There are several different types of Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas: Professional, Investor, Pensioners, Rentista, Dependent, etc. The qualifications and requirements vary for each type of visa so you’ll need to select the best option for your specific circumstances.
HUGE thanks to Maité from GringoVisas.com for not only helping us with both our Temporary and Permanent Resident Visas, but for taking the time to answer a bunch of questions for this article about the new visa requirements in Ecuador.
This article focuses on the types of visas that are available in Ecuador, as well as the process for obtaining a visa. These haven’t changed. However, we have an updated article and interview with Maité specifically covering the new visa laws that were passed in February 2021 that make it easier for expats to move to Ecuador: New Ecuador Visa Changes & What They Mean for Expats.
This is Part 11 in our series about living abroad in Ecuador. If you missed the other articles, you might want to Start Here…
General Requirements for Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas
There are a few general requirements for all Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas. You can read the detailed list on the government website here; however, here are the main things you’ll want to consider:
If your passport will expire during the 2-year visa period, we recommend renewing your passport before applying for the visa.
Ecuador no longer attaches physical visas to your passport. Instead, they issue electronic visas that are attached to your passport number. When you renew your passport, you’ll get a different number which means your visa will need to be electronically transferred to the new passport. This requires a $100 fee and an additional trip the visa office to sign paperwork.
There’s no harm in renewing your passport early and doing so will save you a lot of inconvenience.
Health insurance is NO LONGER REQUIRED for any of Ecuador’s visas, including the 90-day tourist visa, and both the temporary and permanent residency visas.
Fingerprints & Background Checks
You’ll need to provide both State and Federal FBI background checks with your application. Ideally, your background checks will be squeaky clean, but if you have a minor offense with a reasonable explanation or if it happened a long time ago, it may not affect your application process.
These reports must be less than 6 months old when you file your visa application. If they are more than 6 months old, you will need to request them again and pay for the new reports so plan carefully.
Marriage License & Birth Certificates
For dependent visas, you’ll need a marriage license for a spouse or birth certificates for children. The apostille date on the documents needs to be less than 6 months from the date of the application.
You can register your marriage license in Ecuador at a Registro Civil office so it will always be on file and you won’t need to go through this process again. Ask your visa agent for help with this.
Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa Ministry Fees
Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas have two primary fees (as of 2020). The temporary resident visa application fee is $50 per person and is non-refundable. If your visa application is approved, the temporary resident visa fee is $400 per person.
Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa Types
The Ecuador Professional Visa has the following requirements:
- Monthly income of at least USD $400
- An undergraduate or graduate degree from an approved university
- A notarized and apostilled diploma
- A notarized and apostilled transcript
- A notarized and apostilled letter signed by a university official stating the diploma and transcript are valid
My temporary (and now permanent) visa is a Professional Visa, which means I still work, have regular income from outside Ecuador, and a degree from an approved university. You can find the approved university list here…
Amelia has a degree from The University of Phoenix, but that university is not accepted by Ecuador because the majority of classes are taken online. To qualify as an approved university, more than 80% of classes must be taken in a classroom setting and not online.
I went to the University of Kansas (Rock Chalk Jayhawk) for both my bachelors and masters degrees. When I graduated in the 90’s, online courses weren’t a thing yet, so I took all my classes in-person. This means Amelia is here on a dependent visa that’s attached to my professional visa.
We had to get an official diploma and transcript from KU for my most advanced degree (Masters). We also had to get a notarized letter from a university official stating my degree was valid. Then we had to send that to the GringoVisas office in Connecticut so they could get it apostilled at the federal level before mailing it to Ecuador.
For the Ecuador Investor Visa, you need to invest $40,000 in an Ecuadorian CO-OP Certificate of Deposit (CD) for at least 2 years, the duration of your Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa. The new laws for this visa no longer have travel restrictions: You can leave Ecuador for as many days per year as you want during the first 2 years of your residency.
The interest rates on the CD’s will shock you if you’re coming from the US where banks no longer pay meaningful interest. As of this writing, the interest rate on a 2 year CD in Ecuador is roughly 8.5% annually! That’s roughly $287/month in interest on your $40,000 CD!!!
You can leave the interest in the account so it compounds, but you are allowed by law to withdraw the interest income from your CD without invalidating your visa. However, you need to be careful when signing the paperwork with the COOP because they will default the application to prevent withdrawal of the earned interest until the CD end date. Be specific with them and tell them that you want to withdraw the interest every month, 6 months, or each year, whichever you prefer.
Bank deposits are only insured up to $32,000 so that means at least $8,000 of your investment will not be insured. You are not allowed to split the investment into different accounts or different banks to make up the difference, either. The entire investment must be in one account.
In lieu of a COOP CD, you can also purchase property to qualify for an Investor Visa in Ecuador. The only requirement is that the property be assessed by the government at more than $40,000.
IMPORTANT: The assessment value may be substantially lower than the purchase price. You can request a new assessment if the registered value is less than $40,000.
You are not allowed to transfer the investment without reapplying for the visa. So, for instance, you cannot use your CD to buy property. The investment must remain the same for the entire duration of the Temporary Resident Visa and cannot be changed or transferred.
In order to get a Pensioners Visa, you need to show income for the remainder of your life of at least $400/month with no additional dependent income requirement (as of October 2020). This was recently changed, due to an oversight in the new visa laws, from $800/month + $100/month for each dependent. This may revert to the previous amounts in future updates to the laws and regulations.
Your income can be from Social Security, a pension, retirement accounts, annuities, etc. If you’re using Social Security for your income requirement, you’ll need an annual statement from the Social Security Administration (SSA) that’s signed by an SSA official and apostilled at the federal (not state) level. Due to the pandemic, this process is taking 8 to 10 weeks so plan accordingly.
You can only be outside Ecuador for 90 non-consecutive days per year with this type of Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa.
The Rentista Visa is a relatively new type of visa, and due to confusion about how it works, not many have been issued.
It’s similar to the Pensioner’s Visa in that you have to prove you have a consistent monthly income of $400/month from either a 2-year lease agreement attached to a rental property you own, or a 2-year work contract.
The main difference from the pension visa is that you don’t have to show it’s income for life. You just need to provide your last 6 months worth of bank statements showing that the qualifying amount has been deposited each month.
You may also need proof of your work contract or employment that states you will continue to earn an income after you move to Ecuador.
A Dependent Visa must be attached to a valid Temporary Resident Visa and can be used for your spouse, children, parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, or any blood relative. The primary Temporary Visa must be issued before the Dependent Visa application can be filed.
Amelia is here on a dependent visa attached to my professional visa. As long as we stay married, she can maintain her dependent visa, but if I die or she leaves me for a Latin lover, she will need to get her own visa and start the entire process over. That’s the major downside to the Dependent Visa in Ecuador.
It took 3 months for my visa to be approved and issued after we filed the paperwork with the ministry. We filed it shortly after our arrival in October and my visa was available toward the end of January. Amelia received her dependent visa in mid-March.
There are no other special requirements for the dependent visa. However, you can only be outside Ecuador for 90 non-consecutive days per year with this visa type.
90-Day Tourist Visa
This visa is easy to get. Just come to Ecuador and it gets issued at passport control. It’s only valid for 3 months, but you can apply for a 3 month extension if needed.
The extension application has a fee that has increased from $100 when we moved here to $133. You’ll need to apply at the end of your 90-day tourist visa.
The four other types of Ecuador temporary resident visas are the work visa, volunteer visa, student visa and industrial investor visa. These are only temporary visa options and cannot be converted to permanent resident visas at the end of the 2-year term. If your goal is to become a permanent resident of Ecuador, it’s best to get one of the other visa types.
These types of visas aren’t popular with expats because they don’t lead to permanent residency, so we’re not going to cover them in this article.
Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa Process
There are lots of steps involved with getting your Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa, and it usually takes 3 to 6 months.
It can take 2 to 3 months just to get the background checks done in the US, apostilled and mailed to Ecuador so keep that in mind when you’re planning your travel.
Step 1: Fingerprints
The first step in the process of getting your Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa is getting your fingerprints taken. We had ours taken in Cuenca Ecuador on our exploratory trip in 2017, but you can also have them taken back in the US.
Step 2: Background Check
Once we had our fingerprint forms, our visa agent requested the background checks from the FBI and Colorado state police.
Step 3: Visa Specific Requirements
You need to request a notarized diploma, transcript and the official university letter stating your documents are real. Then it needs to be apostilled at the federal level.
If you’re applying for a dependent visa, you’ll need to get a certified copy of your marriage license and have it apostilled. Your children and other relatives will need to have apostilled birth certificates.
For the investor visa, you’ll need to invest in CD at an Ecuadorian COOP for at least 2 years, or purchase property that you intend to keep for the duration of the temporary resident visa. You can wire funds directly to an Ecuadorian bank from a US bank.
You will need to open the CD in a COOP such as JEP because banks like Banco Guayaquil require an Ecuador government ID (cédula) to open an account. You can open an account at a COOP with just your passport and your investor visa application.
You need to request a letter from the SSA stating your monthly income and you’ll need to provide monthly income statements.
Step 4: Request an Appointment with the Ministry
You can go to any of the ministry offices in Ecuador to submit your application, but some have longer waits than others. Cuenca is one of the busiest offices in Ecuador so it can take 3 to 4 months just to get an appointment date to submit your application.
We went to Machala to submit our temporary visa application because the wait for an appointment was only 2 weeks. It can take several months to get appointments in the busier offices in Cuenca, Quito and Guayaquil.
Step 5: Fill Out and Notarize the Visa Application Form
The visa application form is in Spanish and must be filled out in Spanish. Once it’s filled out, you’ll need to go to a notary to have it notarized. You need to sign the application in front of the notary after showing him or her your identification.
Step 6: Submit Your Application
Once you have your completed visa application form and all the other required and apostilled documentation, go to the ministry office on the date of your appointment to submit your application. You’ll need your passport as identification. This process is different if your visa will be issued in your home country. Your visa agent will help with that process.
Step 7: Wait
We submitted my Ecuador temporary resident visa application at the end of October when we first arrived in Ecuador, but didn’t receive it until the end of January. It took 3 months to get approved and printed.
Due to the constantly changing laws and delays when we applied for our temporary resident visas, we were here in Ecuador for several months beyond our 3-month tourist visa without our temporary resident visa. Since the application was in-process, we technically weren’t illegal aliens, but it sure felt like we were! Thankfully we didn’t need to leave the country during that small window or it might have been difficult to get back in.
Step 8: Get Your Visa from the Ministry
Once your visa is approved, the government issues an electronic visa that is digitally attached to your passport number. They no longer attach a physical visa sticker to your passport. Again, if your passport is about to expire, we recommend renewing it first before applying for your Ecuador temporary resident visas.
Step 9: Get a Cédula
After we received our temporary resident visas, we took them to the government office in Cuenca to get our cédula, which is our official government issued identification card. It looks like a driver’s license, only it doesn’t allow us to drive.
It took about an hour to get the cédula and the cost was $5. You are not required to get a cédula, however, your expat life in Ecuador will be much easier and you’ll have more banking options available to you if you have one.
Hopefully, you found this lengthy article about the Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas helpful. If you see others asking about this complex process on social media, please share it with them. And if you spot any inaccuracies or outdated rules, please let us know so we can keep this up-to-date.
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