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Sunday, June 22, 2014

New Ecuadorian citizenship requirements. June 2014.

Written by Garth Bougard on Ecuador Expats FB page: New citizenship requirements explained from Cuenca meeting. 
Executive summary – New language and knowledge requirements for Ecuadorian citizenship, coupled with high costs and minimal benefits likely mean that only a small percentage of current gringo residents will be applying for citizenship in the near future (IMHO).

On June 20, 2014 in Cuenca over 75 gringos met to listen to a representative (Juaquin ?)from the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores explain the new requirements for citizenship in Ecuador.

1. Paperwork - He gave us a list of 13 requirements. Eleven of those requirements were documents and paperwork that were required. Of the 11 documents, eight documents could be generated from within Ecuador, and the other three of those documents need to come from the home country of the expat – those documents need to be legalized or apostilized , depending on country of origin, as well as translated into Spanish. These included a birth certificate, an updated criminal records check, (valid for 6 months) and proof of income statements from banks, etc.

2. New Spanish requirement - The major change was a new requirement to be able to speak and write “well” in Spanish. For many gringos, it sounds as if this will be a deal breaker. Apparently the law was changed earlier this year, but is only beginning to be enforced starting this week. You do not need to speak Spanish when you submit your initial application. However, you do need to be able to do this for your final interview at the end of the process, a year or so later. Joaquin promised to contact the ministry in Quito and see if they can provide more details. It was not clear if the level of Spanish required was intermediate, advanced, or fluency. However, it is apparently at least conversational.

3. General Knowledge - There is also a new requirement for general knowledge and geography about Ecuador. (Names of provinces, names of past presidents, cities, etc) However, folks suggested that for most people this would not be a deal breaker - with a few hours of studying, this could probably be met quite easily.

4. Costs - Another new piece of info was the high cost of obtaining citizenship. Even Juaquin seemed shocked when all the numbers were added up by folks who had just completed the process. It seems it will cost around $2000 per person(!!!), assuming that you do not need to go back to your country of origin to obtain any of the 3 types of documents required. Costs include $200 application fee, $500 final fee, $450 for advertising in the paper, $600 for three trips to Quito , (one trip was to get a new cedula at the end of the process), $200  for a new cedula, cost of apostiling documents in home country ,200?, cost of registering your marriage in Quito (?). A few people may choose to hire a lawyer at about $300 (?) to get them through this difficult process.

5. Benefits – a discussion was held around benefits. Joaquin thought it highly unlikely that any future government would ask existing legal residents to leave Ecuador. Many gringos at the meeting apparently wanted to obtain citizenship out of a concern that some future Ecuadorian government could ask residents to leave – as has happened in other countries around the world. Joaquin also clarified, that after you have been a resident for two years, you can leave the country for 18 months, then return to Ecuador for a few minutes, and then leave for another 18 months. Many people will be happy with that, and choose not to obtain citizenship.

6. Miscellaneous – Joaquin said that if you do not have the capacity to learn Spanish, then you cannot become a citizen. He also talked about what happens to spouses if one is here as a dependent. If both apply for citizenship, and the main visa holder is granted citizenship, but the dependent is not, then the dependent must reapply for residency, because they lose their existing residency. I found that point a little scary.

7. Conclusion – With relatively few benefits, and high costs, I think that only relatively financially well-off gringos, where both partners speak Spanish well, will be applying for citizenship in the future. My perception was that most people who came to the meeting were considering applying for citizenship – but as we left the meeting – virtually everyone I talked to had decided not to apply for citizenship, based on the new info from that meeting.


8. This is what I thought happened at the meeting, to the best of my recollection. Perhaps anyone else who was there can correct any errors I have made. Hope this helps some of you folks. For more detailed questions, I advise talking to the Ministry folks themselves.



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