By Sara Chaca
This is the second part of my “10 things to know before moving to Ecuador” list. To see my first five points, please refer to the March 1 article in my CuencaHighLife article queue (the one shown immediately below the article that you just clicked on to get here).
6. Before you come to Ecuador, you should have your accommodations already booked and confirmed. Not doing so can result in a FAILURE to locate any accommodations at all on the night that you arrive (this however is usually only an issue during a time of festivals in Ecuador, which occur on varied dates throughout the year in different cities). This word of advice is only to prevent you from being the unlucky recipient of an unclean and/or overpriced habitation for your very first night(s) in Ecuador.
7. Visas…Oh yes, it’s time to talk about visas again, but this time as it relates to your Residency Visa. As an Ecuadorian immigration attorney (abogada), I can tell you quite candidly that one can in fact apply for their own residency visa without the services of an attorney — and some do successfully. However, those who attempt this often run into problems due to the exacting requirements of the process (all documents must be 100% completed, submitted and certified in perfect Spanish, without any errors). Although the staff of Ecuadorian Consulates in foreign countries are often very helpful, they are not necessarily up-to-date on documents and procedures required in the visa process. Finally, even if the visa applicant is fluent in Spanish, he or she cannot translate their own documents into Spanish, since this is considered a conflict of interest. The translation must be completed by a translator other than the visa applicant.
8. So, what is required for your visa application? Unfortunately, the documents you need are subject to change. Maybe it’s an FBI Report, the RCMP Report, a State or Provincial Police Report, a Local City Police Report or Town Police Report, or is it ALL OF THE ABOVE, or quite possibly, NONE OF THE ABOVE. Because of the “ever changing” rules and requirements it makes sense to employ the services of an immigration lawyer. During the process of putting together the documents needed for the visa application an attorney can advise you of any changes to the requirements and save you precious time and a great deal of frustration.
9. And then there are the Apostilles. The word comes from the French and means “A government-issued certification that authenticates a public document for use in a foreign country.” An Apostille is recognized by countries who are a parties to the international “Hague Convention’s Apostille Section” agreement (including the US, Europe, Australia, some parts of China, and Ecuador too), who have agreed that their respective Departments of State, Secretaries of States or Ministries of External Affairs, MUST provide an official Ccertification of any and all documents coming countries that are part of the Hague agreement. If your country is NOT a member of Hague agreement (Canada, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, for example, are not signees), then you will INSTEAD need a “Legalization” of your foreign documents to be provided by the Ecuadorian Consulate in or nearest to your home country, before you move to Ecuador to apply for your residency visa. The issue regarding apostilles and legalizations can get very complicated indeed, as sometimes, one has multiple nations of current or past residency and/or dual citizenships. An attorney will guide you through the process.
10. Finally, we have arrived to the 10th and possibly most important rule for new residents. Once you have received your residency visa and cedula (your national identification card), you must be sure to NOT leave Ecuador for more than 90 days in EITHER of the first two years of your temporary residency. If you violate this rule YOU WILL PAY A LARGE MONETARY PENALTY AND/OR LOSE YOUR RESIDENCY VISA. Often, health problems or a death in the family which requires a resident to leave Ecuador can cause him or her to lose their residency visa. If you encounter extreme circumstances that could force you to break this rule, your attorney can advise you on your options.
The bottom line for each of these 10 points, can be expressed in a variation on the saying, “When in Rome …” So, “When in Ecuador..”, be sure to walk the walk, and not simply talk the talk by waiting until “mañana” for what could have been done or inquired into today.