Wednesday, March 15, 2017

New Immigration Law 2017 -- Part II Temporary Visas

The Newly Released Human Mobility Act (Immigration Law 2017) is causing a bit of confusion for some folks, so I'm going to try and clarify a few things.

In the good old days, we entered Ecuador on a T3 visa, which allowed us to stay 90 days. Actually, we arrived with a 12-IX visa which allowed us six months, but we were able to get permanent residency in three weeks! Imagine that? We were either an immigrant or non-immigrant.

Under the new law, you’re either a transient (visitor) just passing through on your way somewhere else; a tourist; a temporary resident or a permanent resident.  And, yes, you can become a naturalized citizen, but we’ll save that for part three in the series.

There are some key differences in the new law: First, you will need proof of medical insurance that is valid during your entire stay in Ecuador (it can be private or public); a passport valid for at least six months (that’s not new), and lastly you cannot apply directly for permanent residency (one of the principal differences in the old and new law). You have to apply for a temporary visa first. Did I mention that Ecuador loves paper work! They just added a second step to a three-step process.

Let’s talk about these “temporary” folks:

Transient: These are folks that are just passing through. You’re really on your way to Machu Picchu, but your plane doesn’t leave until the next morning out of Quito, so you’re spending the night at the new Wyndham near the airport.

Tourist:  You’re coming here to strictly visit the country (not to work, but to play). These visas are granted upon arriving in Ecuador and are valid for 90 days.  And if you love Ecuador as much as we do, you’ll probably want to extend your stay (right?). Yes, absolutely, you can do that! You can apply for an extension for another 90 days, which is a total of 180 days (or six months). However, you can extend this only once in a one-year period!  There is also another option by which you can extend your stay for up to a year, but only once in a five-year period. 

This is good news for a lot of folks, especially those who really don’t want to apply for a permanent residency visa because they want to live six months in the States and six months in Ecuador. This works out perfectly for them and we know several people who already do that, but you sure don’t want to run over your limit. By the way, I would suggest if you plan to do Ecuador living this way that you first consult with an attorney. The last thing you want to do is overextend your welcome.

Okay, so you’ve stayed in Ecuador and liked it so much that you want to apply for a temporary residency visa.

Temporary Residency: This visa allows you to stay TWO years. And, guess what? You can renew it again for another TWO years!  And you can travel in and out of the country (and go see Machu Picchu). However, one thing remains the same; you cannot be gone more than 90 days in the two-year period. In other words, just like in the good old days: 90 days the first year; 90 days the second year (and the same for the next two years if you decide to renew). I just call it the 90-day rule.

And the categories for the temporary residency visa remain the same: work, pensioner, investor, academic, athletic/artist, religious volunteer (missionary or pastor), volunteer for other organizations, student, dependent on the person holding the migratory visa, and technical/professional. 

Proof of medical insurance is mandatory; criminal background check; and passport valid for at least six months. And, of course, all of the different categories require their own documentation, which I won’t go into right now as there are approximately 13 categories. Oh, yes, and there are fees for all the paperwork and more fees if you’re going through an immigration attorney.

Permanent Residency:  I know I already covered this in my other blog post, so I’m working backwards and going forwards. Bear with me. This visa allows you to stay in Ecuador for an indefinite amount of time (as its name implies – PERMANENT). Here’s the catch! To apply for permanent residency,  you have to go through the temporary visa process and have stayed in Ecuador for at least 21 months, be married to an Ecuadorian (it happens a lot), and be related to a permanent resident or citizen.

And, of course, there’s lots of paperwork involved and a definite process for those holding temporary visas to change to permanent visas. The biggest change for permanent residency is the travel restriction, which has been extended to 180 days for the first year, 180 days for the second year, and a whopping five years for the third year before needing to return to Ecuador. Remember under the old law, it was 90 days -90 days -18 months, except if you were going for citizenship (naturalization) and then it was 90 days in three years (30-30-30). But we’ll talk about citizenship the next time (maybe!).

So what if you’ve already applied or you’re in the process of applying and now you’re confused. Don’t be. If you’re going for permanent residency, you just have one extra step; you need to apply for a temporary visa first. After being here for 21 months as a temporary resident, you’ll need to submit the application for permanent residency before your temporary status is up (two years or 24 months). 

Once you receive your permanent residency visa, you can then apply for IESS (Social Security Medical System) or other private insurance.

Let’s sum it up. Yes, there are some good things and some bad things with the new law, but the most important thing is to have your travel medical insurance in place before you come to Ecuador. Personally we use World Nomads when we travel out of Ecuador and now that we’re permanent residents, we have IESS (Social Security Medical System). 

Other important items: This law does not go into effect until 120 days from February 6, 2017. I guess that makes it around June 6, 2017 (or thereabouts). All visas that were obtained before the enforcement of the new immigration law will remain the same. And all visa applications that were started before the enforcement of the law will be exempt from the new regulations. I can already hear a collective sigh of relief!

Until next time...hasta luego, 


Connie & Mark 




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