The Struggles and Changes in Ecuador

Having arrived in Ecuador 4 years ago at a time when the process for obtaining Residency was almost the same as today, I can appreciate the struggles people have with the system. About 3 years ago, Ecuador did away with the police report requirement. It happened within about 30 days of me getting my residency. There was no way I could fly back to the states to get a police report and so I had to get creative. Luckily, the Miami consulate was nice enough to assist and make the process much easier by receiving the police report directly from the government by email and legalizing it. They even took care of the translation. The Miami consulate, at least in those days, farmed out some types of work to a private company.

Ecuador is back to requiring the police reports again and I see messages from people on different forums dealing with the same exact issues again. The profile of the typical immigrant here is much different than 4 years ago. A lot more Colombians, Cubans and people from a lot of African and Asian countries have flooded the country. With that flood came a lot more crime, drug and people smuggling and more. I cannot say I blame the government for this latest move. Do these law-abiding, responsible people from places like Canada, Europe and the US deserve this extra burden? No. But that doesn’t change anything. Everyone is subject to the law of Ecuador regardless where they come from. Unfortunately, a huge amount of immigration fraud has been committed in the last few years. It’s only gotten worse and worse. I can remember a time a few years ago when Cuban citizenship applications were not even being processed anymore. There were stacks and stacks of files of Cuban immigrants that could not be approved.

The approval of residency cases as of late has become a very time-consuming and drawn out process. As of the middle of December 2010, the residency office (Extranjeria) has been in a “state of emergency”. As of the last few weeks, I’ve seen great improvements in the office. It’s moved to a new location and is much better organized. There is still a backlog of 3-4 months for the approval of a residency case. Before December that same case would have taken 45-60 days at most. A lot of patience is required these days.

There has been a lot of discussion lately about attorneys and consultants, the service they provide and the fees they charge. There have been a few new attorneys showing up on the radar and making a name for themselves. The number of people specializing in immigration and handling the majority of the cases has not changed much in the last 3 years. The foreigner community gladly gives referrals to the same group of attorneys and consultants year after year. People choose one attorney or consultant over another for a variety of reasons. One being those referrals from friends and other foreigners. This is perhaps the most important factor for many people. Another factor is how much the professional fees are. Fees range from around $500 to upwards of $2,000 or more to handle a residency case. $800 per person is about the average for most of the popular firms. Of course, in addition to the professional fees, you will also pay the government for your case approval. In some cases, the attorneys may bundle their fees in with the government fees.

Why is there such a wide range of fees? While debatable, the popular professionals handle everything for you from A-Z. They have English speaking staff and have to really bend over backwards to keep you as a client and bring in new clients. Foreigners often times expect nothing less than the best and fastest service possible. In fact, a firm that doesn’t provide this level of quality is not likely to be serving many foreigners for long. Perhaps one of the most important things for clients is that they can get a hold of their legal representative by phone or email and get answers in a timely manner. The attorney or consulate can be doing a great job but without that communication, the client still will not be completely happy.

Being well prepared for your new life is very important. While it can be very time consuming researching every little detail necessary to get residency and move to a new country, it has to be done. How do you know what information is up to date and accurate and which isn’t? You don’t really without checking multiple sources and asking people. Even then you are likely to get several different answers or opinions. Whatever you do, make sure you come with all the required documents such as marriage certificates, birth certificates (when needed), social security or pension letters, etc. And make sure they are properly legalized.

Don’t hesitate for a moment to jump into a new life in Ecuador. It’s a great country with lots of opportunities waiting for you. Come enjoy the culture, learn a new language and be one of the tens of thousands of foreigners living here as residents. If you come well prepared and with an open mind, you won’t be sorry you did.

David Beyer operates [] and offers legalization, apostilles, certificates, translation, relocation consulting and more.