The world of legal procedures can sometimes seem like it has been created for the sole reason of making it impossible to understand. Immigration is no exemption from this. One could in fact claim that immigration is in fact the epitome of a legal barrier, as it has been created with the sole reason of keeping certain people out. As a result, most aspiring expats are concerned about whether their desired new home country will give them an easy way to stay. Fortunately for those who have their eyes on Ecuador, this equatorial nation has done exactly that.
Upon arrival to Ecuador, most nationalities are given a 3-month tourist visa without any costs or procedures.* You can further extend this with 6 months with a Tourist, Commercial or Sports visa called 12-ix. This visa is easily acquired by providing a document showing financial solvency proving you have the means to stay for another 6 months, a passport which is valid for at least another 6 months, two forms (given to you in Ecuador or at consulates/embassies abroad), two passport photos, and a fee of $ 400. Within 5 days you will receive the response and be able to pick up your visa.
When it comes to staying permanently, there are a number of options which all can be seen here. However, the ones which are most relevant for future expats and retirees are Visa 9:I Foreign Pension, Visa 9:II Real Estate Investor and Visa 9:V Professional.
The Foreign Pension visa is the one most frequently opted for. Other than a one time fee and the basic paperwork (criminal record, passport with at least 6 months validity, etc.), all you need is a proven $ 800 USD a month (+ another $ 100 USD per dependent).
The Real Estate visa is a fairly straightforward one. If you invest at least $ 25,000 USD in real estate in Ecuador (+$ 500 USD per dependent), you become eligible for a visa. When a property is bought, you need to provide an original letter of tax, a few documents in relation to the purchase, as well as the mandatory passport with 6 months of validity and a police record.
The Professional Visa is given to those applicants who hold a university degree (minimum Bachelor’s degree) recognised by Senescyt (the institution which is charged with approving your degree). The list of approved universities for 2015 can be found here. Before taking your degree to Ecuador, however, you need to get it apostilled in the country of origin, often together with a notarisation. When that has been done and it has been processed by Senescyt, you provide the degree together with a form acquired in Ecuador, a passport with validity lasting more than 6 months, as well as a police record.
As is apparent, becoming a permanent resident of Ecuador is not a difficult endeavour. Hence, aspiring expats will not find immigration to be an obstacle in their pursuit of a happy life abroad.