Ecuadorian Investor Visa Guide
An Ecuadorian Investor's Visa, officially known as Residencia Temporal Inversionista, is a temporary residency visa that allows you to live in Ecuador for up to two years. This visa is designed for individuals who wish to invest in Ecuador and enjoy the benefits of residing in the country. Unlike other residency visas, the Investor's Visa offers flexibility regarding your time spent in Ecuador and allows you to travel freely during the two-year validity period.
Note: If you plan to spend less than 90 days a year in Ecuador, you can use a Ecuador tourist visa with optional extensions. On the other hand, if you intend to live in Ecuador permanently, you may opt for the traditional residency path, which requires a more extended initial stay in the country.
How Much Does an Investment Visa Cost in Ecuador?
Obtaining an Investor's Visa in Ecuador comes with various costs. These expenses may vary based on factors such as your location, choice of bank, translation services, and more. Here's a rough breakdown of the expenses associated with obtaining an Ecuadorian Investor's Visa:
- $50 application fee
- $400 visa fee
- $150 for translation services
- $50 for notary services
- $100 for background checks, apostilles, and postage
- Approximately $80 for bank transfer fees (average)
- $5 for the movimientos migratorios document
- $10 for random photocopies, folders, bank fees, and postage
Additionally, you will need to make a minimum investment of $45,000 in Ecuador to qualify for this visa.
What Is the Minimum Investment Required in Ecuador?
To qualify for an Ecuadorian Investment Visa, you must invest a minimum of $45,000 USD in the country. This requirement is based on 100 times the monthly minimum wage in Ecuador, which has increased over time.
The minimum wage in Ecuador is subject to periodic adjustments, but once you obtain your visa, your investment amount remains fixed as long as you renew your visa.
There are three investment options to meet the $45,000 minimum:
- Póliza Account: Deposit the $45,000 in a Póliza account, similar to a certificate of deposit (CD), for a two-year term. You will earn interest on this deposit.
- Real Estate Investment: Purchase real estate with a tax-assessed value of at least $45,000. Keep in mind that market value can differ significantly from tax-assessed value, so be cautious when choosing this option.
- Business Investment: Invest $45,000 into a business in Ecuador. The specific requirements and details for this option may vary and should be researched further.
Do I Have to Be Physically in Ecuador to Obtain My Investment Visa?
While you will need to visit Ecuador to open a bank account and complete some paperwork, you have the flexibility to apply for your Investor Visa either within Ecuador or through your local consulate office in the USA.
Applying for Your Investor Visa
Government Department for Visa Processing in Quito
In Quito, the office responsible for issuing Investment Visas is the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores.
It's important to note that there are two offices in Quito with similar names, but only the one near Terminal Quitumbe in South Quito handles the services required for obtaining an Investor's Visa. Here are the details:
- Address: Plataforma Gubernamental de Desarrollo Social, Avenida Amaru Ñan junto a la Plaza Cívica, Quito 170146
- Phone: 02-2993200
- Extensions: 23007, 23015, 23002
If you have questions regarding your existing immigration status, you should contact the Migración office in North Quito, which is not far from Parque Carolina:
- Address: RG66+MQH, Quito 170515
- Phone: +59322439408
Applying in Other Ecuadorian Cities
While Quito is a common choice for obtaining an Investor's Visa, it's possible to apply for this visa in other Ecuadorian cities as well. Here are some cities where you can potentially apply:
- Azogues (near Cuenca)
However, keep in mind that you can only obtain your cédula (Ecuadorian ID card) in Quito or Guayaquil.
Applying through USA Consulates
If you are in the USA and wish to apply for your Investor's Visa through a consulate, you can find your local consulate office's location on the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores website. Each consulate has its own jurisdiction by state, so make sure to work with the one that covers your state.
You'll initiate the application process online through the Consulado Virtual website. However, you should already have a bank account and Póliza opened in Ecuador before pursuing this route.
Note: The ease and efficiency of applying through consulates in the USA may vary, so consider your options and experiences of others in your region.
Visa Application Requirements
To apply for your Investment Visa in Ecuador, you need to gather the following documents and meet specific requirements:
- A color passport-sized photograph (2 x 2 inches) with a white background, where you should maintain a neutral expression with both eyes open.
- Your original US passport and a color copy on 8.5 x 11 paper.
- Criminal background checks from both the state (SBI) and federal (FBI) levels. These checks should be apostilled, translated into Spanish, and not older than 180 days at the time of application.
- Fees of $50 for the application and $400 for the visa. These fees are typically paid in cash at the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores office after your paperwork has been approved.
- Verification of your $45,000 investment from the Central Bank of Ecuador (more on this below).
- A Movimientos Migratorios document costing $5, provided by the Migración office in North Quito.
- A Formulario de Solicitud document, which you can download from official sources.
- Bank statements from the previous six months, demonstrating your financial stability and the source of your funds.
- Translated and notarized versions of your SBI and FBI background checks and apostilles.
- Notarized (but not translated) versions of your bank statements. The cost of notarization may vary.
As of August 10, 2022, it's important to show proof of income to obtain your Investor's Visa. The exact income requirements are not specified, but you should be prepared to demonstrate your means of subsistence for yourself and your dependent family group.
Note: There may be conflicting information regarding income requirements, so it's advisable to verify the latest requirements with the relevant authorities.
Working with Ecuadorian Banks
When obtaining an Investor's Visa, you'll need to invest your $45,000 in a Póliza account, similar to a certificate of deposit (CD). Ecuadorian law restricts investments to specific banks recognized for visa purposes. These banks are:
- Pichincha (with some mixed reviews)
- Pacifico (with mixed reviews)
- JEP (a cooperative with positive reviews)
Each bank offers different interest rates, terms, and customer experiences. Consider your options carefully when choosing a bank for your investment. Keep in mind that only these three banks are recognized for Investor Visa purposes, even if other cooperatives may offer higher interest rates.
Opening a Póliza Account with JEP
If you decide to work with JEP, here's a guide on how to open a Póliza (CD) account:
- Visit a JEP branch, preferably in Quito, and open a savings account called "cuenta de ahorros." You will need a minimum cash deposit (e.g., $20) to open this account. Note that a portion of the deposit may be held and inaccessible.
- If you require a debit card, you can request one for a fee (typically around $4.89 plus an annual fee of $1.15). They will print the card on the spot, and you can use it immediately. A debit card can be convenient for withdrawing interest payments without needing to visit the bank.
- To open a cuenta de ahorros account, you will typically need the following:
- Your original passport and a color copy on 8.5 x 11 paper.
- Recent electric or utility bills showing your Ecuadorian address (even if they don't have your name on them).
- Your Social Security number.
- Two local references in Ecuador (names and phone numbers).
- Be prepared to answer questions about your occupation, income, and other personal details.
- Sign relevant paperwork (request copies) and ensure that your signature matches your passport signature exactly.
- You will receive a ledger book that JEP takes seriously, so keep it safe. You will also receive your debit card.
Now you have a cuenta de ahorros account with JEP, and you can proceed to transfer your $45,000 into it.
Transferring $45,000 to JEP
There are two methods for transferring money from your US bank account to your Ecuadorian bank account:
Method #1: Xoom
Xoom, operated by PayPal, is a convenient way to transfer money to your JEP account. Here's how it works:
- Use Xoom to transfer funds from your US bank account to your JEP account. Xoom has daily and monthly maximum limits, as well as fees that vary based on the transfer amount. Ensure you provide accurate information and complete the verification process if required.
Method #2: Wire Transfer
Wire transfers are the traditional method for sending money internationally. However, because JEP doesn't have an international SWIFT code, you'll need to use Banco Pichincha as an intermediary. Here's the process:
- Initiate a wire transfer from your US bank account to JEP's general account at Banco Pichincha. You may need to visit your bank in person to authorize such a large transaction, and they may provide you with a device for authentication.
- Include the SWIFT number for Pichincha and any required authentication details provided by your bank. You'll need to cover the fees associated with both the wire transfer from your bank and the receipt of the money by Pichincha.
- Send an email to JEP with your account details, passport information, Ecuadorian address, the confirmation code of the wire transfer, and a Justification Letter explaining the source of your funds. Ensure that these documents are translated and notarized.
Note: Justification Letters are required for sending over $5,000 to Ecuador. Xoom typically handles this documentation for you, but for wire transfers, you will need to provide it directly to the bank.
Moving from Ahorro to Poliza
Once your funds are in your cuenta de ahorros (savings account) at JEP, you can instruct the bank to transfer the money into a 2-year Póliza account. This account locks in your interest rate for two years. Remember that you will need to contact JEP ahead of time to renew the Póliza for an additional two years when it matures.
Obtaining Proof of Deposit
Even though your Póliza account is with JEP, your $45,000 will be deposited with the Central Bank of Ecuador. To obtain proof of this deposit, follow these steps:
- Visit the Central Bank of Ecuador's website.
- Access the "Deposito Centralizado de Valores (Estados de cuenta)" section.
- Enter your passport number and the code you received at your registered email address (provided at the time of deposit with JEP).
- Choose "Reporte Extracto de Subcuenta y Estado de Cuenta de Valores."
- Click "Descargar" to obtain a PDF copy of the document, which you will need for your visa application.
Federal & State Background Checks
Before you embark on the journey of obtaining an Ecuadorian Investor's Visa, it's crucial to complete the necessary steps for federal and state background checks. These checks are essential for demonstrating your suitability for residency in Ecuador. Here's a detailed guide on obtaining these background checks and getting them apostilled:
Step 1: Fingerprints
First and foremost, you need to get your fingerprints scanned. This is the initial step in obtaining both federal and state background checks. Follow these guidelines:
- Visit your local Sheriff's Department office or a fingerprint agency to have your fingerprints scanned. Alternatively, you can check if electronic fingerprinting is available at a USPS location near you. However, electronic fingerprinting may not simplify the process significantly.
- Contact your local city or county for information on how to schedule an appointment or find the nearest location for fingerprinting. Some places may require appointments booked well in advance, so plan accordingly.
- Request two copies of your fingerprint cards because you will need one for the state background check and one for the federal background check.
Pro Tip: If you encounter long wait times or appointment delays at your local Sheriff's Department, consider looking for neighboring counties that might offer faster service or allow walk-ins.
Step 2A: Federal Background Check
Your federal background check is conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Here's how to obtain it:
- Visit the FBI's official website for Identity History Summary Checks
- Apply and pay the $18 fee online for an "Electronic" submission. After submitting your application, you will need to send your fingerprints via mail along with the required documents.
- Be aware that it can take several weeks to receive your federal background check, so plan accordingly. For instance, if you apply on August 18, 2023, you may receive the background check around September 30, 2023.
Once you have your federal background check in hand, the next step is to get it apostilled, as explained below.
Step 2B: State Background Check
Each state in the USA has its own process for obtaining a state background check. You should contact your State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) for instructions specific to your state. Here are some general guidelines:
- Request that the background check is notarized on the application.
- Fees and processing times may vary from state to state. In North Carolina, for example, the cost was $14, and the background check was received within two weeks.
Warning: Your local county courthouse may offer background check services, but these checks are typically limited to your county and are not suitable for the Ecuadorian Investor's Visa. You must obtain a state background check from your State Bureau of Investigation.
Step 3: Get Your Background Checks Apostilled
A crucial step in the process is to get your federal and state background checks apostilled. This process differs for federal and state documents, so it's essential to follow the appropriate procedures:
What is an Apostille?
An apostille is a form of legalization for international use of a document. It is necessary to validate U.S. public documents in Ecuador because both countries are parties to the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents.
- Federal Apostilles (FBI Background Check): These are processed by the Office of Authentications. Here's how to submit your federal background check for apostille:
- Visit the following link for instructions:
- The walk-in service for federal apostilles has been suspended due to COVID, so apostilles are now processed via mail.
- Submit Form DS-4194 along with your original background check, a self-addressed prepaid envelope with tracking, and a $20 bank check made payable to the "U.S. Department of State."
- Typically, it takes around 3 weeks to receive your apostilled federal background check.
- State Apostilles (State Background Check): The process for state background check apostilles varies by state, but it's generally straightforward and may be quicker and less expensive than obtaining a federal apostille.
- Google search "apostille + [your state name]" to find instructions specific to your state. Many states offer in-person apostille services.
- In North Carolina, for example, you can work with the NC Secretary of State to obtain an apostille on your state background check. It costs $10 and usually takes about a week to process.
By completing these steps, you will have obtained both federal and state background checks and successfully apostilled them, laying the foundation for your Ecuadorian Investor's Visa application.
Translating and Notarizing Documents in Ecuador
Now that you have both your Federal and State Background Checks Apostilled by their respective departments, and either 6 months of bank statements or proof of where the funds came from, it's time to get everything translated and notarized.
Step 1: Finding a Translator
To proceed with your Ecuadorian Investor's Visa application, you'll need to find a reliable translator to translate your documents into Spanish. Here's what you need to know about this process:
- Translator Selection: Ideally, work with a translator local to the area where you plan to obtain notarizations, as they will need to be present during notarization for signature recognition. Some notaries may offer translation services in-house.
- Translation Costs: Translators typically charge between $17 to $25 per page. However, some may offer package deals after assessing your documents, considering that some pages may contain as few as 30 words.
- Translator Certification: While Ecuador does not officially license translators, the Judiciary Branch maintains a list of "peritos" (experts) certified in their respective fields who can perform work for government proceedings. The U.S. Embassy recommends working with translators from this list. You can search for certified translators on their website.
- Additional Translator Qualifications: You can also evaluate a translator's qualifications in other ways, such as:
- Membership in the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ecuador (ATIEC), equivalent to the American Translators Association (ATA) in the U.S. Membership involves thorough checks of experience, education, and language competence in both languages.
- Holding a degree in translation or a related field.
- Verifying that their degree is registered with the National Secretariat for Higher Education, Science, and Technology (SENESCYT), which provides a code for client verification.
Example Translator Contact:
- Name: Karen Nasevilla
- Email: [email protected]
- WhatsApp: +593-992-616-508
Please note that this is just one example, and you may need to search for a translator suitable for your needs, especially if Karen is unavailable.
Quick Tip: You can expedite the translation process by emailing the text from your documents to the translator. Although they will still require the original documents at some point, providing a scanned copy along with the digital text can speed up their work.
Step 2: Notarizing Your Documents
After translating your documents, the next step is to have them notarized. Here's what you need to know about notarization in Ecuador:
- Notaries are widely available, and you can find them by performing a Google search using the keywords "Notaria + City Name." Notary offices are often numbered, such as "Notaria 19."
- The cost for notarization typically includes notarizing your original apostilled background checks, the translated versions, and any other relevant documents, such as six months' worth of bank statements. Notaries may also photocopy information from your translator, including their ID and license, to include with the notarized documents.
- For the Investor's Visa application, you will need to show six months' worth of recent bank statements. These bank statements do not require translation but must be notarized. You may need to log in to your bank account from the notary's office computer for verification purposes.
One of the required documents for your Investor's Visa application is the "Movimientos Migratorios" document. You can obtain this document for $5 from the Migration Office in North Quito. A list of immigration offices in Ecuador where you can obtain this document is available here: https://www.gob.ec/mdg/tramites/emision-certificado-movimientos-migratorios-especie-valorada-0
The process for obtaining the "Movimientos Migratorios" document may require visiting a bank to deposit the fee and then returning to the immigration office with the receipt. While straightforward, it is a separate step from the rest of the visa application process.
Apply for Your Visa
Now that you have all the necessary documents translated and notarized, you are ready to apply for your Ecuadorian Investor's Visa. Keep the following steps in mind:
- Appointment: You will need an appointment with the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), which can take several months to secure. It's advisable to schedule this appointment early in the process to plan your timeline accordingly.
- Document Organization: Arrive at your appointment with all your documents well-organized. You may receive assistance from individuals outside the Ministry who can help you assemble your documents into a blue folder (available for $0.50). These street vendors often provide additional services such as photocopies, food, and even "attorneys."
- Payment: During your appointment, a representative will review your documents for completeness. You will need to pay a $50 application fee in cash at the cashier's office and provide a receipt. Additionally, you will need to pay $400 for the visa, also in cash, after the initial payment.
- Final Processing: Once the payments are complete, your representative will finalize your application and process your visa. This may take some time, but once it's ready, you will sign a document, and you will leave with a digital Investor's Visa.
In conclusion, obtaining your Ecuadorian Investor's Visa is a significant achievement, and meticulous preparation, including document translation and notarization, is key to a successful application process. Be sure to have all your documents in order when you arrive for your appointment to ensure a smooth process and walk away with your coveted visa.