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Expat Life

Getting married in Ecuador: For better or for worse

By Sara Chaca

Besides living and loving life in beautiful Ecuador, many expats happen to fall in love with a native.

And so, as an inter-cultural couple here in Ecuador pass through the process of courtship, oftentimes the question of marriage gets “popped.” For those considering marrying an Ecuadorian citizen, the following information is meant for you and yours with respect to the marriage laws in Ecuador as you consider the benefits as well as requirements of marriage.

In preparing for wedded bliss, it is important to note that as per any expat groom or bride in being from their home country of North America, Europe or elsewhere, there are certain documents required.  It is relatively simple and straight forward for any native Ecuadorian to enter into marriage with their expat fiancé (so long as the marriage isn’t arranged or fraudulent), and so the crux of this explanation, is directed towards the expat perspective of what needs to be done in order to wed one’s Ecuadorian main squeeze. If you plan to marry an Ecuadorian citizen then you, as a foreigner, need to comply with the following requirements:

  1. If you were EVER previously divorced or widowed, or even if you have always been single, you will need to obtain a Certification or Certificate (from your country of origin’s local government where you lived prior to moving to Ecuador), proving that you were previously divorced or widowed or have always been single (and are therefore eligible for marriage in Ecuador). Then, you will need to order EITHER an Apostille or a Double Legalization of that Certification (depending on whether your country of origin is an Apostille country for Hague Convention purposes or not), and that also generally needs to be ordered from the state or provincial government of your country of origin. Some nationalities are permitted to instead make and sign a notarized affidavit at their country’s Consulate or Embassy located in or nearest to Ecuador to affirm their current and past marital status, though that alternate possibility is on a case-by-case basis. Your Ecuadorian fiance’s cedula card, which shows proof of his or her lifetime marital status, is legally sufficient.
  2. If you are not already a resident of Ecuador (either as a temporary or permanent resident), you will need to obtain either a 90-day tourist visa extension or a special 180-day tourist visa extension (over and above any free tourist visa of 90 days once in any 12 month period that is granted to any foreigner in their capacity as a tourist to Ecuador).
  3. Finally, your marriage ceremony in Ecuador must be performed at the office of the Registro Civil in Cuenca, Quito or Guayaquil, prior to being married in a Church or other venue, whether with or without a party or wedding reception.

Naturally, once you are officially married, you are then of course permitted to either remain in Ecuador or to leave Ecuador at any time (with or without your Ecuadorian spouse), and to do as you wish with your Ecuadorian marriage certificate, which just like any other marriage certificate, is non-revocable, unless you were ever to, heaven forbid, divorce or become widowed or a widower in the future.  And as well, upon getting married to any Ecuadorian citizen, you can also obtain or change your residency visa status to that of an “Amparo Visa” (Ecuador Marriage Visa/Ecuador Spouse Visa), which in effect serves as your free card to being the dependent of an Ecuadorian national.  After obtaining your Amparo Visa, you are entitled to apply for your Ecuadorian Citizenship/Naturalization, based on your marriage to an Ecuadorian. That said, taking your Ecuadorian spouse with you to your own country of origin, either in their capacity as a tourist or as a new resident or citizen, is naturally an entirely separate matter and not one that is universal in its application or approval process.

In summation, getting married in Ecuador can truly be a wonderful experience for you and your Ecuadorian fiancé, so long as it is done for the right reasons, with true love in each yours and your Ecuadorian fiancé’s heart and mind, and with the intention of allowing your marriage to enrich both of your lives, as you move forward into your future together.
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Sara Chaca is a Cuenca attorney who specializes in providing legal services to expats. She can be contacted at sara@ecuadorvisas.com or by phone at 099.296.2065.