Written by Sara Chaca,

Attorney-Abogada of “Ecuador Visas”

June 7th, 2017

The new Immigration Law of Ecuador of 2017, also called the “Human Mobility Act” (known in Spanish and to Ecuadorians as “Ley de Movilidad Humana”), has now been officially implemented, and is currently in full force in virtually every respect.  This new Ecuador Immigration Law serves in place and replacement of the previous Immigration Law in Ecuador, and was created and passed so as to decrease the number of categories and make immigration to Ecuador become a more simplified process.  Whether that goal has been achieved or not, still remains to be seen, and surely there will be many different opinions to that affect as we move forward.

Ecuador Tourist Visas (Ecuador Visitor Visas):

Ecuador’s new immigration law permits two separate types of temporary visitors:

  • Tourists/Visitors* – Individuals who are intending to spend up to 90 days in Ecuador on a FREE Visitor Visa (also called an “Ecuador Tourist Visa T-3 Stamp”), plus individuals who are intending to spend in excess of 90 days in Ecuador (generally on a combination of a FREE Tourist Visa and a PAID Tourist Visa Extension that can be obtained while here on one’s first free 90 day stay in Ecuador)
  • Persons in Transit* – Individuals en route to their final intended destination (typically through an Ecuadorian Airport), that are simply passing through Ecuador, without the intention or act of staying/lodging in Ecuador

*Any person who visits Ecuador with the sole intent of carrying out tourism related activities, is NOT permitted to be employed or work in Ecuador for any Ecuadorian company or organization; this rule of course does NOT apply to one’s ability to work remotely by computer or phone while as a Tourist here in Ecuador, for the benefit of carrying out the duties of their own job, business or organization that is officially domiciled outside of Ecuador itself.

As indicated above, a FREE Tourist Visa is valid for a period of 90 days, and is generally provided automatically on arrival to Ecuador to persons from most other countries who do not need to present anything else other than their valid and unexpired Passport from their country of origin, i.e. from the US or Canada (some notable country exceptions to this FREE Tourist Visa of 90 days, currently include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Senegal and Cuba).  Also as stated earlier in this article, Tourists have the option to apply for and receive an additional 90 day Tourist Visa Extension here in Ecuador. In the case that a Tourist wants to remain in Ecuador for a more substantial duration of time, the Tourist may also apply for a special class of extension that will provide them with an additional 180 day period as a Tourist in Ecuador (it is important to note though that such special class of extension can only be granted to a Tourist one time in every 5 year period, so simply put, this is NOT a way to stay in Ecuador year round).

“Ecuador Residency Visa” types (for those desiring to “live” in Ecuador)

Currently, there exist two different types of Ecuador Residency Visa types, for purposes of Ecuador’s new visa laws:

  • Temporary Residency Visas
  • Permanent Residency Visas

Temporary Residency Visas (generally valid for 2 years of Residency): 

Any person desiring the ability to remain in Ecuador for a more substantial duration of time as compared to an Ecuador Tourist Visa (how was indicated earlier in this article), needs to apply for and receive a type of visa that allows them to be a Temporary Resident of Ecuador for up to two years, on what is aptly known as a “Temporary Residency Visa”.  A person on an Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa is permitted to leave Ecuador up to 90 days in their first year of Temporary Residency, and once again up to 90 days in their second year of Temporary Residency – failure to adhere to this 90 day requirement in each of one’s first two years of Temporary Residency (as counted from the date that a person’s Temporary Residency Visa stamp is placed into their foreign issued Passport), will result in the cancellation of their Temporary Residency Visa by the Ecuadorian Government. 

If during or following one’s Temporary Residency in Ecuador, the Temporary Resident of Ecuador desires to leave Ecuador for a protracted period of time (or leave Ecuador forever even), naturally they are free to depart Ecuador, and in such case, they have no need to ever return to Ecuador again for any reason or purpose, if they don’t wish to.  However, if in such case, a Temporary Resident does return to Ecuador after a protracted absence from the country (and in so doing had lost their Ecuadorian Temporary Residency Visa), then they will either need to re-enter Ecuador on a new Ecuadorian Tourist Visa (Ecuador new visa) and/or need to apply for a new Ecuador Temporary Residency Visa, depending on the circumstances and timing of their protracted departure from Ecuador to determine if or what type new visa Ecuador may require.

Permanent Residency Visas (generally valid for a lifetime of Residency): 

For any person whose intention it is to become a long-term Resident of Ecuador (i.e. for more than the two year period of Residency that is granted to any Temporary Resident of Ecuador), a type of visa known as a “Permanent Residency Visa” exists for that purpose.  A person on an Ecuador Permanent Resident Visa is permitted to leave Ecuador up to 180 days in their first year of Temporary Residency, and once again up to 180 days in their second year of Temporary Residency – failure to adhere to this 180 day requirement in either of one’s first two years of Permanent Residency (as counted from the date that a person’s Permanent Residency Visa stamp is placed into their foreign issued Passport), will result in the loss of one’s Permanent Residency Visa.  However, after one’s first two years have been completed on their Permanent Residency Visa, a Permanent Resident is permitted to leave Ecuador for up to 5 years and not face any monetary penalty, nor any loss of their Permanent Residency Visa.  Plus, any person who has been a Resident of Ecuador for at least 5 years is permitted to vote in any Ecuadorian election and/or run for public office in Ecuador.  A Permanent Resident is additionally permitted to apply for Ecuadorian Citizenship and Get an Ecuador Passport, once they have been a Permanent Resident of Ecuador for at least three years (though as other requirements and restrictions apply regarding Ecuadorian Naturalization, feel free to read my other article on ‘Gringo Tree’, titled, “ECUADORIAN CITIZENSHIP: HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW”, that is accessible at the following link: https://www.gringotree.com/ecuadorian-citizenship-naturalization-need-know/).

Any SINGLE qualification that is met by a person from the following list of eligible classes under Ecuador’s new Immigration Law, allows a person to apply for a Permanent Residency Visa in Ecuador:

  • Any person who has legally been on a “Temporary Residency Visa” for at least 21 months (subject to the above indicated maximum exit requirements of 90 days per year)
  • Any person who is or becomes married to an Ecuadorian citizen (assuming of course that the marriage wasn’t arranged or fraudulent)
  • Any person who is directly related by blood to an Ecuadorian citizen or any other person who presently maintains Permanent Residency status in Ecuador (as evidenced by an authentic birth certificate showing the direct blood relation)
  • Any person who is a minor dependent (under the age of 18) or who is a disabled dependent of any other person who presently maintains Permanent Residency status in Ecuador (as evidenced by authentic dependency/disability documents and/or birth certificate too if applicable)

Ecuador Health Insurance Requirement (ONLY for “long term” Tourists, Temporary Residents & Permanent Residents)

 A Tourist who spends no more than 90 days in Ecuador during any given year, does NOT need to show proof of health insurance or travel insurance here in Ecuador.  However, any person who wishes to acquire a Tourist Visa Extension (which would entitle that person to remain in Ecuador past 90 days in any given year), must in such case obtain and provide proof of having a health insurance policy (or a travel health insurance policy) in Ecuador that will cover them for the entire duration of their stay in the country.  As well, any person desiring to be or become a Resident in Ecuador (Temporary Resident and/or Permanent Resident), will also need to provide proof of having a health insurance policy in Ecuador.  Most private health insurance plans in Ecuador currently range in cost from around $60-200 per month for an individual, depending on one’s age and/or health condition.  The Ecuadorian Government’s Health Insurance system, known as IESS, is at times restrictive for foreigners to be able to afford or utilize (not being Ecuadorian Citizens themselves), and so in my experience, a high quality private insurance policy issued here in Ecuador is less expensive and easier for Expats to access and benefit from.

All in all, still being a fairly new law at hand (in and of Ecuador new visa laws), the Human Mobility Act of Ecuador remains subject to new interpretation/reinterpretation by the Ecuadorian Government, and so it is best to check back regularly as to the applicability and/or enforceability of its provisions.  As always, make sure to consider your options, and to consult with competent legal counsel, prior to making an actionable decision for the benefit of yourself and your family. 

Naturally, if you have any questions, feel free to email me directly at sara@ecuadorvisas.com.  Thanks for reading J!