It feels like we’re still catching our breath from Ecuador’s 2021 visa updates. Given we swore in a new President after these 2021 visa changes, it’s little surprise we have a raft of new visa rules to work our way through for 2022.
1. These changes are very fresh. Decree 354 was released on 18 Feb 2022.
2. Each of Ecuador’s migration offices are currently interpreting these new regulations. Don’t expect all interpretations to be the same amongst each office.
3. Don’t act on this advice alone. There will be a lot of gray area whilst the dust settles.
We’ll update this article as we get updates from our network of attorneys, facilitators & migration offices.
Income requirements for Retirement & Rentista visas have tripled
It appears as though Ecuador has decided to substantially increase monthly income requirements for the Retirement & Rentista visa categories.
Income requirements before
$425 per month
Income requirements after
$1275 per month
Both the Retirement & Rentista income requirements were previously based on 1 basic salary. We’re not sure why, but these have now been upped to 3 basic salaries (which currently equals $1275).
We did get some indication that the income requirements for the Rentista Visa might be updated. During conversations of the much anticipated Digital Nomad Visa, it was revealed that this visa would most likely be created under the Rentista Visa category. And, the income requirements were to be 3 x basic salary.
But, applying the same income requirements to the Retirement Visa category was a complete surprise to everyone in the visa industry (including us).
President Lasso’s campaign promise was to increase the basic salary to $500. If this happens, then the minimum income requirements for these visas would increase to $1,500 per month.
Our thoughts on the change
Whilst I seem to be in the minority, I was always hesitant to heap praise on the Digital Nomad Visa because it may set the income standard for other visa types. This looks like what’s happened.
The powers that be have decided they want to only attract retirees that can afford to live like upper-class Ecuadorians. Only a small proportion of Ecuadorians (& certainly not retirees) can prove they earn over $1275 per month. 50% of Ecuadorians live off less than $500 per month.
The Retirement Visa income requirements seem to be bouncing around with no real indication why. There were reduced from $800 to $425 in 2021, but have now gone the other way with this most recent increase to $1275. Who knows what they will be in 2023! It’s this uncertainly that effectively prevents lots of wannabe expats from seriously considering Ecuador as their retirement destination.
Difference between proving income requirements & having income
I’ve seen some commentary welcoming the move to increase the income requirements to $1275 as this is more in line with what many expats actually spend whilst living in Ecuador.
I disagree with this line of reasoning. Income requirements for the purpose of a visa have no bearing on the actual cost of living. There are many use cases that will fall through the gaps.
For example, I know many expats that have multiple income sources which can be difficult to prove. These expats may fall under the $1275 limit when proving income, but they can still live a very comfortable life. Ecuador no longer welcomes these potential expats and I can’t see this as being positive for the Ecuadorian economy.
Less expats that will be eligible
Internal data from our partners on current Retirement Visa applications suggest that around 40% of applicants don’t meet the new $1275 monthly income requirements. This is a sizeable chunk of the expat market, which I’d expect to have trickle-down effects on many businesses in Ecuador.
Who is this change aimed at?
We can only speculate on the political motivations behind tripling these income requirements. One plausible theory is that it’s mainly aimed at ensuring Ecuador’s neighbors, particularly Venezuelans, find it difficult to migrate in mass numbers.
2. Income for dependents increased
It’s not just the income requirements for the primary visa applicants that have received an overhaul. The income requirements for dependents across several visa categories have also been updated. The monthly income requirements for dependents now looks like they will be:
- Investor & Rentista: $425 for each dependent
- Retirement: $250 for each dependent
Our thoughts on the change
They are further decreasing the pool of eligible expat families that can call Ecuador home. For example, the total income that a couple applying for a Rentista Visa (one main applicant + one dependent) is now $1,700. This seems very out of touch when you consider how much local couples tend to make.
The inevitable result is the income gap between expats and locals will increase even more. This doesn’t normally bode well for lingering tensions between the two communities.
3. First look at the Digital Nomad Visa
We got our 1st look at Ecuador’s Digital Nomad Visa and I have to say I’m a little disappointed. Let me explain.
Article 64 of Decree 354 indicates that the Nomad Visa is still subject to the ‘essential requirements determined in the law’. These essential requirements are outlined in Article 58; including the following:
“Certificate of no criminal record from the country of origin or in which he/she has resided during the last five years, duly translated into Spanish and, if applicable, apostilled or legalized, as appropriate. For these documents one hundred eighty (180) days of validity will be taken into account, counted from the date of issuance of the certificate until the last entry of the interested party to the country.”
Yep, the Digital Nomad Visa will still require a background check that is also apostilled. I personally had discussions with the Ministry pushing for the Digital Nomad Visa and they made it clear they wanted to make this visa as easy as possible to obtain. The trade-off was to be the increased income requirements.
I’m comfortable arguing that this background check requirement (complete with apostille) destroys any hope that this visa will be easy for digital nomads to obtain. The background check component is generally the most time-consuming and expensive part of the visa process.
The reality is that the Professional Visa is going to be a much better option for most digital nomads now. This visa survived any substantial updates and the income requirements are still set at $425 per month. So, if you have a degree (associates or higher), then I do suggest sticking with the Professional Visa and not bothering with the Digital Nomad Visa.
4. Permanent residency requirements still not clear
One of the most frustrating legacies of the 2021 changes is still not clear. That is whether those currently on a temporary residency visa could leave Ecuador & still be eligible for permanent residency.
The Azogues Migracion Office took a closed stance and were denying permanent residency visas if you’d spent even one day outside Ecuador during temporary residency. However, some other offices took a wider stance and were approving permanent residencies for applicants that had spent up to 89 days outside of Ecuador during temporary residency.
The 2022 visa updates do address this and I have my interpretation of the new law. But, I need to wait until each office provides its own interpretation before I’m comfortable providing this to you. My money is on another non-uniform interpretation between the offices, but let’s hope this doesn’t eventuate.
We’ll provide a more comprehensive round-up of these changes once it’s clear how they are interpreted. I know this is a very stressful time for applicants currently going through their visa process. My thoughts go out to you and hope these updates haven’t destroyed your plans of calling Ecuador home.
Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions. We can try to answer them or put you in touch with a visa specialist that can.