Photo Credit: nparker13
Congratulations! If you are reading this article, then you have either already decided or are soon to decide whether to take the plunge and move to Ecuador. Yes, for the most part everything you have heard about the wonderful climate, the inexpensive cost of living and the use of the U.S. dollar as the national currency is indeed correct.
But like all things in life, nothing is ever perfectly clear-cut. There are still certain things that you must do (as well as must not do) while planning your move to Ecuador.
1. As an American, Canadian, European, or Australian citizen, you are permitted to enter Ecuador on a T-3 Visa (90-day Tourist Visa), which you do not need to do anything to obtain. Immigration in either the Guayaquil International Airport or Quito International Airport will simply and without ANY request for money or other documents, stamp the T-3 Visa in your Passport and send you on your merry way. The issue, however, is that if you do not book a round-trip airline ticket to/from Ecuador, then even before you arrive you will have a very big problem with the most commonly used airlines, including American Airlines and Copa. The agent at the ticket counter in your departure city will ask to see your return flight ticket or your Ecuadorian residency visa, as the only people permitted by the airlines to not have round-trip tickets are those who are already residents of Ecuador. If you do not have this return ticket pre-purchased, you will generally be forced to buy one at the counter before you get on your flight, and the prices can be through the roof.
2. Once you arrive in Ecuador and receive your T-3 Visa, you must adhere to that 90-day rule religiously. If you exceed the 90 days in Ecuador during either a single trip to Ecuador or in a combination of multiple trips during the same 365-day calendar period, then you will become illegal in Ecuador and vulnerable to deportation, unless you have acquired a Tourist Visa Extension or already applied for your Permanent Residency Visa. This must be done before your T-3 Visa’s 90-day period expires. Of course, as foreigners are the lifeblood of Ecuador’s economy, it is not likely that you will ever be thrown out of Ecuador by the Immigration Police before you decide to leave the country. However, if/when you go to the airport in Ecuador to fly back to your original country, the Ecuadorian Immigration Police will matter-of-factly tell you that your T-3 Visa has expired and that you are now illegal in Ecuador and that you must obtain a new visa from the Ecuadorian Consulate in your country in order to be permitted to return to Ecuador any time within the next 9 months. It becomes a somewhat-expensive, nerve-wracking and undesirably-memorable experience for those who have no other choice but to do so. Therefore, DO NOT improperly count the available days on your T-3 Visa. If you are uncertain at any time or for any reason, be sure to contact a visa attorney to be informed of the law and how it applies to you and your situation.
3. Do not bring a lot of cash and/or precious metals with you on the plane or in your checked luggage (in other words, do not bring more than 10,000 U.S. dollars per family), because although it is legal to do so, you will have to declare it on the Ecuadorian Customs/Immigration form on your plane prior to arrival. Failure to do so can result in a substantial fine and/or forfeiture of your cash and even the filing of a legal case by Customs of Ecuador (though that is typically reserved for very large amounts of undeclared cash or gold brought into Ecuador under suspicion of criminal activity).
4. If you are taking pets with you to Ecuador, know that you can only do so if they have received their internationally-respected vaccines and tapeworm/tick checks. This includes a health certificate signed by your pet’s veterinarian. Up to two pets per family can be brought on any one flight. You will also need to check with your airline to ensure you understand the forms, costs, and flight requirements that apply to the import of pets to Ecuador. Usually, the importation of your cats and/or dogs to Ecuador is the easiest part of moving here.
5. When you arrive at the airport in Ecuador (either in Guayaquil or Quito), it is best to have already booked your transfer from the airport to your hotel or apartment. For example, Guayaquil is a beautifully-scenic 3-hour car ride to Cuenca. Ecuadorian taxi drivers are usually only Spanish-speaking, not very patient with newcomers, and can take advantage of you (like charging over $200 for a taxi ride that should cost just $115), or, in the very unlikeliest of cases, even rob you.
6. Before you come to Ecuador, you should have your accommodations already booked and confirmed. Not doing so can result in a failure to locate accommodations on the night of your arrival. This is usually only an issue during festival seasons, which occur throughout the year in different cities or across the country as a whole. Alternatively, you could be the unlucky recipient of a dirty or highly-overpriced room for your first night spent in Ecuador.
7. Visas… Oh yes, it’s time to play the visa card again, but this time specifically relating to the processing of your Residency Visa. First of all, one can apply for one’s own Residency Visa in order to save on costs. However, all documents need to be 100% completed, documented, produced, and certified in virtually perfect Spanish, without any errors in the documents whatsoever. Also take note that while they generally try to be helpful and informative, the Ecuadorian Consulates in foreign countries do not always have the most current or up-to-date required documents list or procedures for how to obtain a Residency Visa in Ecuador. Finally, translations to Spanish are not accepted. This means that you are not able to translate any original documents in English to Spanish. This is because you might intentionally misrepresent what your documents say in the case of, for example, an unflattering police report, a pension that is too small for Ecuador, a name you may have changed that might be inconvenient for you to have to explain to the Ecuadorian Immigration Ministry, etc.
8. Let’s see, what is it you need to apply for Residency in Ecuador nowadays? Is it the FBI Report, the RCMP Report, a State or Provincial Police Report, a Local City Police Report or Town Police Report, or is it all of the above, or, quite possibly, is it none of the above? This question has been asked and answered in many different ways, at different times, and depending on who you ask and the way you ask, you could receive very different answers which could either be very good or very bad for your Residency Visa process. This highly important issue is an “ever-changing” rule and requirement here in Ecuador. You would be wise to once again very regularly check in on the status of this very changeable requirement or set of requirements, as it is and always has been (and presumably always will be) a moving target which no one can adequately anticipate in the near to intermediate future.
9. Apostilles: Ah yes, a word that many have tried to pronounce and most have failed to utter correctly. It comes from the French, meaning “a government-issued certification that authenticates a public document for use in a foreign country”. So what exactly is an Apostille, then? Essentially, countries who are a party to the international “Hague Convention–Apostille Section” (such as the U.S., Europe, Australia, China, and, of course, Ecuador), have all unanimously agreed that their respective Departments of State, Secretaries of State, or Ministries of External Affairs MUST provide an official certification of any documents moving from one country to another. However, if your country is not a member of this agreement (Canada, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, etc.), then you will instead need a “Legalization” of your foreign documents to be provided by the Ecuadorian Consulate in your home country. (This issue regarding Apostilles and Legalizations can get very complicated, especially when applicants have dual citizenships. In some cases, an applicant must acquire both Apostilles and Legalizations from two countries with different regulations. Whew…)
10. Finally, we have arrived to the 10th and possibly most-important rule here in Ecuador for new residents. That is to say, once you have received your Residency Visa and Cedula (Cedula being your National Identification Card that as a senior you can proudly display wherever you go to receive substantial discounts on public transportation such as buses, planes and trains), you must be sure to NOT leave Ecuador for more than 90 calendar days in either of the first two years of your Ecuadorian Residency (this of course means that you are free to leave Ecuador for up to 90 days in each of your first two years). If there is one rule to not violate above all, this is most definitely the one, as you will lose your residency visa if you leave Ecuador for more than 90 days during either of your first two years. Exemptions can be granted with proof of poor personal health (needing foreign medical attention) or a death in the family.