospitality industries. If you work for an Ecuadorian company, you will discover that this is the case. You talking in Spanish in a way you’re generally understood by Ecuadorians will be valued as the locals are known to be kind and desirous of having connections with foreigners.

Even while you can utilize digital tools, it is a good idea to bring a phrasebook in case you get up in an area with spotty internet or cell phone service.

In Ecuador, there are many opportunities to learn Spanish because it is a widely spoken language. You will be immersed in a low-cost Spanish-speaking environment while studying the language.

If you hold a TEFL certification, you might want to look into the possibility of being an English teacher in Ecuador. If you want to work legally in Ecuador, you must have a Work Permit (also known as a Non-Immigrant Work Visa), if you’re not yet a Resident of Ecuador, in which case absolutely you are permitted to work in Ecuador without a Work Permit.

There are few job opportunities in the tourism industry, therefore Spanish is a need. In July/August or during the winter, the majority of hospitality job openings occur.

There are many positions available in Ecuador for interpreters and translators, but you will certainly need to speak Spanish at a very high level, and it is preferred if you have training in these specific fields.

Getting Married in Ecuador

Besides your love for the country, it’s also quite common that a foreigner and an Ecuadorian meet, court, fall in love and well, want to get married. As such, besides the document requirements, timing and way for doing so, there’s also many other important considerations, such as Visa issues (i.e. the ability/quirks of applying for Permanent Residency upfront and/or accelerated Ecuadorian Citizenship holding an Ecuadorian Passport), money/property related matters and future decisions/dispositions related to any children and family of one spouse in respect to the other spouse. Best to get a Professional (i.e. Ecuadorian Lawyer) involved earlier rather than later, so as to best prevent, specify and understand all the aspects in relation to starting a new life with your newfound (hopefully) last love. See the following article I wrote with respect to this very topic: https://cuencahighlife.com/getting-married-in-ecuador-for-better-or-for-worse/ 

Bringing Pets, Import/Export, Owning Weapons, Senior Discounts, Tax Matters, Wills, Power of Attorney & Estate Planning (Oh My….…)

These last 8 subjects are EACH highly variable, specifically being in direct relation to what is one’s country of origin and things such as, the type of pets they have, the type of products they wish to import/export or register in Ecuador, whether they plan to work in Ecuador as well as per how exactly they’re to be paid, what type of weapons they have, plus whether a Senior takes public transportation and has a need to utilize notaries and/or utility payment systems, including with respect to if one has assets they’ve bought/brought in or to Ecuador and whether they have bloodline heirs in their country of origin (especially with regards to whether they’re married or single and if any current spouse has children of their own), that all being besides for what type matters one needs a Power of Attorney for and as per the issue of how one wants their remains to be disposed of at the time of their passing (i.e. cremation, burial and/or being sent back to their country of origin). See the following MULTIPLE articles I wrote with respect to EACH of these very unique topics:

Pets: https://cuencahighlife.com/bringing-importing-transporting-pets-to-ecuador-plus-the-reverse/ 

Import/Export: https://cuencahighlife.com/importing-commercial-products-and-registering-exports-in-ecuador/ 

Weapons: https://cuencahighlife.com/ecuador-gun-laws-arms-that-are-legal-to-carry-and-or-own-in-ecuador/ 

Seniors: https://cuencahighlife.com/senior-benefits-in-ecuador-financial-benefits-for-seniors-in-ecuador/ 

Taxes: https://cuencahighlife.com/taxes-in-ecuador-how-they-apply-or-not-to-foreigners-living-here/ 

Wills: https://cuencahighlife.com/wills-in-ecuador-do-you-need-one/ 

Power of Attorney: https://cuencahighlife.com/power-of-attorney-documents-in-ecuador-best-reasons-uses-of-them-plus-how-how-not-to-do-so/ 

Estate Planning: https://cuencahighlife.com/the-best-end-of-life-plan-in-ecuador/ 

Hopefully after having read this Guide, you will be that much more informed than from whence you came to contemplate your relocation to Ecuador, and moreover, shall hereafter be armed with enough information to be what one might call, dangerous, at least in respect of your knowledge base and hereafter information sharing ability with other foreigners looking to make their moves to this beautiful country.  

As first stated above, again I hereby say, do with and utilize it as you wish, and feel free to write to me directly at sara@ecuadorvisas.com and/or visit my website of www.ecuadorvisas.com so as to ask any questions you have with regards to the information shown herein for your benefit.


Sara Chaca (Attorney - Abogada) is a seasoned Ecuadorian Lawyer, who principally serves Expats in making their moves to Ecuador for Visa and Legal matter purposes, as her Expat clients begin their new lives here in her beautiful country. Sara resides in Cuenca with her family, and when not working, she enjoys spending time with her family in Cuenca’s majestic Cajas Mountains, including the many local parks & fairs of Cuenca, plus visiting the coast as well as many gem towns of Ecuador. Sara’s personal email address is sara@ecuadorvisas.com and her law office's fully informative website is www.ecuadorvisas.com - her Ecuadorian cell phone number is 099-296-2065 and her Toll Free "800" phone number for US & Canadian callers is 1-(800)-655-1581. Sara has a less than 24 hour first response policy, in that if you email or call her, she WILL return your first email or first phone call in less than 24 hours (more typically in closer to 24 minutes!). Most importantly, all first time consultations with Expats for any type Visa or Legal matter(s) are always FREE OF CHARGE. VIEW ATTORNEY SARA CHACA'S SELF-PUBLISHED "KINDLE" BOOK ON MOVING TO ECUADOR, THAT'S AVAILABLE FOR YOUR PERUSAL ON AMAZON.COM HERE.

 




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