Photo Credit: Cancillería del Ecuador
Please note the information included in this article is valid as of May, 2016. Ecuador frequently changes requirements and procedures. Be sure to check the most up to date regulations on their Spanish or English website (the Spanish version is typically more up-to-date), or contact the Immigration Ministry directly with further questions.
What is the Professional Visa (9-V)?
The professional visa is a residency visa that allows you to live and work in Ecuador. It is a life-long visa that does not expire. The professional visa is appropriate for those who have received a university degree and would like to live and work in Ecuador. It is not required that you work for an Ecuadorian organization, rather, it simply means that you can live and earn money in-country, whether for an Ecuadorian or a foreign organization.
What are the required documents and affiliated procedures?
To apply for the professional visa, you will need to gather documents from your home country. Each document must be processed appropriately before the submission of your visa application, and the procedures are different for each document. For more specific instructions on the steps to take with each document, read below.
- A passport with at least 6 months remaining
- A university diploma (Bachelors, Masters, PhD) registered by the Education Ministry (SENECYT – Secretaria de Educacion Superior, Ciencia, Tecnologia, e Innovacion)
- Ecuador has a pre-approved list of universities (listados de universidades extranjeras, expedidos por la SENECYT) around the world that are fast-tracked in the professional visa application process. If your university is on this list, the only physical document you will need is your diploma. If your university is not on this list, you will need supplemental documents to prove the legitimacy of your degree. These items include: a letter from your university stating you were on campus full-time for your degree, a copy of your transcripts, and class descriptions.
- Unlike prior years, the diploma does not need to be translated. It does, however, need to be apostilled in the district in which it was issued (For example, if you went to a university in Maryland, you need to contact the Secretary of State of Maryland). Supplemental documents of non-approved universities need to be apostilled, translated, and notarized in Ecuador.
- A federal background check from your home country (Certificado de Antecedentes Judiciales del Gobierno Federal)
- A state/province background check for anywhere you have resided in the last 5 years (Certificado de Antecedentes del Gobierno de la Provincia)
- Migratory Movement Certificate (Certificado de Movimiento Migratorio)
- The government immigrant application form (Formulario de Solicitud de Visa de Inmigrante)
- Passport photos
- Copies of passport main page + applicable visa pages
Important to be Noted:
- Each document only has a validity of 180 days. Older documents are invalid. This is very important to note for background checks and anticipated mailing times if you are living out of country. (For example, if you get your background check directly from the FBI, the current wait time is up to 6 months. Your other documents could expire while you are waiting for this to process)
- All documents must be submitted in Spanish, with the exception of your university degree. Translations should be made in Ecuador and properly notarized.
- All documents must be apostilled in the district in which they were issued, and translated and notarized in Ecuador.
- If you are on the T-3 tourist visa, you must submit the application at least 1 month prior to the expiration of your current visa.
What are the limitations if you hold a professional visa?
If you are granted the professional visa, you are required to stay in country for a minimum of nine months during your first year and nine months during your second. This means you can only travel out of the country for 90 days in your first year and 90 days in your second. After this initial period, there are fewer regulations (you cannot stay out of the country for more than 18 months at a time if you wish to keep the visa).
What costs are associated with the visa requirements?
As of January 2016, the application fee for the professional visa is $50 and, if granted, the visa fee is $500.
The other costs associated with the visa will be paid to various parties. Other costs to consider include:
- Diploma: Fees from your university to print an early or duplicate diploma
- State background check: Cost of fingerprints and service charges ($20 at a police station) + background check ($18-20) + mailing fees if applicable (see example of Maryland’s procedures here.)
- Federal background check: $20 directly from the FBI or $50 expedited from a federal channeler + the cost of finger prints + mailing fees if applicable
- Apostilles for your diploma, state background check, and federal background check:
- Translation + Notarization in Cuenca, $30 per document
- Each document will cost approximately $30 to be translated and notarized by an authorized translator. Note you are not allowed to know your translator. If you have translation and notarizing services done separately, you will pay separately.
- Migratory Movement Certificate, $5
- Shipment fees
- International: If you do not complete all paperwork in your home country prior to arriving in Ecuador you will encounter heavy shipping fees. The most trusted source for sensitive documents is DHL. It can be delivered directly to your home or can be picked up at the DHL Cuenca office. $60-75 for express shipping
- Domestic (within U.S.): if you do not live close to your state capital (for state-level documents) or Washington D.C. (for federal level documents) you will be mailing your documents to the appropriate secretary of state office.
What steps/timeline should I follow to apply for the professional visa?
To apply for the professional visa you will move through three phases:
- Confirm your passport has at least 6 months remaining
- Make color copies of your passport
- Obtain passport photos
- Obtain your university degree and confirm that your university is pre-approved by SENECYT. If not, obtain supplemental university documents
- Obtain an apostille for your university degree
- Obtain digital or paper fingerprints and submit request for state background check
- Obtain paper fingerprints and submit federal background check through FBI or approved channeler
- Obtain apostille for state background check from the secretary of state in which it was issued
- Obtain an apostille for the federal background check via mail or drop-in services in Washington, DC
- Go to the SENECYT office in Azogues to request registration of your degree (remember this must be done before your application can be submitted – wait time approximately 1 month to process request)
- Print registration of degree confirmation from online portal
- Translate and notarize your state background check in Ecuador
- Translate and notarize your federal background check in Ecuador
- Obtain your migratory movement certificate within 1 week prior to submitting application
- Write letter of intent
- Print and complete visa application form
- Travel to Azogues to submit visa application
- Return to Azogues for visa pick-up appointment