Cuenca High Life logo
Click here to subscribe to daily news sent to your inbox!
Click here to subscribe to our weekly eNewspaper sent to your inbox!

Expat Life

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 exception of citizens from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Senegal and Cuba.

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 need to show proof of health insurance or travel insurance when they enter the country. This may change following May 1, 2018, as this has been a contentious issue which has been delayed in its enforcement.  However, any person who wishes to acquire a Tourist Visa Extension (which would entitle that person to remain in Ecuador past 90 days in any given 12 month period), must provide proof of health insurance (or travel health insurance) that will cover them for the duration of their stay in the country.  As well, any person desiring to be or become a Resident in Ecuador (Temporary Resident and/or Permanent Resident), will also need to provide proof of having a health insurance policy in Ecuador.  Most private health insurance plans in Ecuador currently range in cost from around $60-160 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 generally less expensive than private health insurance.

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 is a Cuenca attorney who specializes in providing legal services to expats. She can be contacted at sara@ecuadorvisas.com or by phone at 099.296.2065.