By Sara Chaca
Following moving to Ecuador and obtaining one’s Residency Visa(s), in and of their first few years of life in our beautiful country, many an expat simply elects to remain as a permanent resident of Ecuador, and not jump through the next procedural hoop in sequence, which is of course to become an Ecuadorian citizen, who is then also able to obtain an Ecuadorian passport.
Very truly, it is no doubt permitted to just remain only as a Permanent Resident of Ecuador for the rest of one’s days here in Ecuador, because as you likely already know, Permanent Residency in Ecuador is generally valid for a lifetime, subject to one not leaving Ecuador for more than 180 days during either of one’s first two years as a Permanent Resident of Ecuador, nor leaving Ecuador for more than 5 years in a single trip thereafter one’s first two years of Permanent Residency are completed. That said though, and of important and generally happy/positive note for most Expats, per the current rules (beneficially revised rules) for applying to become an Ecuadorian Citizen, one absolutely now CAN apply to become a Citizen of Ecuador if he/she leaves Ecuador for up to a maximum of 180 days in EACH of their first three years (i.e. 540 days in TOTAL if in no individual year did one spend more than 180 days outside of Ecuador) since having officially received their Permanent Residency Visa stamp in their foreign issued passport. A special and even more favorable rule applies to spouses of Ecuadorian citizens, and also a new three year look-back period is possible for ANY person[s] who left Ecuador for too long a period of time during their first three years of Ecuadorian Permanent Residency (i.e. more than 180 days in a particular year) but who later made amends with their amount of time spent in Ecuador during another consecutive three year period of living as a Permanent Resident of Ecuador (naturally that varies on a case by case basis, and so it’s best to inquire about that specifically if you’re unsure of your officially counted days outside of Ecuador).
Despite many rumors to the contrary, one IS IN FACT ALWAYS PERMITTED by the Citizenship Law in Ecuador, to have Dual Citizenship in Ecuador, regardless of what other country he/she is currently a citizen of, though one’s country of origin might have something to say about it. But really, as both the US and Canada have always been fully “thumps up” with respect to this issue for all of my clients, very truly its no issue at all for US citizens, Canadians and most other countrymen, in my experience. And so, it is to each his/her own, as per if or when he/she will later apply for Ecuadorian citizenship, once again following one’s first three years of permanent Ecuadorian residency, since citizenship is not able to be applied for prior to that time.
The above constitutes the same exact rules for foreigners who are married to an Ecuadorian Citizen (i.e. needing to wait 3 years since the date of receiving one’s Permanent Residency so as to be able to apply for Ecuadorian Citizenship at that time). The only exception to this, is that any foreigner who marries an Ecuadorian citizen and becomes a Permanent Resident via an “Amparo Marriage Visa”, can instantly (i.e. immediately thereafter becoming a Permanent Resident of Ecuador) apply to become a Citizen of Ecuador themselves, on the basis of their marriage to an Ecuadorian Citizen, but ONLY IF their marriage to their Ecuadorian spouse has/had ALREADY been formally recorded by Ecuador’s “Registro Civil” (Civil Registry office) AT LEAST 2 years prior to the date that the foreigner wishes to apply for their Ecuadorian Citizenship itself. And of course, any person born in Ecuador, or any person born to an Ecuadorian Citizen, CAN/WILL automatically qualify for Ecuador Citizenship by virtue of their birth in Ecuador and/or through their parents who are/were Ecuadorian Citizens, as or how the applicable case may be, WITHOUT the need for the above mentioned three year wait since the date of receiving one’s Permanent Residency Visa.
Please note though that there is NO such thing as obtaining Ecuador Citizenship by Investment without first becoming a Permanent Resident of Ecuador, and also waiting the above mentioned required three years since having become a Permanent Resident – that of course generally requiring a TOTAL period of 5 years living in Ecuador, first as a Temporary Resident for one’s initial 2 years in Ecuador, followed thereafter by an additional 3 years in Ecuador as a Permanent Resident, so as to be able to finally qualify for Ecuadorian Citizenship at that then time.
As one might be curious, the benefits of obtaining citizenship in Ecuador, begin with the fact that you become eligible to receive an Ecuadorian Passport (provided you comply with the then easy to fulfill Ecuadorian passport requirements). In this way of how to get an Ecuadorian Passport, that then, in turn, permits you to be able to travel to ANY OTHER COUNTRY in South America only, without your other country of origin’s passport that you would otherwise need if/when only remaining a resident of Ecuador. This is very convenient, because in such case you no longer have any need for a Visa to visit any other country in South America if you have your Ecuadorian passport (or just Ecuadorian cedula at that point, which would also show you are a citizen of Ecuador). Plus, each time that you would have otherwise needed to transfer your permanent residency visa to your new passport as a resident of Ecuador, you in turn as an Ecuadorian citizen would no longer need to provide or show your qualification for permanent residency (whether your prior residency visa had originally been obtained via investment, pension, university degree or through marriage/birth). And of course, if by chance for your permanent residency Visa qualification, you had happened to have selected an investor visa in an Ecuadorian bank CD or Ecuadorian real estate property, once you are an Ecuadorian Citizen, you are automatically permitted to liquidate or sell that such asset and spend it as you wish. One small drawback of becoming an Ecuadorian citizen is that you MUST vote in every national election of Ecuador. Technically you can still SKIP voting in Ecuadorian elections if you really want to, as the remedy at law is simply that you be subject to paying a small fine (i.e. between $50-100) in the case that you fail to vote for one or more candidates running for office in Ecuador in any given year of a national election in Ecuador.
And so now, here are the current documents requirements necessary to apply for citizenship in Ecuador — naturally, any documents requirements/processes are subject to change or modification by the Ecuadorian Government/Immigration Ministry at any time, and must be promptly complied with by the applicant if/when so:
- Birth Certificate with Apostille or Legalization from the state or country of origin.
- Marriage Certificate, Divorce Certificate or Death Certificate (of former spouse), IF NOT ALWAYS SINGLE, along with Apostille or Legalization from the state or country of origin for the document.
- Your Passport not to expire for at least 12 months from when applying for your Citizenship.
- Your Ecuadorian Cedula.
- Index Card from Registro Civil.
- Certificate of compliance with obligations in the SRI.
- Certificate of compliance with obligations in the Municipality of Cuenca (or other city of residence).
- Certificate of compliance with obligations in IESS.
- Certificates of Criminal Record (from BOTH places indicated as follows within this item #9 – HOWEVER, if one has been a resident of Ecuador for the past 5 years AND have not left Ecuador for at least that 5 year time period, then in such case, they will NOT need any foreign issued background checks).
– Certificate(s) of no major criminal record in your country of origin with Apostille or Legalization.
– Certificate of Ecuadorian criminal record that is also absent of major offenses (NO Apostille or Legalization necessary for this Ecuadorian issued document).
- Migratory Movement.
- Know the Ecuadorian Patriotic Symbols (i.e. the Ecuadorian Flag, Shield & National Anthem)
- Demonstrate Economic Means of Life (i.e. prove your economic solvency by showing a combination of your recent bank statements, proof of pension, and in the case of owning any Real Estate in Ecuador then also provide proof of your property in Ecuador).
Please note that after submitting your Ecuadorian Citizenship application’s above mentioned requirements, you will need to take a computerized multiple choice test of 20 questions in Spanish, which will require you to achieve at least a 90% score in your knowledge of Ecuadorian history, geography, culture and politics (a comprehensive list of the pool of specific questions with answers in Spanish is available for you to study from, so as to allow you to be familiar with that before sitting for the test – a competent Ecuadorian Attorney is easily able to provide you with the required pool of study questions and answers in Spanish as well as pre-prepared study note cards showing the questions and answers for same).
Please note that the Ecuadorian Naturalization (Citizenship) procedure is performed in the Immigration Ministry of Cuenca, Guayaquil or Quito. You should also take into account that the Ecuadorian Citizenship process is currently taking a time period from a minimum of 6 months, to a maximum of 12+ months, in order to be approved. This is because the Immigration Ministry must review and approve the various documents, as well as administer an Ecuador Citizenship Test in Spanish to you in the context of a written test and oral interview, as to proving your intermediate or better Spanish speaking ability, which needs to be demonstrated by you as to you personally having a fairly general knowledge of Ecuadorian culture, geography, history, and the legal/political system of Ecuador. And so, as you might imagine, the Citizenship application is not nearly as quick to be approved, in comparison to when one applies/applied for a Permanent Residency Visa itself, which Permanent Residency in Ecuador itself does not include these additional requirements that Ecuadorian Citizenship does in fact require.
Finally, separate from the above, is the consideration of those persons who are, for example, a US Citizen born in Ecuador, or whose parents are Ecuadorian citizens or alternatively whose parents were Ecuadorian citizens (in the case that their parents are now deceased), and thus whom in such case are generally entitled to dual Citizenship USA Ecuador or who have US Embassy Birth Certificate registrations – I am very regularly contacted by these special situation individuals and naturally it is always my pleasure to hear from them via email, so as to advise them accordingly relative to the unique process(es) for them to in turn become a Citizen of Ecuador holding an Ecuadorian Passport as well.
In the end, the determination, as always, rests with you, as to whether it is better for you to apply for Ecuadorian Citizenship, or rather, to just remain a Permanent Resident of Ecuador. And so, make sure to consider your options, and as always, consult with competent legal counsel, prior to making an actionable decision for the benefit of yourself and/or your family.
Sara Chaca (Attorney - Abogada) is a seasoned Ecuadorian Lawyer, who principally serves Expats in making their moves to Ecuador, as well as for any legal issues that arise or become actionable for her Expat clients to undertake in their new lives here in her beautiful country. Sara resides in Cuenca with her family, which consists of her American husband and 2 daughters (as well as her parents and siblings), and when not working, she enjoys spending time with her family in Cuenca’s majestic Cajas Mountains and local parks & fairs of Cuenca, plus visiting the coast as well as the many gem towns of Ecuador. Sara’s personal email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and her law office's fully informative website is www.ecuadorvisas.com for you to visit at any time of day or night - plus, her personal 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.