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How to get your Extended Visa seems to be an issue of much debate with Expats here in Cuenca. However, debate or no debate getting your Extended Visa done correctly is just something that has to be done.
Whether you are wanting a 90 day Extended Tourist Visa or are planning on staying in Ecuador for a longer period and need a Temporary Residency Visa it really boils down to are you going to do it yourself, get some help or get someone to do it all for you.
Yes, you may do any of those options and there are several choices within those options.
As with so many things, it just depends who you ask and if you ask ten people you may get ten different answers.
I decided to have a Visa agent handle the entire process of getting my Temporary Residency Visa done and here’s why:
I used a Visa agent to do all of the acquiring and processing of paperwork and whatever else was needed. During my second visit to Ecuador, I met with a few people who had used different Visa agents and spoke with a few agents to discuss the process of what was entailed and get a better feel for what it takes to make it happen.
At the time I was still working and planning on doing that for 4-8 weeks when I returned before leaving my position, and then had hoped to be moving within a month after that.
I had no extra time. The idea of figuring out who, where and how to get the documents, then have them translated and apostilled was overwhelming and just not doable with the schedule I had. And that was before I got home and Life happened leaving my personal Life in turmoil.
I signed up with the Visa agent company, paid the deposit, signed the contract and off to the races we went. Just like when choosing the moving abroad shipping company I chose a local to Ecuador firm that specializes in the Visa process.
You can read about my experiences working with a moving abroad shipping company, getting my stuff shipped and through Customs here:
Dealing With Moving Abroad Shipping Companies, Getting Your Shipping Container Packed, And Figuring Out How To Get It All There Is A LOT! This Is The Process And Tips To Help You Navigate Through It With Ease
My reasoning was the same in both cases. The easy part is in the US. The potential hazards and wtf? issues I presumed could happen here in Ecuador. So I wanted people here in Ecuador that were familiar and up to date with the (constantly) changing laws, the cultural expectations, and the minute details that would need to be handled here.
While I was in Ecuador we did my fingerprints – five copies, just in case one wasn’t readable. The Visa agent company took care of the state and federal documents needed to be obtained from The US, coordinated with the bank here in Ecuador when I made my Investment and did I have no idea what – whatever was needed.
During the process, they kept me informed as to what had been requested and to whom, when those items were received, and if they were having to do anything with the docs – basically they told me every step of the way what was happening. Mostly I really didn’t pay attention because they were handling it and like I said when I got home my Life dramatically changed and I had my hands full.
I returned to Ecuador at the time that I was actually moving here, a few weeks before the Visa was approved. Once here, they notified me of when I needed to go with them to get specific local reports, or when my appointment at the Ministry office was.
They went with me, provided the transportation, provided any needed translation services, handled all appointments – and this is important – they made actual appointments. We didn’t just randomly go places and sit around waiting. They clearly knew and worked with the people we met with and all went very smoothly.
And as a bonus, they knew who needed a cup of coffee, or a little box of chocolates along the way to ensure a quick and efficient processing of papers.
On the day we went to the Ministry for the processing appointment a notice was sent out that the current law was being changed in regard to what type of health Insurance was required. As of that day.
At that time I didn’t have Ecuadorian Health Insurance I had International Insurance. And as of that day that was no longer going to work.
My Visa agent made an appointment for me the next day to meet with an English speaking Insurance Broker to help my understand what was required, how medical insurance worked here and to show me different options. Public Health Care, or Private. I went with private, and got a policy the same day. The Insurance Broker and my Visa agent worked together and my policy was submitted immediately resulting in no hold up of my Visa application.
About two weeks later my Visa was stamped and approved, and my Visa agent went back to Machala and picked up my newly approved Temporary Residency Visa for me. I met with her the next day and I was official.
Early the next week, they took me to the office where I was to get my Cedula. They processed the application, translated with the agent there and within an hour I had my Cedula.
My experience getting my Temporary Residency Visa was completely painless. Easy. Simple and done.
There are several Visa agents, attorneys and other services which help people obtain the permanent resident, extended stay or other Visa’s. Some are Ecuadorian owned and some are Expats. Some have a fee, some are by donation, and there is always the option to figure it out and do it yourself.
In a country where laws can change on a days notice, where bribes or gifts are regular and expected to get things done, and where it pays to know which offices will process faster than others I think it’s silly to try and go it alone and do it yourself.
Ofcourse your tolerance for these kinds of things may be much higher than mine….
I had regular communication with people who are fully bilingual in both verbal and written communication. My questions were answered within a day, and I was notified as things were happening. I had zero challenges with this part of my move.
Would I use this service again? Yes!
Would I choose to use a service again versus do it myself? Yes.
If you are thinking about moving and deciding whether to use a Visa agent or not I would suggest you talk with 3 different service providers. If you talk with different types of service providers, then talk with 2 of each type. For instance there are Visa agents who only handle Visa applications, there are attorney firms who do many things, there are volunteer organizations that help with the processing, and there are local citizens who ‘help’ for a fee and…..
There are as many good as there are bad stories, experiences, and recommendation or warnings about them all. Read between the lines a little, talk with them personally and then make your choice based on your experience with each.
Just get it in writing, and follow up. It wouldn’t hurt to ask each for references of people who have used their services and call them and talk with them.
Here are a few questions you may want to ask the references about working with a Visa Agent:
1. how long did you wait for a reply when you asked questions
2. did they initiate communication to keep you informed or did you have to ask
3. did they make appointments or did you just go and have to wait
4. did they get all of the paperwork (from State, Federal, Banks, Etc) or did you have to and they just processed
5. do they do the translations and get the documents apostilled or do you have to?
6. Does the person you will be communicating with speak, and write English (not an issue if you are bilingual)
7. Did you have any surprises or did things happen that you weren’t expecting?
8 what is the fee and what does that cover? The fee structure is important. Keep in mind, bribes and gifts are expected – are you going to have to come up with more money or is there a budget for this in your fee?
9 There are a number of small items that need doing in Ecuador that you will do when you are here before your Visa is approved. Do they take you and is the fee for these included or do you need to pay? There were 2 or 3 things at like $5 each. But if you don’t speak Spanish and they don’t take you then you need to provide transportation and a facilitator to translate for you at these times. Not a big deal, but you should know so you aren’t surprised.
I have heard horror stories about people having to come up with more money for additional fees not included in the quote, additional money to pay for the Visa itself, be told the night before they need to be several hours away the next morning and have a facilitator with them, waits of weeks and months to get the cedula, and…..
It pays to do your due diligence and ask lots of questions.
From what I have heard, most of the costs are pretty close to the same – BUT they do not all cover the same amount of services. So in reality the costs are not the same.
Don’t make your decisions on a cost only basis. You may just get what you paid for and I don’t mean that in a good way.
I had no unexpected costs. I had no surprise WTF’s. My Temporary Residency Visa was processed in the time it was estimated it would take. And the team of people at the Visa agent office were all nice, helpful, and easy to work with.
I know that if I have questions or need help with anything they will be glad to help me. At the end of my 21 months, I will go back to them and have them help me with whatever I have to do then to have my Permanent Residency Visa processed and issued.
Update December 2019: My Temporary Residency Visa expired in November and it was time to apply for my Permanent Residency Visa. Great!
It’s a little hard to believe I have already been here for 21 + months! Time has flown by….
I went back to the same Visa agent and the process was started.
As happens REGULARLY here in Ecuador the laws changed. Suddenly and unexpectedly. Worse (and this is normal here) with NO advanced planning.
About two months before my application process was started Ecuador changed the requirements of what is needed to obtain a Permanent Residency Visa.
When the law was changed it was effective as of that day. There was no provision such as for any person’s applying AFTER a specified date this would take effect. It went into effect 100% as of right then. Period.
This proved problematic for many people who were in process or going to be in process of applying for their Permanent Residency Visa.
What changed? As of the specified date anyone applying had to be able to prove they had a minimum $400 monthly income and proof of Ecuadorian Health Insurance for the previous 21 + months (the duration of the Temporary Residency Visa).
That may not seem like a big deal. I mean $400 a month income is not much.
The problem was that you had to show a monthly deposit of $400.
The Ecuadorian Ministry that handles Visa applications refused to allow deposits that were made quarterly, yearly etc. Even if the amount you deposited yearly was far in excess of the minimum monthly amount x 12. If you couldn’t show a monthly deposit you were out of luck, end of story, your application was refused.
Keep in mind the far reaching stupidity of this…..
In the process of applying for a new Visa type your old Visa expires which leaves you a foreigner in a Country with NO valid Visa and that makes any travel problematic or at the very least will cost you a LOT of money in fines.
So here I am, stressing out over whether an alternative something, anything is going to be allowed, and sitting in a house full of my belongings, my 2 dogs etc and not sure if I will be able to stay or not.
In the meantime I have an Investor CD which I would not be able to withdraw under any circumstances until it expires so if I did have to leave I would also have to leave a chunk of money here that I may or may not ever be able to even get back.
All I can say is THANK GAWD!!! I used the Visa agent I did. They were at the Ministry office every single week, they had meetings with the officials and generally jumped through a LOT of hoops to find a solution.
In the end I had to reapply for a Temporary Residency Visa (again) and in 21 months I will go back and again apply for the Permanent Residency Visa.
Every month I will make sure to have a deposit of more than $400 post to my local bank account without exception.
Some other something will change over the upcoming 21 months. I will keep my fingers crossed, think positive thoughts and ask the Universe to please watch over this situation and allow me to be here as long as it is in my best interest.
I do know one thing for certain. Without the work and help of the Visa agent I would most likely be back in the states right now, out a whole lot of money, and I would be wondering how and if I could get my Investment back. It is also questionable whether I would still have my doglets.
I was notified on December 27th that my ‘new’ Temporary Residency Visa was approved. HUGE relief and a great beginning for a promising New Year!
Everything had a happy ending because of my Visa agent.