Although the country’s new immigration law has been in effect more than six months, many of its working details remain to be resolved.
That was the message delivered Thursday afternoon by Cuenca immigration attorney Lina Ulloa. “We have asked the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs for answers on a number of issues and continue to wait for their response,” she told about 100 foreign residents who attended a meeting about the new law at the Cuenca Chamber of Commerce.
Among the major concerns of expats is the new requirement that permanent and temporary visa holders have health insurance. According to Ulloa, new visa applicants must show proof of insurance before receiving a visa while those who already have visas, including permanent residents, have 90 days from August 7 to provide it to immigration authorities. It remains unclear, however, how the requirement will be verified or how visa holders reentering the country will prove their coverage.
Ulloa said there is also confusion concerning the fee that permanent and temporary residents pay for voluntary membership in Ecuador’s Social Security system (IESS). IESS has announced it will charge foreign residents with pensionado visas a percentage of the income declared in their residency applications. According to Ulloa, voluntary members who have other visas will continue to pay a lower rate based on the national minimum salary. “This is very unfair and I have discussed it with IESS,” she said. “We are still awaiting resolution.”
IESS membership is not directly related to the immigration law although its health care coverage would fulfill the law’s insurance requirement. Ulloa said that visa holders are free to buy private insurance and membership in IESS is not mandatory.
Among other unresolved issues in the new law are requirements for citizenship. Ulloa pointed out that the law is contradictory since one article requires applicants to be in the country continuously for three years before they are eligible while another allows them 180 days a year out of the country.
Representatives of Ecuador’s immigration services were invited to the meeting but did not attend.
Those with questions about the immigration law can contact Lina Ulloa at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone her at 410 3588.