By Sara Chaca
The new immigration law, adopted in 2017, the “Ley de Movilidad Humana”, is currently in full force. It replaces the previous law and was enacted to simplify the process. Whether that goal has been achieved or not remains to be seen. Here are the law’s key components.
Ecuador Tourist Visas (Ecuador Visitor Visas):
Ecuador’s new immigration law permits two types of temporary visitors:
- Tourists/Visitors* – This includes individuals who are intending to spend up to but no more than 90 days in Ecuador during any 12 month period. The visa, which is free, is called an “Ecuador Tourist Visa T-3 Stamp”. It is also for individuals who are intending to spend in excess of 90 days in Ecuador during any 12 month period (in combination with a Tourist Visa plus one or two paid Tourist Visa Extensions that can be obtained while here.
- Persons in Transit* – Individuals “en route” to their final destination.
*Any person who visits Ecuador with the intent of carrying out tourism related activities, is NOT permitted to be employed or work in Ecuador for an Ecuadorian company or organization.
The Tourist Visa is provided automatically on arrival to Ecuador to persons from most other countries, with the exception being for citizens from the following countries who instead first require a Tourist Visa obtained at their nearest Ecuadorian Consulate (or Ecuadorian Embassy) in advance of being able to arrive or travel to Ecuador: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Senegal, Cuba, Angola, Cameroon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Philippines, Syria, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Yemen.
Tourists have the option to apply for an additional 90 day Tourist Visa Extension plus one Special Tourist Visa of a further 180 day stay that is available one time in any 5 year period. Because of the “once in every 5 year” limitation, the Tourist Visa Extensions by themselves do not make it possible to stay in Ecuador year-round as a Tourist.
Ecuador Residency Visas
There are two different types of Ecuador Residency Visa types:
- Temporary Residency Visas
- Permanent Residency Visas
Temporary Residency Visas (valid for 2 years of residency):
Any person desiring to remain in Ecuador for a more substantial duration of time, needs to apply for and receive a visa that allows them to be a Temporary Resident of Ecuador for up to two years, known as a “Temporary Residency Visa”. A person on an Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa is permitted to leave Ecuador up to 90 days in their first year, and once again up to 90 days in their second year of Temporary Residency. Failure to adhere to this requirement can result in a fine or the cancellation of their visa.
If a Temporary Resident leave Ecuador for more than the 90 days per year allowed, he or she will need to re-enter Ecuador on a new Ecuadorian Tourist Visa and/or need to apply for a new Ecuador Temporary Residency Visa.
Permanent Residency Visas:
After fulfilling the two-year requirement of the Temporary Resident visa, one can apply for a Permanent Residency Visa. As a Permanent Resident, a person is permitted to leave Ecuador for up to 180 days in their first year and once again up to 180 days in their second year. Failure to adhere to this requirement can result in a fine or the cancellation of their Permanent Residency. Following the first two years of Permanent Residency, one is permitted to leave Ecuador for up to five years without penalty. In addition, any person who has been a Resident of Ecuador for at least five years is permitted to vote or run for public office. A Permanent Resident (again not a Temporary Resident..) is additionally permitted to apply for Ecuadorian Citizenship once they have been a Permanent Resident of Ecuador for a total of at least three years (a special accelerated exception exists for those whose marriage to an Ecuadorian Citizen was officially recorded with Ecuador’s Civil Registry office at least two years prior to applying for Ecuadorian Citizenship).
Those who can apply for Permanent Residency Visa in Ecuador:
- Any person who has legally been on a Temporary Residency Visa for at least 21 months
- Any person who is or becomes legally married to an Ecuadorian Citizen or Permanent Resident of Ecuador.
- Any person who is directly related to an Ecuadorian Citizen or Permanent Resident of Ecuador (as evidenced by an authentic Birth Certificate proving the direct blood relation)
- Any person who is a Dependent of minor age (under the age of 18), whom is Adopted, or who is a Disabled Dependent of any other person whopresently maintains Permanent Residency status in Ecuador (as evidenced by authentic Dependency, Adoption or Disability documents and/or a Birth Certificate too if applicable)
Ecuador Health Insurance Requirement (ONLY for “long term” Tourists, Temporary Residents & Permanent Residents):
A Tourist who spends no more than 90 days in Ecuador during any given 12 month period does NOT currently need to show proof of health insurance or travel insurance when they enter/re-enter the country under ANY circumstances (this is the same exact case for returning Residents and Citizens of Ecuador as well because no one presently asks or checks for proof of health insurance upon entering/re-entering through any Ecuadorian entry/exit point since no such health insurance verification system exists at Ecuadorian entry/exit points at this time for that purpose). ONLY persons who will visit the Galapagos Islands at any time or for any reason (whether as a Tourist, Resident or Citizen) needs to show proof of health insurance in order to embark on that specific (memorable) trip, and that again is ONLY at the time of boarding their plane or boat to leave for their travel to the Galapagos Islands and again NOT at the time of entering/re-entering Ecuador (this is even if the person’s travel itinerary has/shows the Galapagos Islands as part or one of their planned visits following their initial entry/re-entry into Ecuador). As well, foreigners do NOT currently need to provide ANY proof of Health Insurance so as to obtain a 90 day Tourist Visa Extension (that being an extension of their FREE Automatic “T-3 Visa” of 90 days) for in advance of them coming to or while already here as a tourist in the country. Notwithstanding the above, ANY foreigner who wishes to acquire the first above referenced “Special Tourist Visa” of 180 days (that being on top of the first type 90 day Tourist Visa Extension referenced above), MUST in such case provide proof of health insurance (or travel health insurance) that will cover them for the duration of their further touristic stay in the country. As well, any foreigner desiring to be or become a Resident in Ecuador (that being for either/both as a Temporary Resident or Permanent Resident, respectively), will also need to provide proof of having a health insurance policy that fully covers them in Ecuador at the time of applying for any type of Residency in Ecuador (which is also the same rule for any foreigner later on applying for Citizenship in Ecuador if/when they want to do so too – though once officially a Citizen of Ecuador the foreigner NO LONGER needs to have or show ANY proof of having health insurance that covers them in Ecuador). Most private health insurance plans in Ecuador currently range in cost from around $50-150 or so per month for an individual, depending on one’s age and/or health condition. The Ecuadorian Government’s Health Insurance system, known as IESS, is another option for Expats, particularly those having serious preexisting conditions (due to its no exclusion period for those). And foreign health insurance that extends full coverage to a foreigner in Ecuador is also yet another permitted option at that.
All in all, the new Human Mobility Act of Ecuador remains subject to interpretation by the Ecuadorian government, and so it is best to check regularly as to the applicability and/or enforceability of its provisions to you or your own (or your family’s own) unique situation. As always, make sure to consider your options, and to consult with competent legal counsel in Ecuador, prior to making an actionable decision for the benefit of yourself and/or your family.
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.