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New Expat First Impressions of Cuenca Ecuador + We Got Fingerprinted!!! (Episode 116)

In this video, a couple of our subscribers and new arrivals share their New Expat First Impressions of Cuenca Ecuador. Plus, Amelia and I got fingerprinted! Relax… It’s for the background checks we need to file our Ecuador Permanent Residency Visa application.

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Cuenca Ecuador Fingerprints

Cuenca Police Station Fingerprints

Before we went to Zatua Miski to meet Bonnie and Gary, we started our afternoon with Maite from GringoVisas. She and Francisco drove us to the police station near the airport to get our fingerprints for our background checks.

It took us over an hour to get our fingerprints taken at the Cuenca police station. Things tend to always take longer than expected here in Ecuador. It’s one of the cultural differences here. Doctors office visits are faster than the States, everything is slower.

The extra time was mainly due to a couple of suspects who were being booked. Amelia called them criminals in the video, but we don’t know anything about them and they’re suspects until they’ve been found guilty.

You only met Francisco very briefly in the video. He’s an attorney here in Cuenca and he handles immigration cases, as well as other civil and real estate cases. We’re going to do a full video about him in the future, so stay tuned for that.

If you need to get in touch with Maite or Francisco, it’s best to contact them directly through their website at GringoVisas.com.

New Expat First Impressions of Cuenca Ecuador

New Expat First Impressions of Cuenca Ecuador

After we left Maite’s office at GringoVisas, we took a cab to El Centro to meet Bonnie and Gary at Zatua Miski for some delicious postres (desserts).

Bonnie and Gary moved to Cuenca about two months ago and were kind enough to share their first impressions of Cuenca Ecuador. They were a little homesick at first, which is very common, but they’ve settled into daily life here quite well.

In addition to a growing social life, they’re also taking Spanish classes. They are very happy with their decision to move here, and they’re very thankful for the welcoming Ecuadorian hospitality.

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Ecuador Permanent Resident Visa 2019 w/ Maite from GringoVisas Cuenca (Episode 112)

An Ecuador Permanent Resident Visa is something we need if we want to stay in Ecuador beyond our 2-year temporary resident visa expiration date.

Our temporary resident visa expires in 8 months and we wanted to get a headstart on the permanent resident visa process because it can take awhile to get all the necessary paperwork. It also takes awhile for the Ecuadorian government to approve and issue our permanent resident visas.

Here’s an overview of what you can expect if you’re ready to apply for your Ecuador Permanent Resident Visa. If you’re looking for more information about moving here, check out our Ecuador Expat Info page.

Ecuador Permanent Resident Visa Requirements

Here is the “current” list of requirements to apply for an Ecuador Permanent Resident Visa. I say “current” because the laws and regulations are constantly changing here in Ecuador, which is why we strongly suggest working with a visa agent like GringoVisas.

Even if you’re fluent in Spanish, which is a requirement to navigate this process by yourself, it’s impossible to stay on top of the frequent changes unless you do this full time and have government connections who can explain them to you.

There are other visa agents in Ecuador and Cuenca like EcuadorVisas.com and Visa Angels Ecuador, but we haven’t worked with them. If you would like to contact GringoVisas, visit the GringoVisas Contact Us page and be sure to tell Maité that Amelia And JP sent you.

You can read all the detailed requirements on the government website here…

Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa

If you’re still in the planning phase of your move to Ecuador, I suggest watching our Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa video first. That’s because the first requirement for an Ecuador Permanent Resident Visa is having a temporary resident visa for at least 21 months.

Health Insurance

You either need public or private health insurance to apply for a permanent resident visa in Ecuador.

The public plan is called IESS and it’s Ecuador’s version of social security. The IESS plan is cheaper than private insurance, but you’ll need to go to the IESS hospital and doctors when you need medical care. We don’t have any experience with either, but we’re told the facilities aren’t quite as nice or modern as the private hospitals.

Our relatively new health insurance plan is through Confiamed. We purchased that plan through an insurance broker here in Cuenca after our other insurance company went bankrupt. If you need our insurance agent’s contact info, please drop us a note and I’ll send an email introduction.

The cost of both public and private health insurance depends on the standard factors: single or couple, age and non-smoker. Pre-existing conditions are covered after a 2-year waiting period with private insurance. We’ve heard there is no waiting period with the IESS plan, but we’re not positive about that. Those regulations have changed since we arrived in Ecuador, too.

We pay $156/month for a private health insurance plan for both of us. We’re 47 and 50 year old non-smokers. A non-smoking married couple we know said they pay $77/month for the IESS plan to cover both of them.

Fingerprints & Background Checks

We need to get our fingerprints taken at the police station here in Cuenca so they can be used to request new background checks. If you leave Ecuador for even one day during your temporary resident visa period, you must supply new background checks from the FBI and state police back in the States with your permanent resident visa application.

Marriage License

Unfortunately, we didn’t register our marriage with the Ecuadorian government, so we need to get a new copy of our marriage license and have it re-apostilled. The apostille date needs to be less than 6 months from the date of the application so the apostilled marriage license from our temporary resident visa application has expired.

This time, we’re going to register our marriage in Ecuador so it’s always on file and we don’t have to go through this process again. We’re not sure how the process works so GringoVisas is going to help us. Maite said it only costs $2 or $3 to register it with the ministry.

Specific Visa Type Requirements

There are several different types of Ecuador Visas, and the requirements vary depending on the type you have.

Professional Visa

We’re here in Ecuador on a Professional Visa, which means we still work, have regular income from outside Ecuador (at least $385/month as of our temporary visa application in 2017), and a degree from an approved university.

Amelia has a degree from The University of Phoenix, but that university degree is not accepted by Ecuador because the majority of classes are taken 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 all means Amelia is here on a dependent visa that’s attached to my professional visa.

Since we had my degree certified and apostilled for our temporary resident visa, we don’t need to have that done again. It’s already on record with the ministry and attached to my name.

Investor Visa

If you purchased a bank CD to get your temporary resident visa, you’ll need to renew that CD for another 2 to 3 years, or as long as you plan to live in Ecuador with your permanent resident visa. Once you leave or become a citizen, you no longer need the bank CD and can withdraw the money.

Pensioners Visa

If you have a temporary resident pensioners visa, you’ll need to get a new copy of your pension letter stating your income.

Dependent Visa

As I mentioned, Amelia is here on a dependent visa attached to my professional visa. That means she can’t apply for her permanent resident dependent visa until I get my permanent resident professional visa.

The same was true for her temporary resident visa, which is why her temporary visa expiration date is 2 months after mine. We were able to submit our temporary resident visa applications at the same time, but the approval process for Amelia’s dependent visa didn’t start until my professional visa was issued.

We’re going to submit my permanent resident visa application during the last week of October since mine expires the last week of January. We’ll submit Amelia’s application in the middle of December since her visa expires in the middle of March.

Other Visas

The four other types of Ecuador visas are work visa, volunteer visa, student visa and industrial investor visa. These visa types are only temporary visa options. They aren’t available visa types for permanent resident visas.

Ecuador Permanent Resident Visa Ministry Fees

The Ecuador Permanent Resident Visa has two primary fees. The permanent resident visa application fee is $50 per application and is non-refundable. If your visa application is approved, the permanent resident visa fee is $500 per person.

Ecuador Permanent Visa Process

It’s VERY important to get an early start on your Ecuador Permanent Resident Visa application process. If you miss the window to file, which is between 21 and 24 months from the issue date of your temporary resident visa, you may need to apply for another temporary resident visa. That would restart the clock and you would need to wait another 21 months to apply for a permanent resident visa.

It can take 2 to 3 months to get the background checks done in the US and mailed to Ecuador, which is why Maite suggests starting this process 5 to 6 months before your visa expires. Your temporary resident visa is good for 2 years exactly, so that means you need to start the process around month 18.

Step 1: Fingerprints

The first step in the process of getting your Ecuador Permanent Resident Visa is getting your fingerprints taken. Maite scheduled an appointment at the police station here in Cuenca to get our fingerprints taken.

We had them taken here in Cuenca Ecuador on our exploratory trip 2 years ago for our temporary resident visa application, but the ministry doesn’t keep them on file unless you commit a crime. Therefore, we have to get our fingerprints taken again at the police station so they can be used to request new background checks.

Step 2: Background Check

Once we have our fingerprint forms, Maite’s team will request the background checks from the FBI and state police back in the US.

Step 3: Visa Specific Requirements

Professional Visa

You need to request a notarized diploma, transcript and the official university letter stating your documents are real. Then it needs to be apostilled.

Dependent Visa

If you are in Ecuador on a temporary resident dependent visa and you didn’t register your marriage with the Ecuadorian government, you’ll need to get your marriage license re-apostilled to submit with your permanent resident dependent visa application.

Investor Visa

For the investor visa, you’ll need to renew your bank CD for another 2 or 3 years.

Pensioner Visa

You need to request a new letter stating your monthly income.

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 on the coast to submit our temporary visa application because the wait for an appointment was only 2 weeks. Machala is about 3 to 4 hours from Cuenca, so a lot of people go to Azogues, which is about 30 minutes from Cuenca. However, Azogues also has much longer wait times than Machala.

Right now, the long waits are mainly due to the influx of Venezuelan refugees. The Ecuadorian government is prioritizing them so they’re able to work legally to support themselves and their families.

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 here in Ecuador to have it notarized. You need to sign the application in front of the notary after showing him or her your passport or cedula as identification.

Step 6: Submit Your Application

Once you have your completed visa application form and all the other required documentation, you’ll go to the ministry office on the date of your appointment to submit your application. You’ll need your passport and potentially your cedula (that’s your government ID card, similar to a driver’s license). I recommend taking them both.

Step 7: Wait

We submitted my temporary 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. We’re expecting a similar timeframe for the permanent resident visa.

Maite said if the permanent resident visa takes longer than 3 months to get approved and issued, which would push us beyond the 2 year limit of our temporary resident visa, there won’t be a problem because the clock stops ticking once the application is submitted (not when the visa is issued).

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 prints a visa sticker that must be applied to one of the pages in your passport by a government official at the ministry office where you submitted your application.

For my temporary visa, Maite took my passport to Machala to get the sticker on one of her weekly trips. She did the same thing for Amelia so we didn’t need to take the long trek back to Machala to get them.

Step 9: Get a New Cedula

After we received our temporary resident visa, we took it to the government office here in Cuenca to get our cedula, which is our official Ecuador ID card. It looks like a driver’s license, only it doesn’t allow us to drive.

Once we receive our new permanent resident visa, we’ll need to get a new cedula because our old cedula says we’re on a temporary visa.

Ecuador Citizenship

Our current plan is to apply for citizenship once we’ve been here for 5 years. That’s the amount of time you need to live in the country before applying: 2 years on a temporary resident visa and at least 3 years on a permanent resident visa.

Since the permanent resident visa never expires, we can technically live here for the rest of our lives without ever applying for citizenship, but we like the idea of having 2 passports: one from the US and one from Ecuador.

Another reason to get citizenship is the flexibility to leave Ecuador for longer periods of time. On a temporary resident visa, we can only be outside Ecuador for 90 non-consecutive days per year. With a permanent resident visa, we can only be outside Ecuador for 180 non-consecutive days per year. With citizenship, there are no travel restrictions. We can leave for several years and come back whenever we want.

Hopefully you enjoyed our video and this lengthy blog post about the Ecuador Permanent Resident Visa. 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 me know so I can keep this up-to-date.

¡Muchas gracias y hasta luego!

Ecuador Resident Visa Types & Process 2019 – Interview w/ Maité Durán at Gringo Visas (Episode 93)

We get a lot of questions about the types of Ecuador resident visas and the process for getting a visa in Ecuador so we arranged an interview with Maité Durán at GringoVisas. She and her team helped Amelia and me get our Ecuador temporary resident visa when we decided to move to Ecuador.

If you’re already in Ecuador and nearing the end of your 2-year temporary resident visa, you may be interested in our Ecuador Permanent Resident Visa video and blog post. Some of the information is the same for both, but there are a few differences. We also have Ecuador Expat Info videos on other topics.

Maite and GingoVisas

Maité founded GringoVisas over 9 years ago after she moved back to Ecuador from Connecticut. She thought the process was very confusing and difficult to navigate as an Ecuadorian native trying to get visas for her US born children, so she thought it must REALLY be difficult for non-native Spanish speakers moving from another country. That’s when the idea for GringoVisas was born.

Now, Maite has an office in Cuenca and one in Danbury, Connecticut with several employees who help people get visas, cedulas, drivers licenses, marriage licenses, health insurance and bank accounts on a daily basis.

Even if you’re fluent in Spanish, which is a requirement to navigate this process by yourself, it’s impossible to stay on top of the frequent changes unless you do this full time and have government connections who can explain them to you. That’s why we recommend having an expert on the ground like Maite and her team who stay up-to-date with the constant changes.

There are other visa agents in Ecuador and Cuenca like EcuadorVisas.com and Visa Angels Ecuador, but we haven’t worked with them so we can’t attest to their abilities. If you would like to contact GringoVisas, visit the GringoVisas Contact Us page and be sure to tell Maité that Amelia And JP sent you.

Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa Types

There are several different types of Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas, and the requirements vary depending on the type you get. The physical visa is a fancy sticker that gets applied to a page in your passport by a government official.

Professional and pensioner visas can be issued while you’re still in the US so you can come to Ecuador with your visa already affixed to your passport. However, you have to come to Ecuador to pick up your investor visa in person from the ministry.

Professional Visa

We’re here in Ecuador on a Professional Visa, which means we still work, have regular income from outside Ecuador (at least $385/month as of our temporary visa application in 2017), 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 degree is not accepted by Ecuador because the majority of classes are taken 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 (my 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 Connecticut office so they could get it apostilled before mailing it to Ecuador.

This process was a real pain because the Ecuadorian government kept changing the rules during our application process. We had to make two trips to the KU campus to get all the documents we needed. Thankfully, we just happened to be in Kansas visiting my parents during this phase of the process.

Investor Visa

For the Ecuador Investor Visa, you need to invest $40,000 + $500 for each dependent (as of 2019) in an Ecuadorian bank 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.

The interest rates on the CD’s will shock you if you’re coming from the US where banks don’t pay meaningful interest anymore. As of this writing, the interest rate on a 2 year CD is roughly 9%. That’s nine percent, not point 9 percent. My bank account back in Denver earns .1 % right now.

Pensioners Visa

In order to get a Pensioners Visa, you need to show income for the remainder of your life of at least $800/month + $100/month for each dependent (as of 2019). This can be from your Social Security check, retirement accounts, annuities, etc. You can only be outside Ecuador for 90 non-consecutive days with this visa type.

Dependent Visa

As I mentioned, 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.

In order to apply for a dependant visa, your spouse’s/parent’s visa needs to be issued first. We were able to submit Amelia’s temporary resident application with mine, but they didn’t start processing it until my professional visa had been issued.

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, but you can only be outside Ecuador for 90 non-consecutive days with this visa type.

Tourist Visa

This visa is easy to get. Just come to Ecuador and it gets issued at passport control. However, it’s only good for 3 months, but you can get a 3 month extension if needed.

Other Visas

The four other types of Ecuador visas are work visa, volunteer visa, student visa and industrial investor visa. These are only temporary visa options. They aren’t available visa types for permanent resident visas. If your goal is to become a permanent resident of Ecuador, it’s best to get one of the other visa types.

Since these aren’t common with expats and we don’t know much about them, I’m not going to cover those in this blog post. Please contact Maite at GringoVisas or one of the other visa agents if you have questions about these visa types.

Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa Requirements

There are a few main requirements to get an Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa. You can read the detailed list on the government website here…

Health Insurance

You either need public or private health insurance to apply for a temporary resident visa in Ecuador.

The public plan is called IESS and it’s Ecuador’s version of social security. The IESS plan is cheaper than private insurance, but you’ll need to go to the IESS hospital and doctors when you need medical care. We don’t have any experience with either, but we’re told the facilities aren’t quite as nice or modern as the private hospitals.

Our relatively new health insurance plan is through Confiamed. We purchased that plan through an insurance broker here in Cuenca after our other insurance company went bankrupt. If you need our insurance agent’s contact info, please drop us a note and I’ll send an email introduction.

The cost of both public and private health insurance depends on the standard factors: single or couple, age and non-smoker. Pre-existing conditions are covered after a 2-year waiting period with private insurance. We’ve heard there is no waiting period with the IESS plan, but we’re not positive about that. Those regulations have changed since we arrived in Ecuador, too.

We pay $156/month for a private health insurance plan for both of us. We’re 47 and 50 year old non-smokers. A non-smoking married couple we know said they pay $77/month for the IESS plan to cover both of them.

Fingerprints & Background Checks

We had our fingerprints taken at the police station here in Cuenca when we visited on our exploratory trip 2 years ago. They were used to request FBI and state police background checks. These reports must be less than 6 months old when you file your visa application.

Marriage License

For dependent visas, you’ll need a marriage license, or birth certificates for children. The apostille date needs to be less than 6 months from the date of the application.

You can register your marriage license in Ecuador so it’s always on file and you don’t have to go through this process again. Maite said it only costs $2 or $3 to register it with the ministry.

Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa Ministry Fees

The Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa has two primary fees (as of 2019). The temporary resident visa application fee is $50 per application and is non-refundable. If your visa application is approved, the temporary resident visa fee is $400 per person.

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 took us almost a year to get ours due to the constantly changing immigration laws following the last presidential election.

It can take 2 to 3 months just to get the background checks done in the US 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 here in Cuenca Ecuador on our exploratory trip 2 years ago, but you can also have them taken back in the states. Maite’s team can help you with that.

Step 2: Background Check

Once we had our fingerprint forms, Maite’s team requested the background checks from the FBI and Colorado state police back in the US.

Step 3: Visa Specific Requirements

Professional Visa

You need to request a notarized diploma, transcript and the official university letter stating your documents are real. Then it needs to be apostilled.

Dependent Visa

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 will need to have apostilled birth certificates.

Investor Visa

For the investor visa, you’ll need to invest in an Ecuadorian bank CD for at least 2 years. You can wire the funds directly to the bank.

Pensioner Visa

You need to request a letter stating your monthly income.

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 on the coast to submit our temporary visa application because the wait for an appointment was only 2 weeks. Maite said the wait in Machala is now 4 to 6 weeks. Machala is about 3 to 4 hours from Cuenca, so a lot of people go to Azogues, which is about 30 minutes from Cuenca. However, Azogues also has much longer wait times than Machala.

Right now, the long waits are mainly due to the influx of Venezuelan refugees. The Ecuadorian government is prioritizing them so they’re able to work legally to support themselves and their families.

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, you’ll 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. Maite or 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 prints a visa sticker that must be applied to one of the pages in your passport by a government official at the ministry office where you submitted your application. Again, this process is different if your visa is being issued in your home country.

For my temporary visa, Maite took my passport to Machala to get the sticker on one of her weekly trips. She did the same thing for Amelia so we didn’t need to take the long trek back to Machala to get them.

Step 9: Get a Cedula

After we received our temporary resident visa, we took it to the government office here in Cuenca to get our cedula, which is our official Ecuador ID card. It looks like a driver’s license, only it doesn’t allow us to drive.

Hopefully you enjoyed our video and this lengthy blog post about the Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa. 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 me know so I can keep this up-to-date.

¡Muchas gracias y hasta luego!