For foreigners, the biggest question in the immigration area today is: Do I need a professional to help me in the immigration process or can just anyone assist me with the application?
As a recommendation for foreigners who want to stay in the country more than three months, it is always best to search out the assistance of a legal professional, as they are the only ones who have complete knowledge and experience in handling legal matters.
In November of 2009, there were very few professionals who offered visa assistance services; however, with the UNESCO nominating Ecuador as the best place to retire, the numbers began to increase dramatically.
The increase of professional advisors in this field was logical, as the Immigration law made it a requirement that foreigners must be sponsored by an attorney. Sadly, this caused a proliferation of “advisors” who offer services as experts in the field who, in the majority of cases, do not have proper legal knowledge of the process. This poses a risk to the foreigner’s legal stay in the country as well as to their purse, as extra costs can be charged to cover for the errors made by these supposed “experts”.
It is necessary to mention that the Immigration Office is constantly making changes or dictating resolutions regarding the process for visa application. In some cases, even the legal professionals are not aware of the changes until the actual moment of application, as many of these changes are made as resolutions within the Institution, without advertising the change in the Ecuadorian public legal system as they should.
In the visa process, it has been observed that foreigners making the decision to move to Ecuador generally are people who do not wish to take big risks; they look for assistance and are the ones who have succeeded in obtaining their visas without difficulties. These people, in many cases, have already visited Ecuador and have already contracted professional services before coming to live here.
On many occasions, foreigners will ask what the advantage is in getting their permanent residency and, eventually citizenship, and what would happen if they were here illegally. To alleviate this fear, it is best to refer to the Constitution of 2008 which states that “… no person shall be considered illegal based on immigration conditions, and with regards to being a resident or citizen, in the same way are granted the same rights as any national…”, but one of the great advantages in being a citizen is that all civil and political fields will be open to you.
The most common type of visa for foreigners is the visa 9-I or the Retirement Visa. The documentation that is needed for this visa must go through a special process that is different from any other process, as the Ecuadorian law states that for a foreign document to be valid for use here in Ecuador, it must be apostilled OR legalized in the Ecuadorian Consulate. However, in this case with regards to income documents, the trick is that this document must have both processes. Most of the “experts” do not have any knowledge in this as they only read what the law states, not the specific resolutions that the Immigration Office has implemented.
Another common visa type is the Investment Visa, which involves purchasing a property or making an investment in a financial institution. The investment in real estate for visas is perhaps the most difficult situation that foreigners have found themselves in because of misinformation and misunderstanding on the part of “experts”. For example, one of the first requirements for this type of visa is that the property must have a minimum of $25,000 listed in the Municipality evaluation for the principal person and a minimum of $500 more for each dependent. This cost is not the actual cost of the property but rather the municipality value, which is referred to for the payment of property taxes.
Lina Ulloa Delgado is an attorney, specializing in immigration and alien law. She is also well-versed and experienced in social, corporate, civil, and family law, having more than 10 years experience handling cases from Machala, Biblian, Canar, Azogues, Paute, Gualaceo, Quito and Cuenca.
Ave. Jose Peralta 1-19 y Ave. 12 de Abril
Edificio Acropolis, Office 311
098 4205 336 / 098 1132 984