By Sara Chaca
To borrow a page from the great American poet, Robert Frost, and his possibly most famous poem known as “The Road Not Taken”, when moving to Ecuador, virtually all Expats are plagued with the very necessary decision of, WHICH RESIDENCY VISA PATH SHALL I CHOOSE???
Well luckily, that choice, while certainly not one to be made on a whim, can in fact happily be made over say, a bottle of wine..
In this article, I, Attorney Sara Chaca, will very simply discuss the 4 (or 5 as you’ll see..) most common Ecuador Visa Types, covering each of these Residency Visa options, point by point, in an easily understandable and straightforward manner, so as to be both practical and actionable for anyone desiring to move to Ecuador (or to even perhaps change one’s type Residency Visa for monetary or work reasons).
The more “technical aspects” of the various document types, such as required Background Checks, Apostilles, Legalizations, Ecuadorian Consulate Certifications, Notarization/Translation of Documents, Plane Ticket Booking Requirements, Dog & Cat Importation, Cash & Gold Transport, etc., were already previously covered by me in another recent article that I wrote, which is readily available to be sent via email by me to any Expat who wishes to request same be forwarded to them.
That all said, let us delve right into the heart of the matter, with a general review of each of the presently available Ecuadorian Visa types for Ecuadorian Residency purposes. And in so doing, please note that the following Ecuador Residency Visa options are available for BOTH Ecuadorian Temporary Residency as well as for Permanent Residency in Ecuador, which naturally is/are fully dependent on how long and in which way(s) an Expat qualifies to reside in Ecuador..
1. & 5. – “Pensioner Visa (Retirement Visa) / Rentista Visa”:
The Pensioner Visa, as you might already have guessed, is by far the most common type Residency that Expats apply for when moving to Ecuador. Because, it is simply hinged on the fact that the Expat has a “Guaranteed Pension” for life that is issued or provided by either Social Security, a prior Public Employer or past Private Employer (even “Life Only” Annuity Contracts issued by typically Private Insurance Companies also serve just fine for obtaining the Pensioner Visa itself). For this type visa, one just needs an original “Pension Benefits Letter” from the issuing institution, stating that the Beneficiary (i.e. the guaranteed monthly income recipient) is receiving a minimum of $1275 plus $250 additional for each family member Dependent per month that is promised for life to the Beneficiary.
The above mentioned “Pension Benefits Letter” can NOT usually be one that is printed off of the Internet or issued by snail mail once per year or quarterly. Instead, it generally must be one in which the Beneficiary either visits in person or calls to the local Pension office (i.e. an in person visit to the local Social Security Administration or a phone call to one’s former Public Employer or Private Employer, etc.), and this Pension Benefits Letter is usually required to be signed by an authorized representative of the Pension office. As well, the name of said authorized representative should also be printed legibly on the Pension Benefits Letter (if possible) and/or a “Stamp” be provided from that such office, at the bottom of the Pension Benefits Letter, so as to add some, “pomp and circumstance”, to the authenticity of the Pension Benefits Letter. Please note that this additional requirement of a “Signature and/or Stamp” is simply to further certify the sanctity of the Pension Benefits Letter for the Ecuadorian Immigration Ministry, and has nothing whatsoever to do with any personal preference of mine as an Immigration Attorney.
** Aside from the Pensioner Visa, it is important to note for purposes of this article, that a very similar type visa for Residency purposes is called the “Rentista Visa” (this is the “de facto” #5 of the most common Residency Visa types, even though it can’t/won’t be indicated as a formal #5 Residency Visa type by itself in this article..). The Rentista Visa, under the new Ecuadorian immigration law, is itself SUPPOSED to allow virtually any person who has a current recurring non-guaranteed
2. “Investor Visa”:
This type visa is the second most popular, and is one in which someone who does not have a Pension sufficient for a Pensioner visa, simply INVESTS money in any Ecuadorian Bank Account as their qualification for moving to Ecuador, OR who Invests in any Real Estate Property in Ecuador (or technically even in any actual Business in Ecuador – though that “sub-type” of Investor Visa necessarily has more requirements that vary based on the form of actual Business Investment..). For the more general form of Ecuador Investor Visa type, one only needs to invest a minimum of approximately $42,500 in an Ecuadorian Bank Account at the time of this writing (plus $500 additional is necessary to be invested in the case of any Dependents who are also moving to Ecuador, such as one’s Spouse, Children, or Grandchildren). Alternatively, instead of investing in an Ecuadorian bank account, one can instead invest in any Ecuadorian Real Estate Property with a minimum “Tax Assessed Value” of approximately $42,500 at the time of this writing (plus $500 additional in “Tax Assessed Value” of the Real Estate Property is necessary in the case of any Dependents who are also moving to Ecuador, such as again in the case of one’s Spouse, Children, or Grandchildren).
If one elects to go the Bank Investment route, then their above mentioned $42,500 (or so) investment amount in an Ecuadorian Bank Certificate of Deposit (Ecuadorian Bank CD) is at all times 100% guaranteed insured and protected by the Ecuadorian Government in the event of Bank or Financial Cooperative default (similar in function to the FDIC’s Deposit Insurance Guarantee in the US). The Investor typically earns 6-9% interest per year on their invested money (naturally this fluctuates yearly and also from bank to bank), and if the Investor ever decides to leave Ecuador or become a Citizen of Ecuador, then the Investor can and will take back 100% of their own personally Invested Funds (as it is ALWAYS the Investor’s own money, regardless of how or where it is invested).
If one instead chooses the option of a Real Estate Property purchase in Ecuador, then as stated above as an alternative to making an Investment in an Ecuadorian Bank CD, so long as the “Tax Assessed Value” is equal to or greater than the above mentioned $42,500 (i.e. the Tax Assessed Value depends on things like the purchase price of the property, the Municipality’s evaluation techniques where the property is located, and improvements or dis-improvements to the property as the case might be), then this will generally also qualify one for the Investor Visa in moving to Ecuador. As well, so as to buy property in Ecuador in association with securing your residency in Ecuador, see as follows for three separate (though related) articles which I wrote and published on “CuencaHighLife” covering all aspects of purchasing Real Estate in Ecuador: https://cuencahighlife.com/buying-property-in-ecuador-heres-what-you-need-to-know/ AND https://cuencahighlife.com/ecuadors-new-investor-visa-now-travel-as-often-as-you-like/ AND https://cuencahighlife.com/power-of-attorney-documents-in-ecuador-best-reasons-uses-of-them-plus-how-how-not-to-do-so/.
Though for either type Investor Visa, it is mandatory now for each Visa applicant to show a minimum of $425 plus $250 additional for each family member Dependent (amount varies based on exact situation) MONTHLY RECURRING INCOME FROM ANY LEGAL SOURCE as of this writing (i.e. from one’s job, business, real estate rental income, annuity, disability payment, pension, etc.), and this ONLY needs to be proven by the person printing their “six most recent months of bank statements from their bank’s online website” that evidences that they receive this income each month (no notarization or legalization thereof is required for the bank statements). ALTERNATIVELY for those applying for either type above referenced Investor Visa without a bank account or who have difficulty providing their last 6 months of bank statements, one can INSTEAD show proof of their credit card having a maximum limit of at least $5,000 (no notarization or legalization thereof is required for the immediate above advised proof of credit card limit)
3. “Professional Visa”:
This type visa is often preferred by those who either (or both) do not have a Pension sufficient for a Pensioner Visa and/or who do not have funds sufficient to invest in an Investor Visa, but who do in fact have a Foreign University or College issued Bachelor Degree or other type third or fourth level University or College Degree (and even Retirees who DO possess guaranteed lifetime pensions and/or who have sufficient funds to invest in Ecuador oftentimes PREFER a Professional Visa for the inherent flexibility that it provides). Besides a Bachelor Degree, one’s Degree can also (or instead) be in the form of a Masters, PhD, Medical Doctor, Juris Doctor, etc., which in such case “can and will” serve as one’s general qualification for becoming a Resident of Ecuador. HAPPIEST OF ALL, a Professional Visa applicant does NOT need to show a minimum of $425 plus $250 additional for each family member Dependent MONTHLY RECURRING INCOME FROM ANY LEGAL SOURCE (i.e. from one’s job, business, real estate rental income, annuity, disability payment, pension, etc.), NOR proof of any credit card limit, and so for those who have little or no income nor credit history, this can be an excellent and most favored option (IF of course they have most any type of 4 year Bachelor Degree or higher so as to evidence their scholastic qualification as a Professional wishing to move to Ecuador – NO requirement to work in Ecuador exists and so the applicant can even plan to be retired or just work as or if they wish in and/or outside of Ecuador how the applicant prefers).
Also with respect to qualifying for a Professional Visa, the authorized Degree Approving Institution of Ecuador, known as SENESCYT, needs to review and certify the preliminary/final approval of one’s Foreign Degree, Mode of Study Letter and/or Transcripts, depending on if one’s University is on the “Approved List of SENESCYT” (most degrees from the US, Canada, European countries and Australia/New Zealand are either already on the approved list for SENESCYT or in the alternative, are in my experience highly likely to be approved by SENESCYT).
When hearing of the Professional Visa, many people ask the following question..Why would the Ecuadorian government permit the Professional Visa option if the majority of persons moving to Ecuador are of retirement age and not likely to work or teach in Ecuador in the future? The simple answer is, no one quite knows for sure..However, the more seemingly likely answer is, that the Ecuadorian government simply holds Foreign Degrees in high regard, and hopes (but does not require..) that the Foreign Degree holder in coming to Ecuador will “directly or indirectly” become a positive influence on Ecuadorian society and maybe at some point will elect help educate/train Ecuadorians in or of their areas of past apprenticeship and/or current expertise.
4. “Amparo Visa”:
This type visa is meant for EITHER foreigners who legitimately meet, fall in love with and marry an Ecuadorian Citizen or Ecuadorian Permanent Resident, OR whose other immediate family member (i.e. parent or child) is already an Ecuadorian Citizen or Ecuadorian Permanent Resident. It is unique among all of the visa classes for Residency, because it allows one to IMMEDIATELY become a Permanent Resident of Ecuador (therefore eliminating the need to first obtain an Ecuadorian Temporary Residency Visa), and without any major financial or educational qualification needed by that person to be apply for his/her own visa in Ecuador, since he/she will in this case be attached to their spouse or other immediate family member that is already an Ecuadorian Citizen or Ecuadorian Permanent Resident. And so, all one needs in order to obtain it (besides supplying one’s always necessary background check documents with legalization[s] and complying with the general immigration procedures of Ecuador), is to prove via Marriage Certificate or Birth Certificate (whichever the case may be..), the marriage or familial relationship with respect to whoever is or will be sponsoring the immigration of their spouse or family member to Ecuador. Naturally of course, this type visa exists so as to encourage family members living abroad to move to Ecuador, as well as to help foreigners move to Ecuador to be with their Ecuadorian Citizen/Ecuadorian Permanent Resident spouse and/or other family member(s). Though as well, it is mandatory now for each Amparo Visa applicant to show a minimum of $425-1275 plus $250 additional for each family member Dependent (amount varies based on exact situation) MONTHLY RECURRING INCOME FROM ANY LEGAL SOURCE as of this writing (i.e. from one’s job, business, real estate rental income, annuity, disability payment, pension, etc.), and this ONLY needs to be proven by the person printing their “six most recent months of bank statements from their bank’s online website” that evidences they receive this income each month (once again like was with the other type Residency Visas mentioned above, no notarization or legalization thereof is required for the bank statements).
And so, while there are indeed several other type Ecuador Residency Visa options that are available to those having the desire or intention of moving to Ecuador (such as a Work Visa, Religious Visa, Student Visa, etc.), probably well more than 95% of all Expats who move to Ecuador (or who aspire to move to Ecuador), do in fact by either necessity, personal preference and/or plain desirability, elect one of these 4 (or 5..) above mentioned and in depth discussed Residency Visa qualification types. As, these above discussed Residency Visa classes comprise the vast majority selection of all Expats, in their collective pursuits of becoming part of our community, as both fellow Ecuadorian Residents and beloved Ecuador Expats!
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 email@example.com 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. VIEW ATTORNEY SARA CHACA'S SELF-PUBLISHED "KINDLE" BOOK ON MOVING TO ECUADOR, THAT'S AVAILABLE FOR YOUR PERUSAL ON AMAZON.COM HERE.