I’m a proud owner of a Professional Visa here (woohoo!). It’s an Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa. I did the whole process without an attorney and honestly found it extremely easy.
To give some background, I’m an American citizen. How to get Ecuador visa for US citizens is something a lot of Americans have questions about. This article will cover the requirements and everything that can happen.
Definitely, no lawyers needed on that visa, especially if you speak Spanish. In my opinion, the solicitors are just relying on clients who don’t speak Spanish very well — of which there are many in the expat community.
But I have friends who do speak Spanish who also hired an attorney. So, I think laziness might be a factor too lol.
I got the Ecuador 9-V visa or professional visa, which is a temporary residence visa.
Ecuador Visa for US Citizens: Where to Apply?
Note that US citizens don’t need a visa to enter Ecuador for tourism or sightseeing.
I applied for the Ecuador resident visa in Ecuador only. Many expats from the United States usually apply for the resident visa when they are already here and decide to move to Ecuador.
But you can also submit the Ecuador visa application in an Ecuador embassy in the USA or a consulate. Ecuador has consulates in Washington DC, Miami, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Pheonix, Houston, San Francisco, and other places.
Ecuador 9-V Visa Requirements
Apostilled and Notarized Diploma and Official Transcripts from US
The Secretary of State in the state that the diploma was issued in, would be able to apostille/notarize the diploma and official transcripts.
For this, I mailed the original copy of the diploma and official transcripts to the Secretary of State. They make the official copy and apostille it. I brought everything to SENESCYT and let them sort out what they wanted.
You need these to register your degree or registro de tutulus en SENESCYT.
Do I Need to Break the Frame and Send the Original Diploma?
You can call your university and ask them to make a copy of the diploma and apostille it and send it to you. I have heard accounts of expats who have taken pics of the degree and sent it to their school as proof and that had worked out for them.
Once you have that, you can even notarize them in Ecuador. SENESCYT will keep the notarized copies of your apostilled diploma and return the originals.
Also note that some secretaries of state won’t apostille documents that are over a year old. There is no solution that would work out for everyone.
So you should really get in touch with the secretary of state and get the answer.
FBI Background Check
I got it apostilled in the US BEFORE coming to Ecuador AND translated/notarized into Spanish here in Ecuador.
All FBI Background checks need to be notarized and apostilled by the Office of Authentications. When you mail in your FBI background check, you need to also include a self addressed envelope with postage for them to mail it back to you.
At the time of this article, they were charging $8 / document (NOT per page). I’ve included their info below:US Department of State
Office of Authentications
44132 Mercure Circle
PO Box 1206
Sterling VA 20166
State Background Check
I had it apostilled in the US BEFORE coming to Ecuador. When I ordered my Florida background check online, it gave me the option to order both English and Spanish and have it notarized.
So I had both English and Spanish notarized by them and got it apostilled by the Department of State.
I showed the bank statements for the last 3 months showing I could afford to live here (it was in English, I didn’t translate it since everyone understands numbers and even more so, dollars $$$ LOL).
Ecuador 9-V Visa Fees
The Ecuador 9-V visa costs $450 ($400 for the visa and $50 processing fee).
For each dependent, you need to pay $250 extra.
All fees must be paid in cash only.
Application Process for Ecuador Professional Visa
The processes are not very logical, but in Ecuador, they do follow a step-by-step method and it’s much more transparent and accountable than applying for British citizenship.
Step 1: Register Your Diploma with SENESCYT.
The first thing you need to do is register your diploma with SENESCYT. For this, your university should be on the list of approved educational institutions on SENESCYT.
If it’s not on the list of approved institutions, you can still apply for the visa but there’d be an additional step for you to complete, which I’m not familiar with.
My university was on SENESCYT’s list of approved schools.
For this, you need to do the following.
Create a SENESCYT account
Create an account on the SENESCYT website: https://siau-online.senescyt.gob.ec/. Once you find the type of transaction you want to make (registering your title as an extranjero), select it and upload all the required documents.
Upload a copy of your passport, your highest level diploma (I only did my Masters) apostilled and notarized, and your certified transcripts (also apostilled and notarized). I got these documents apostilled / notarized in the United States BEFORE arriving in Ecuador.
I think it was a few days later I got an email about paying for the transaction. I believe it was $25 which needed to be paid at a Banco Pacifico in cash. They give you 2 days to do this after you print the document you need to take to the bank.
After paying, a few days later I got an email about selecting a date/ time for my in-person appointment to present my documents.
Just a note: probably because of coronavirus, nobody was allowed into either of the 2 appointments with me — they had to wait outside for me at the SENESCYT appointment.
Not sure exactly when it was approved, but exactly on the 14th day after my in-person appointment, I checked the SENESCYT website: http://senescyt.gob.ec/consulta-titulos-web/faces/vista/consulta/consulta.xhtml?
I noticed the official “Titulo” document that I could print to PDF showing my degree had been registered/ approved.
Here is a detailed guide to register a profession in Senescyt,Ecuador as a foreigner.
Step 2: Apply for the Ecuador Professional Visa
Once you have the official titulo document from Senescyt, you can apply for your visa by doing the following:
To get the appointment in Quitumbe, I wrote them like 4 weeks ago and still nothing.
You can get an appointment for Ecuador visa by requesting one to the email email@example.com. I got one like on a Thursday to go in-person on Friday but didn’t have the SENESCYT step above completed yet so I had to miss it.
I responded asking for a reschedule and got no reply (typical Ecuador). I emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org and attached all my visa documents and got a response in a few days with a new appointment (received on a Friday for an in-person apt on Monday).
The email specifically referenced this website www.cancilleria.gob.ec for the list of required docs I needed to present at my appointment.
Step 3: Get the Visa
I went to Quitumbe (highly recommend the trolley bus — 25 cents takes you all the way there but allocate at least 1 hour 15 mins to commute from Quito) in person and presented:
Here are the documents I took.
- Formulario de solicitud de visa for Ecuador , signed in blue ink.
- Original passport
- Copy of passport in color
- Passport size photo
- Copy of the PDF showing my degree was approved/ registered with SENESCYT, Ecuador
- FBI background check
- State background check
- Bank statements
The email I received with the appointment specifically said all the required docs needed to be in una carpeta. You can get one in any papeleria. I paid like 35 cents for mine.
The lady (who was not friendly AT ALL) snapped my picture, gave me a paper (another version of my formulario de solicitud de visa with a little ‘$50 paid’ sticker on it) and told me I’d get my visa via email in 10 minutes.
She said to print it and keep it in my passport. I never got the email though LOL.
So I went back a week later to Quitumbe (yes, annoying) and right away was able to tell someone outside what had happened (about no email being received). She brought me right into the building and re-sent the email and I got it instantly.
How Long Does it Take to Get Ecuador Visa for Professionals?
For me it took almost 1 month exactly (SENESCYT appointment July 22 and visa apt / approved visa granted aug 24).
Sometimes the bureaucracy in Ecuador can be a little too much, so the processing time can vary a little.
Ecuador Visa Extension for Temporary Residents
Similar to any temporary resident visa, a professional visa is valid for 2 years. Before it expires, you can extend this Ecuador visa for 2 years.
After 21 months with a temporary resident visa, you also become eligible to apply for a permanent resident for Ecuador.