The Cuenca Office of Foreign Affairs reports that 4,100 permanent residency visas have been approved for foreigners 65 and older since 2014.
According to the office, 3,277 permanent visas were issued to citizens of the U.S., 289 to Canadians, 170 to Venezuelans, 121 to Spaniards, 63 to Italians, and 47 to Germans. An additional 139 visas were issued to citizens of Great Britain, France, Switzerland, Colombia, Holland, Belgium, Sweden and Australia.
The numbers include only visas issued to those over the age of 65 and was compiled through mid-2020. It does not include senior citizen foreigners who arrived prior to 2014.
The foreign affairs office says the number of permanent visa applications handled by the national Ministry of Foreign Affairs dropped by 50 percent in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic but it expects a rebound in 2021 and 2022.
The office cannot offer an accurate count of all foreign residents, either in Cuenca or Ecuador, it says in a statement. “There is currently no method of calculating the number of permanent visa holders who leave the country or for what lengths of time they stay,” the office said. The statement says there is a significant “rebound” effect of foreign residents who leave Cuenca and return later.
According to University of Cuenca researcher Estban Iglesias, the new numbers are important for assessing the impact of elderly foreigners moving to the area.
The office of foreign affairs estimates there are 8,000 to 11,000 permanent residents, including those younger than 65, currently living in the Cuenca canton.
Iglesias, who believes there are about 8,500 North American and European foreigners in Cuenca, agrees that it is impossible to come up with an accurate overall count. “Because of out-migration, bi-national marriages, different types of visas, and other factors, it is impossible to develop completely accurate numbers.”