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Ecuadorian Citizenship: Here’s What You Need to Know

One of the biggest choices facing an expat after moving to Ecuador and obtaining a Permanent Residency Visa, is whether or not to jump through the next procedural hoop of becoming an Ecuadorian Citizen.  For those of you that are hoping to apply for citizenship,  we’ve taken the guess work out of the entire process. Read on to find out about all of the current required documents, and procedures, you will need to obtain your citizenship.

Permanent Residency Requirements

To start, Permanent Residency in Ecuador is valid for one’s lifetime.  However, this is subject to the visa holder not leaving Ecuador for more than 90 days during each of their first two years of Permanent Residency, nor leaving Ecuador for more than 18 months in a single trip after their first two years of Permanent Residency have been completed (this also depends on when you received your Permanent Residency, and so it is not the same exact rule for every person..). 

One important note however, is that as of the current rules for applying to become an Ecuadorian Citizen, one can NOT apply to become a Citizen of Ecuador if he/she leaves Ecuador for more than 180 DAYS TOTAL in their first 3 years since having officially received their Permanent Residency Visa stamp in their foreign issued Passport.

Dual Citizenship

Despite many rumours to the contrary, you will always be permitted by the Citizenship Law in Ecuador, to have Dual Citizenship in Ecuador, regardless of what other country you are currently a Citizen of. There are countries around the world that may raise an objection to this, but in my experience as an immigration lawyer, this is a rarity.

Americans and Canadians will have no problems  from their home countries, as they are permitted  to apply for Citizenship in Ecuador.  And so, the choice  is personal as to whether or not  to apply for Ecuadorian Citizenship following the first 3 years of Permanent Ecuadorian Residency.  The above rules are the same process for foreigners who are married to an Ecuadorian Citizen (i.e. needing to wait 3 years since Cedulazation to apply for Ecuadorian Citizenship).  Years ago, an Expat could marry an Ecuadorian Citizen and immediately, or within a matter of months, become a Citizen of Ecuador. That is simply not the case anymore.

With that being said, any person born in Ecuador, or any person born to an Ecuadorian Citizen, can/will automatically qualify for Ecuador Citizenship by Birth or through Parents.

Please note though that there is no such thing as obtaining Ecuador Citizenship by Investment. First you must become a Resident of Ecuador and wait the above mentioned 3 years, in order to do so.



Ecuadorian Citizenship Benefits

The benefits of getting Citizenship in Ecuador, begins with your eligibility to receive an Ecuadorian Passport (provided you comply with the Ecuadorian Passport requirements).  Once you obtain your Ecuadorian Passport, you will be permitted to travel to any country in South America, without the use of your other Passport.  This is very convenient, since you will no longer need a Visa to visit any country in South America if you have your Ecuadorian Passport (or just an Ecuadorian Cedula at that point, which shows you are a Citizen of Ecuador).

Plus, each time that you would have needed to transfer your Permanent Residency Visa to your new Passport, you no longer need to  show your qualification for Permanent  Residency  as an Ecuadorian Citizen.

Another benefit of obtaining your citizenship would be if you applied for an Investor Visa using an Ecuadorian Bank CD or Ecuadorian Real Estate Property. Once you are an Ecuadorian Citizen, you are permitted to liquidate or sell your asset and spend it as you wish.

Required Documents To Apply For Ecuadorian Citizenship

The following are the current documents Requirements for Citizenship in Ecuador that you need, in order to complete and fulfill the Ecuadorian Citizenship (Naturalization) application process:

  1. Birth Certificate with Apostille from your state or country of origin.
  2. Your foreign issued Passport not to expire for at least 12 months from when you apply for your Ecuadorian Citizenship.
  3. Your Ecuadorian Cedula.
  4. Index Card from Registro Civil.
  5. Certificate of compliance with obligations in SRI of Ecuador.
  6. Certificate of compliance with obligations in the Municipality of Cuenca or other city in Ecuador that you currently live in.
  7. Newly issued Certificate of compliance with obligations in IESS of Ecuador.
  8. Newly issued Certificate of criminal record (BOTH places as follows):
  9. Newly issued Certificate of Background Check(s) in your country of origin with Apostille(s) or Legalization(s), depending on your original country of citizenship.
  10. Newly issued Certificate of Background Check from Ecuador’s National Police.
  11. Newly issued Migratory Movement.
  12. Four (4) newly obtained passport size photographs, of your face only, not smiling, without glasses or a hat, and on a white background.
  13. You also need to demonstrate in documentary form, your economic solvency by showing proof of your assets and/or income, wherever they may be located (this depends on the type of Permanent Residency Visa that you have prior to you applying for your Ecuadorian Citizenship).

Please note that the Ecuadorian Naturalization (Citizenship) procedure is performed in the Immigration Ministry of Cuenca, Guayaquil or Quito. You should also take into account that the Ecuadorian Citizenship process is currently taking a minimum of 6 months, to a maximum of 12 months, in order to be approved. This is because the Immigration Ministry must review and approve the various documents, as well as administer an Ecuador Citizenship Test in Spanish. The test consists of a written portion as well as a oral interview. The test proves you possess intermediate or better Spanish speaking ability, general knowledge of Ecuadorian culture, geography, history, and the legal/political system of Ecuador.  And so, as you might imagine, the Citizenship application is not nearly as quick to be approved, in comparison to when you applied for a Permanent Residency Visa.

The determination, rests with you, as to whether it is better  to apply for Ecuadorian Citizenship or to remain a Permanent Resident of Ecuador. Make sure to consider your options, and consult with competent legal counsel, prior to making an actionable decision for the benefit of yourself and/or your family.

30 Responses

  1. Would someone of great intelligence please tell me why it is important to repeat processes for the Ecuadorian Government that was previously provided to now obtain Citizenship. I could understand somewhat if the cost to re-create these documents went into the economy in Ecuador but it does not.
    It was necessary to provide apostilled documents for divorce, birth, backgrounds, retirement incomes, passport, etc. for lifetime residency and a cedula. After living here, under contract, in the same home for over five years to be asked for another set of apostilled documents to include background checks from the previous country of residence for the same period of time you have lived in Ecuador is plain ridiculous. The costs for State, FBI, etc. is an enormous burden for those of us that are fixed income. I would rather believe Ecuador would want that money being spent on Ecuadorian products and services rather than on documents that were previously provided for “lifetime residency” in their country.

  2. The article does not tell you how much time you can be out of Ecuador and still be eligible. Is it 90 days within the first three years? Or can the 90 days start at any time?

  3. Excellent article. Thank you, Sara. I have been in Ecuador just over 2 years and will definitely apply for citizenship. I will be contacting you as the time draws closer.

  4. My understanding was that you were allowed 90 days out of country during each of the first two years. Her writing seems clear that it is 90 days total for the two year span.

  5. The permanent residency limits on time out of the country which are mentioned in this article do not reflect the new law. Under the new law, permanent residents can be out of the country for up to 180 days per year during the first two years. If they exceed that, they will be charged 4 salarios básicos (page 30, Article 170, #8) for the first offense. If they exceed 180 days out of the country for both of the first two years, they will lose their visas. After one’s first two years as a permanent resident, if one leaves the country for more than >five years< without returning, he/she will lose his/her visa. Regarding naturalization, page 15, Articles 71 and 72 discuss the new requirements. It appears that we simply need to keep our visas regular for three years, or be married to a citizen for two years (Article 73). I recommend that getting ASAP (if feasible), before the government can change its mind and
    make it more difficult. http://www.asambleanacional.gob.ec/es/system/files/ley-movilidad-humana-ro938-s-06-02-2017.pdf

  6. I’m sorry, I’m finding this article a bit confusing. It used to be that you could apply for citizenship after two years of permanent residency if you were married to an Ecuadorian. It used to be that the TOTAL amount of time that you could be out of the country during the first 3 years of residency was 90 days — again, in total, not per year. I can’t tell from reading the article whether this has changed or not, nor how the rules are different depending on how long we’ve been here. I guess I need to pay for a consult.

  7. Okay, a little extra research paid off. This google-translated segment of the requirements as they currently show up online clearly say that the 3 years is from the date one receives their cédula, NOT their visa. In my case, I’ve been gone for less than 90 days using the date of “cedulization,” but over 90 day if using the date I received my visa.

    http://tramites.ecuadorlegalonline.com/social/ministerio-relaciones-exteriores-comercio-e-integracion/carta-naturalizacion-extranjeros/

    1.THE FOREIGNER SHALL MEET THE FOLLOWING REQUIREMENTS:

    1.1.To have reached the age of 18 years.
    1.2.Provide a minimum residence time of three years from the date of issuance of the Ecuadorian identity card as a foreigner.
    1.3.The term of residence is reduced to two years in case the foreigner is married to Ecuadorian or has one or more children born in the national territory.
    1.4.The absence of more than 90 days interrupts the period of legal residence. In case of serious health or educational reasons, the Minister for Foreign Affairs may consider that such absences do not interrupt said

    1. I have been living here for almost six years,I am married to Ecuadorian for over 4 years, have only been out of country for total of 55 days and have been told that I must get more reports, (new FBI and State) even though I have been here for six years. What is this, do they own stock in the background check companies? lol

      1. I’m hearing that they’re trying to make it more and more difficult to qualify. I was also told that the federal docs from the US have to be apostiled in DC… and how the heck do you get that done, without going to DC yourself? BTW, I’ve been talking to two different lawyers, and the other one is telling me that a lot of the old rules have just gone away. The one who wrote this article is saying that they’re getting tougher. I don’t know who to believe, or how to figure out which one knows all the requirements. I found stuff online, but it appears to be out of date. I just think it’s something I need to pursue, because as residents we can be UN-invited to be residents here, but they’re stuck with us if we’re citizens.

        1. You do NOT need an attorney. Go to the Naturalization office in Azogues. They give you a list of requirements it is clear and the requirement is for the documents to be apostilled. Only the FBI report goes to DC. There are some things you need to do yourself this is one of them. If you want to be a citizen here, do the work yourself. That is what I am doing.

          1. I hear what you are saying Jodie but could someone please tell me why the background checks that I provided for PERMANENT RESIDENCY will no longer suffice for citizenship?
            Why do I need an FBI and STATE background check for the previous five years when in fact I have lived in Ecuador for the previous five years?

          2. i guess after living here for 5 years you should know that whatever they ask for they have the right to ask for it. Have you gone to the USA for 30 days or more since being here? That is another reason they require new FBI and state police reports. Remember, this is not your right it is a privledge and if they want you get new docs then you get new docs.

  8. Or, you don’t get them. If enough people don’t get them, they will get the message. They will be the ones lksing out. The way I see it you can spend your hard earned dollars anywhere you choose to. Migueloritz

  9. Hi,

    For residency application, I understand that one needs a police check from home country/ passport country, but is there also the requirement to get police report from all countries where one has visited in past 5 years? Eg, for less than 6 months, is there still the same requirement? For people who move around a lot that would be an onerous requirement.

  10. Hello folks,
    I’ve been married to an Ecuadorian for 35 yrs, she has dual citizenship from the US and I am a USA citizen, born out of Haiti and lived in the US over 50 years. Can someone tell me if I qualify for ECU dual citizenship via marriage. We currently live in FL and plan on living partial year in both countries in about 2.5 yrs when she also qualifies for SOC SEC retirement.
    Regards, Nesly

  11. My wife and I have held a permanent residency for over thee years, but because we traveled out of Ecuador for a total of 100 days in the first three years of our residency, we are banned from applying for Ecuadorian naturalization for our lifetimes. There is no possible means of repentance.

  12. I am pretty sure that 90 days absence on first three years no longer excludes you for naturalization. At least not according to the new law. Just wait for the new reglamento, and see what happens.

  13. I know some of the information in this article is a bit dated due to recent changes in the law. However, I have to say that Sara (author of this article) is the best. She stays on top of the law and advises all her clients of changes which may affect them and then goes to work on the necessary processes. She has saved me a lot of work and heart ache.

    1. We’re rather late to the party on this one… But, to clarify, bitcoin is not illegal in Ecuador. You can buy and sell bitcoin and other crypto’s until your heart’s content. But, you cannot buy goods and services with crypto here.

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