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Ecuador, Earthly Paradise but Legal Nightmare Update 2016

Update 2016 – Wowy, a lot has changed with the VISA process and immigration department since we first wrote this blog post over four years ago.

Uh, why would we call Ecuador a legal nightmare? Well, for starters, it has been our experience, as well as others who are moving to Ecuador permanently that getting a residence visa is a terrible nightmare at this time.   This is not because your paperwork is not in order, it is not because you did not apply to immigration with EVERYTHING they ask for, and it is not because they don’t want you here; it’s because of disorganization in the immigration department itself.

Update 2016 – Since reorganization in the immigration offices it has become much more efficient.  If someone is denied a resident/retirement VISA in Ecuador in 2016, it is not because of disorganization or corruption in the immigration department, it is because of something else.

Yes, Ecuador is an earthly paradise with some fantastic people and beautiful cities and towns, but it’s still a developing country when it comes to getting anything done such as this. Now there is another story—the nightmare where you never wake up because you’re not asleep!! It’s really happening.

Complaints abound on forums and according to other North Americans with the same experience with the immigration department, it appears it could take years to actually receive legal residency in Ecuador under certain circumstances.  Rumors are circulating that the immigration office itself has fired and rehired four different directors in just one year because of…well, corruption or better known in the immigration circles as bribery.

Update 2016 – The paragraph above was all true and is why the whole process is much easier now. The nightmare is gone, wake up and be renewed.

There are numerous foreigners that are living in Ecuador, who have a lawyer, and who are going through all of the proper channels, dotting all the I’s to obtain residency, yet none of it means too much at this point…ALL paperwork is at a standstill in the Ecuadorian immigration right now because of disorganization in the department of immigration.

Update 2016 – Well, that was then (2012) and this is now (2016) and all the nightmares that people were talking about are pretty much gone.

On top of that, we have heard that some corrupt police officers are targeting gringo areas, in particular for gringos that are in limbo with their residency papers, through no fault of their own, since it is a known fact, and intimidating them for bribes.

Update 2016 – We were not able to verify the above, but it doesn’t matter too much now since most of the unethical practices have disappeared from the department.  If someone is having trouble receiving their residency in Ecuador it would be because of something in error on their end.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has offered to help foreigners with their immigration papers if they help with the capturing of a police officer who is engaged in corrupt practices.

Of course, there are those who already have provided all the necessary paperwork months ago, and are now just sitting around in limbo waiting, waiting, waiting for someone to actually read the paperwork and authorize it. We think those who have applied for their visa should just be given their residence status without having to get mixed up in their government problems—it seems like it could be dangerous, after all.

It seems a no brainer:  if you’re willing to make a presidential decree to fix someone’s residency issues for turning in a corrupt policeman, why not simply grandfather in all expats that are in legal limbo though no fault of their own.  If you’re going to change a law and add requirements, why not let those that were already here just pass through instead of pulling the rug from under them.  Fair is fair, change the laws if you wish, but start with all new entrants.  Those already here should just pass go and collect $200.  No?

To be clear, not all expats are having these issues.  Mostly just those caught in the “retroactive” law changing web, which by the way, can catch anyone by surprise since laws can and do change without notice.   What do readers think?

Here’s the full story taken from the Latin American Herald Tribune on what the Ecuadorian President is offering to foreigners.
Ecuadorian President Makes Offer to Illegal Immigrants

QUITO – President Rafael Correa has offered to assist illegal immigrants seeking to stay in Ecuador who provide information about corrupt police.

“I have complaints about police officers who extort (money) from those without papers. There are neighborhoods where they know foreign citizens who are in the country without authorization gather and, instead of pursuing the case, they ask for money” or other things, Correa said during his weekly show.

“I am telling those foreigners publicly. If you help me capture a police officer who is engaged in corrupt practices, we’ll give you the papers so you can be legal in the country,” the president said.
A tip line will be established in the next few days for immigrants who want to report corruption, Correa said.

“If you help us fight corruption and arrest the police officers who are extorting (money from) irregular foreigners in our country, we’ll help you become legal. Don’t be afraid,” the president said.
The government agency in charge of fighting corruption launched an investigation several months ago into alleged irregularities in the legalization of foreigners, especially Cubans.

Several former immigration service officials and notaries who allegedly arranged marriages of convenience for illegal immigrants have been targeted by investigators. 
So it seems all is not wonderful in paradise.  Things in the bureaucracies, we are told are going to change for the better, but when that actually happens who knows.

So should foreigners still come to Ecuador? Our full recommendations in our DIY Cuenca Landing Guide.  I know, I know.  We’ve been promising this guide for weeks.  But it’s almost done.  Really.  It’s just that in paradise, things do move a little slower after all… Tell us what you think?

Update 2016 – Oh my goodness, the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide was published over four years ago in March of 2012 and is still our most popular guide book to Ecuador.  We have always told folks to get the paperwork process started in your hometown before coming to Cuenca to make the process easier and less stressful when you actually arrive in Cuenca…still stands true today and many websites are now telling people the same.

To sum it up, the rumor back then was “things in the bureaucracies are going to change for the better” and that rumor has come true. It’s fairly simple to receive an Ecuador residency VISA now if all your documents are in order and if you begin the paperwork processing from home BEFORE you get here. In fact, some folks have reported getting their VISA within weeks of arriving in Cuenca. Isn’t that a nice improvement?

Until we write again, take a look at some of these articles about the Ecuador Residency VISA.
We’re an expat family of five, living frugal, healthy and happy in Ecuador.  We’re in the process of moving from Cuenca to Salinas. Come along with us and enjoy some of our adventures as we start a new chapter in our lives.


  1. I can't stop laughing, the USA is so much worse with US citizens waiting years then being rejected and waiting years to even be interviewed without being told why. Disorganization is US immigration middle name. So really no one has anything to complain about Ecuador they don't discriminate because of where you were born so people who have problems well sorry but that's the way it is live with it like all the rest do here in the USA. No country is perfect. I bet this wont be posted.


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