[dropcap]One[/dropcap] of the biggest choices facing an expat after moving to Ecuador and obtaining a Permanent Residency Visa, is whether or not to jump through the next procedural hoop of becoming an Ecuadorian Citizen. For those of you that are hoping to apply for citizenship, we’ve taken the guess work out of the entire process. Read on to find out about all of the current required documents, and procedures, you will need to obtain your citizenship.
Permanent Residency Requirements
To start, Permanent Residency in Ecuador is valid for one’s lifetime. However, this is subject to the visa holder not leaving Ecuador for more than 90 days during each of their first two years of Permanent Residency, nor leaving Ecuador for more than 18 months in a single trip after their first two years of Permanent Residency have been completed (this also depends on when you received your Permanent Residency, and so it is not the same exact rule for every person..).
One important note however, is that as of the current rules for applying to become an Ecuadorian Citizen, one can NOT apply to become a Citizen of Ecuador if he/she leaves Ecuador for more than 180 DAYS TOTAL in their first 3 years since having officially received their Permanent Residency Visa stamp in their foreign issued Passport.
Despite many rumours to the contrary, you will always be permitted by the Citizenship Law in Ecuador, to have Dual Citizenship in Ecuador, regardless of what other country you are currently a Citizen of. There are countries around the world that may raise an objection to this, but in my experience as an immigration lawyer, this is a rarity.
Americans and Canadians will have no problems from their home countries, as they are permitted to apply for Citizenship in Ecuador. And so, the choice is personal as to whether or not to apply for Ecuadorian Citizenship following the first 3 years of Permanent Ecuadorian Residency. The above rules are the same process for foreigners who are married to an Ecuadorian Citizen (i.e. needing to wait 3 years since Cedulazation to apply for Ecuadorian Citizenship). Years ago, an Expat could marry an Ecuadorian Citizen and immediately, or within a matter of months, become a Citizen of Ecuador. That is simply not the case anymore.
With that being said, any person born in Ecuador, or any person born to an Ecuadorian Citizen, can/will automatically qualify for Ecuador Citizenship by Birth or through Parents.
Please note though that there is no such thing as obtaining Ecuador Citizenship by Investment. First you must become a Resident of Ecuador and wait the above mentioned 3 years, in order to do so.
Ecuadorian Citizenship Benefits
The benefits of getting Citizenship in Ecuador, begins with your eligibility to receive an Ecuadorian Passport (provided you comply with the Ecuadorian Passport requirements). Once you obtain your Ecuadorian Passport, you will be permitted to travel to any country in South America, without the use of your other Passport. This is very convenient, since you will no longer need a Visa to visit any country in South America if you have your Ecuadorian Passport (or just an Ecuadorian Cedula at that point, which shows you are a Citizen of Ecuador).
Plus, each time that you would have needed to transfer your Permanent Residency Visa to your new Passport, you no longer need to show your qualification for Permanent Residency as an Ecuadorian Citizen.
Another benefit of obtaining your citizenship would be if you applied for an Investor Visa using an Ecuadorian Bank CD or Ecuadorian Real Estate Property. Once you are an Ecuadorian Citizen, you are permitted to liquidate or sell your asset and spend it as you wish.
Required Documents To Apply For Ecuadorian Citizenship
- Birth Certificate with Apostille from your state or country of origin.
- Your foreign issued Passport not to expire for at least 12 months from when you apply for your Ecuadorian Citizenship.
- Your Ecuadorian Cedula.
- Index Card from Registro Civil.
- Certificate of compliance with obligations in SRI of Ecuador.
- Certificate of compliance with obligations in the Municipality of Cuenca or other city in Ecuador that you currently live in.
- Newly issued Certificate of compliance with obligations in IESS of Ecuador.
- Newly issued Certificate of criminal record (BOTH places as follows):
- Newly issued Certificate of Background Check(s) in your country of origin with Apostille(s) or Legalization(s), depending on your original country of citizenship.
- Newly issued Certificate of Background Check from Ecuador’s National Police.
- Newly issued Migratory Movement.
- Four (4) newly obtained passport size photographs, of your face only, not smiling, without glasses or a hat, and on a white background.
- You also need to demonstrate in documentary form, your economic solvency by showing proof of your assets and/or income, wherever they may be located (this depends on the type of Permanent Residency Visa that you have prior to you applying for your Ecuadorian Citizenship).
Please note that the Ecuadorian Naturalization (Citizenship) procedure is performed in the Immigration Ministry of Cuenca, Guayaquil or Quito. You should also take into account that the Ecuadorian Citizenship process is currently taking a minimum of 6 months, to a maximum of 12 months, in order to be approved. This is because the Immigration Ministry must review and approve the various documents, as well as administer an Ecuador Citizenship Test in Spanish. The test consists of a written portion as well as a oral interview. The test proves you possess intermediate or better Spanish speaking ability, general knowledge of Ecuadorian culture, geography, history, and the legal/political system of Ecuador. And so, as you might imagine, the Citizenship application is not nearly as quick to be approved, in comparison to when you applied for a Permanent Residency Visa.
The determination, rests with you, as to whether it is better to apply for Ecuadorian Citizenship or to remain a Permanent Resident of Ecuador. Make sure to consider your options, and consult with competent legal counsel, prior to making an actionable decision for the benefit of yourself and/or your family.