What you need to know about Ecuador’s new immigration law
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.
Ecuador Residency Visas
There are two different types of Ecuador Residency Visa types:
- Temporary Residency Visas
- Permanent Residency Visas
Temporary Residency Visas (generally valid for 2 years of Residency):
Any person desiring the ability to remain in Ecuador for a more substantial duration of time as compared to an Ecuador Tourist Visa (how was indicated earlier in this article), needs to apply for and receive a type of visa that allows them to be a Temporary Resident of Ecuador for up to two years, on what is aptly known as a “Temporary Residency Visa”. Any person on an Ecuadorian Temporary Residency Visa (whether as a Primary Applicant or Dependent) is permitted to either leave or be/remain outside of Ecuador FOR AN UNLIMITED AMOUNT OF TIME (i.e. as often as they wish during their two years as a Temporary Resident – some people NEVER EVEN come to Ecuador during the entire two year period that they are a Temporary Resident and so on that basis there is ABSOLUTELY ZERO time restriction).
If during or following one’s Temporary Residency in Ecuador, the Temporary Resident of Ecuador desires to leave Ecuador for a protracted period of time (or leave Ecuador forever even), naturally they are free to depart Ecuador, and in such case, they have no need to ever return to Ecuador again for any reason or purpose, if they don’t wish to. However, if in such case, a Temporary Resident does return to Ecuador after a protracted absence from the country (and in so doing had lost their Ecuadorian Temporary Residency Visa), then they will either need to re-enter Ecuador on a new Ecuadorian Tourist Visa and/or be required to apply for a new Ecuador Temporary Residency Visa, depending on the circumstances and timing of their protracted departure from Ecuador.
Permanent Residency Visas (generally valid for a lifetime of Residency):
For any person whose intention it is to become a long-term Resident of Ecuador (i.e. for more than the two year period of Residency that is granted to any Temporary Resident of Ecuador), a type of visa known as a “Permanent Residency Visa” exists for that purpose so that the Temporary Resident can potentially CONVERT to it per the applicable rules for doing so at the end of their two period as a Temporary Resident (or just renew their Temporary Residency Visa again and again if/when desired). A person on an Ecuador Permanent Resident Visa is permitted to leave Ecuador up to 180 days in their first year of Temporary Residency, and once again up to 180 days in their second year of Temporary Residency – failure to adhere to this 180 day requirement in either of one’s first two years of Permanent Residency (as counted from the date that a person’s Permanent Residency Visa stamp is placed into their foreign issued Passport), will result in a fine or depending on the circumstances potentially the loss of one’s Permanent Residency Visa. However, after one’s first two years have been completed on their Permanent Residency Visa, a Permanent Resident is permitted to leave Ecuador for up to two consecutive years and not face any monetary penalty, nor any loss of their Permanent Residency Visa if they comply with the immediate above advised two consecutive year maximum period outside of Ecuador. A Permanent Resident is additionally permitted to apply for Ecuadorian Citizenship and Get an Ecuador Passport, once they have been a Permanent Resident of Ecuador for at least three years (though as other requirements and restrictions apply regarding Ecuadorian Naturalization, feel free to read my other article on the “Cuenca High Life” website, that is titled, “ECUADORIAN CITIZENSHIP: HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW”, and which is also immediately accessible by simply clicking on the following link to read it: https://cuencahighlife.
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. 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.