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Ecuador: Visas and Immigration

A good understanding of the country you are relocating to is absolutely vital. Of course, this also applies to Ecuador: the nation’s regions are quite diverse and offer varying degrees of opportunities for expats. Our article on moving to Ecuador gives you the gist of what to expect.
Ecuador has a stunning density of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Tourist Visas

Those of you who would like to go on a fact-finding trip before relocating to Ecuador or just get a general first feel for the country will be delighted to find that nearly all nationalities are exempt from getting a tourist visa before entering Ecuador. The only requirements for the tourist visa 12-X are a passport that is valid for at least six months, a return ticket, and proof of sufficient funds to facilitate your stay in the country.

However, if you hail from certain countries, you need to get a 12-X visa beforehand. You can find a complete list of these countries on the website of the Embassy of Ecuador in Washington, for instance. Tourist visas are valid for 90 days.

Obviously, once you have made up your mind on whether to stay in Ecuador for a longer time, you need to look into other types of visas. There are two broad visa categories for foreigners who wish to spend a prolonged span of time in the country: non-immigrant and immigrant visas. At times, you might stumble upon the synonymous terms “non-resident” and “resident”, respectively. You can find details on both categories below.

All visas other than the 12-X tourist visa can only be applied for from outside of Ecuador. Even if you are in the country, you have to travel back and apply for the visa fit for your needs from your country of origin.

Non-Immigrant Visas

The official category number for non-immigrant visas is 12, which makes their identification fairly easy. All of the visas listed below are intended for people who wish to stay longer than 90 days, and are tailored to different needs. Thus, they all come with their own specific sets of requirements. For in-depth information on those requirements, you can contact the Ecuadorian mission in your home country directly, visit their homepages, or see the highly informative website Ecuador Explorer.

The most commonly used and requested types of non-immigrant visas are:

  • 12-V: study visa
  • 12-VI: work visa
  • 12-VII: volunteer and religious visa
  • 12-VIII: cultural exchange visa
  • 12-IX: long-stay business or tourism visa

Obviously, the most important and relevant visa for expats-to-be is the 12-VI work visa. The Embassy of Ecuador in the Netherlands has all the important info on their page.

Immigrant Visas

The process of acquiring an immigrant visa for Ecuador is both more complicated and long-winded than that for non-immigrant ones. As immigrant visas are generally not tailored towards the “classical” expat, but rather retirees or investors, chances are that they won’t apply at all to most of you. If you require additional info nonetheless, the homepage of the Ministry of Tourism is a recommended read.

Registering Your Visa and General Administration

All foreigners who are not holders of the 12-X tourist visa and plan on staying more than 90 days have to register with Ecuadorian authorities within 30 days of arrival. There are two distinct registration processes you have to go through after arriving in Ecuador: the non-immigrant visa registration (where applicable), and the registration for your censo.

If you are a holder of a non-immigrant visa other than the standard tourist visa 12-X, you have to register it with the Dirección de Extranjería in Quito. Apart from your passport and certificado de visación, which is supplied by the Ecuadorian mission that issued your visa, you need a large envelope, some passport photos and some cash — partly to pay for the process, and partly to pay for various copies of your documents. If everything is in order, you should be able to pick up your passport again within one to five business days.

The second registration will earn you an ID card, the censo. Apply for it at the Dirección Nacional de Migración, also located in Quito. The process is fairly easy and quick, and you might want to combine the two registration processes and get both done at the same time. This is also a great opportunity to discover Quito for a couple of days, should you be headed to another part of the country.

If you have to renew your visa, please do so at least 30 days before it expires to avoid unnecessary run-ins with the law.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Jaromir Novy

"InterNations provided me with all the necessary information about Ecuador. It really helps to settle as expat in South America."

Adriana Rodrigues Zon

"With InterNations I met other Portuguese women in Quito quickly. We even play tennis together once a week."

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