Nuts and Bolts – Visa Requirements for Retirement in Ecuador
Continuing on our series about retirement in Ecuador, this week we’ll be focusing on the nuts and bolts of obtaining visas. Previously we focused on why to retire here and where to retire. Now we’ll see just how to do it. The frustrating thing expats face coming to settle in Ecuador is the shifting visa laws–they seem to be written on a scratch pad with pencil. So any info that you seek should be double and triple checked and followed up with a visit to a a good lawyer here in Ecuador to reconfirm.
Fortunately there are a heap of foreigners residing over here and q myriad of blogs and forums have sprung organically documenting the lives of these expats. Any google search for “visa requirements retirement Ecuador? will hit some good results. Within these are documented the various experiences of the pitfalls in the visa game.
As I stated before in a previous article on shipping goods to Ecuador, to navigate the laws of Ecuador it’s essential to have a good lawyer. No matter what you do, which visa route you take, I can’t stress more the value of getting a good lawyer.
There is a heap of paper work to finish and all that paperwork is in Espanol. The wording is sensitive and having a bilingual lawyer to interpret and tell you just where to sign on the dotted line clears things up. Plus, have you ever the experience of going to office to office and waiting in never-ending lines? Well such is the Ecuadorian bureaucratic experience. The beauty of having a lawyer is that he knows the insides of these office well and is probably a crony of one or two of the officials so he can get it done faster and more efficient than you could. The last visa change I had, when I moved from tourist to a student visa, I didn’t even have to go into the Immigration office at all. My lawyer did it all and simply handed back my passport with the stamp attached!
Now on to the nuts and bolts. Essentially there are three ways to retire here: marry an Ecuadorian, get an investors visa, or get a retiree visa. Marry an Ecuadorian—pretty strait forward: wedding bands lead to residency. For retirees that have a pension, the retirement visa is ideal. If you have a guaranteed pension check of at least $800 a month coming in than you can get your 10-I retirement resident visa. Now, if you are on early retirement and don’t have a pension check then you must look into making an investors visa. This requires you invest in anything—business(10-III) or property(10-II) with a minumum of $30,000. And if you invest an extra $500 on top of that your spouse qualifies as well.
For any resident visa you are required to stay in Ecuador for at least 9 months out of the year for the first two years. After that you are free to come and come as you like. Also, Ecuador requires that you take a medical exam showing you are in good physical shape including an HIV test. You must also produce a criminal background check from your home country showing a clean record. Sorry, the days of running south of the border are unfortunately over.
You might be required to visit the immigration offices several times and spend a bit of money on the lawyer—typically what I have heard from friends and what I have read on forums and blogs it’s about a $1000 they’ve spent.
One good idea is to come over to Ecuador on the 12IX, which is the long term tourist visa. This gives you 6 months stay in Ecuador. You will have a sufficient time to look around, find some property or a business to invest in, and hire a lawyer. In the end, if you stay, you will be able to change your visa status in Ecuador without having to return home. With the 12 IX you do your med checks and police checks before coming over and this will suffice for any transfer of visa in Ecuador without leaving the country.
One last thing, probably the most important requirement of all, you need patience. It could be a long process to get the visa, but in the end, it’s worth it. Ecuador has been again rated as the top place to retire. Cheap living, good gringo property rights, and many beautiful and tranquil places to stay make Ecuador a great place to spend the golden years. And after you negotiate all the hassles of the immigration office, and get your permanent residency, you will have the freedom to come and go like any other Ecuadorian.