Written by Sara Chaca,
Attorney – Abogada of “Ecuador Visas”
March 16th, 2017
Following moving to Ecuador and obtaining one’s Permanent Residency Visa, many an Expat simply elects to REMAIN as a Permanent Resident of Ecuador, and NOT jump through the next procedural hoop in sequence, which is of course to become an Ecuadorian Citizen who is able to get an Ecuadorian Passport. Truly, that is a fine idea to remain ONLY as a Permanent Resident of Ecuador, because as you likely already know, Permanent Residency in Ecuador is generally valid for one’s lifetime, subject to one not leaving Ecuador for more than 90 days during either of one’s first two years as a Permanent Resident of Ecuador, nor leaving Ecuador for more than 18 months in a single trip thereafter one’s first two years of Permanent Residency are completed. Of 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.
And despite many rumors to the contrary, one IS IN FACT ALWAYS PERMITTED by the Citizenship Law in Ecuador, to have Dual Citizenship in Ecuador, regardless of what other country he/she is currently a Citizen of, though one’s country of origin MIGHT have something to say about it (generally not though in my experience as an Immigration Lawyer). This is certainly NO PROBLEM though for the likes of say, Americans and Canadians, who each are without a doubt permitted by their respective home countries to apply for Citizenship in Ecuador. And so, it is to each his/her own, as per if or when they will later apply for Ecuadorian Citizenship, again following their first 3 years of Permanent Ecuadorian Residency, since Citizenship is not able to be applied for prior to that time. The above constitutes the same exact rules 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 simply marry an Ecuadorian Citizen and immediately or within a matter of months thereafter become a Citizen of Ecuador themselves. That is simply not the case these days, for Expats who marry or wish to marry an Ecuadorian Citizen, as they can no longer obtain Ecuador Citizenship by Marriage. Though of course, any person born in Ecuador, or any person born to an Ecuadorian Citizen, CAN/WILL automatically qualify for Ecuador Citizenship by Birth or Ecuadorian Citizenship through Parents, as the applicable case may be, WITHOUT the need for the above mentioned 3 year wait since the date of Cedulazation. Please note though that there is NO such thing as obtaining Ecuador Citizenship by Investment without first becoming a Permanent Resident of Ecuador and also waiting the above mentioned required 3 years since Cedulazation.
As one might be curious, the benefits of Getting Citizenship in Ecuador, begin with the fact that you become eligible to receive an Ecuadorian Passport (provided you comply with the then easy to fulfill Ecuadorian Passport requirements). In this way of how to get an Ecuadorian Passport, that then in turn permits you to be able to travel to any other country in South America on it, without your other country of origin Passport that you would otherwise need if/when only a Resident of Ecuador. This is very convenient, since in such case you no longer have any need for a Visa to visit any other country in South America if you have your Ecuadorian Passport (or just Ecuadorian Cedula at that point, which shows you are a Citizen of Ecuador). Plus, each time that you would have otherwise needed to transfer your Permanent Residency Visa to your new Passport, you no longer need to provide or show your qualification for Permanent Ecuadorian Residency when you are an Ecuadorian Citizen (whether that be by Investment, Pension or University Degree). And of course, if by chance for your Permanent Residency Visa qualification, you had happened to have selected an Investor Visa in Ecuadorian Bank CD or Ecuadorian Real Estate Property, once you are an Ecuadorian Citizen you are permitted to liquidate or sell that such asset and spend it as you wish. One small drawback of becoming an Ecuadorian Citizen is that you MUST vote in every national election of Ecuador. Technically you can still SKIP voting in Ecuadorian elections if you really want to, as the remedy is simply that you be subject to paying a small fine (i.e. between $50-100) in the case that you fail to vote for one or more candidates running for office in Ecuador in any given year of a national election in Ecuador.
And so now, 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:
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 time period from 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 to you in the context of a written test and oral interview, as to proving your intermediate or better Spanish speaking ability, which generally needs to be demonstrated by you as to you having a fairly 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 one applies/applied for a Permanent Residency Visa itself, which Permanent Residency in Ecuador itself does not include these additional requirements that Ecuadorian Citizenship does in fact require.
The determination, as always, rests with you, as to whether it is better for you to apply for Ecuadorian Citizenship or rather, to simply remain a Permanent Resident of Ecuador. And so, make sure to consider your options, and as always, consult with competent legal counsel, prior to making an actionable decision for the benefit of yourself and/or your family.
Sara Chaca (Attorney – Abogada) is a seasoned Ecuadorian Lawyer, whose law practice is operated out of Office #303 in Edificio Acropolis, Cuenca, Ecuador. Sara’s personal email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and Sara’s personal cell phone number is 099.296.2065. Sara has a less than 24 hour first response policy, in that if you email or call her, she WILL return your first email or first phone call in less than 24 hours (more typically closer to 24 minutes). Most importantly, all first time consultations with Expats for any type legal matter(s) are always FREE OF CHARGE.