Before I came out to South America, I was in two minds as to whether to arrange for a visa in advance. I knew we’d likely be staying in Ecuador for more than the standard 90-day tourist visa. I spent hours reading about other people’s experiences and horror stories of passport problems and how difficult it was to apply for a longer stay visa or getting a job without the correct papers. Others said the school arranged it for them, but it meant handing their passport over for weeks at a time to someone they didn’t know who travelled with it to a different town. On the other hand, we also spoke to people who said it was easy to get a visa when in the country and it’s nothing to worry about. It was all very confusing and there didn’t seem to be any official sites that could clarify things for us.
There are some who do not bother applying for a longer visa. They simply pop across to a neighbouring country and re-enter in order to get another 3 months stamped on their passport. For many, this works and it’s fine for them. We, in fact, did this when we were teaching in Argentina and had no problems. However, you should be aware that sometimes there are limits to how many times you can re-enter the country and it depends on how strict the country and immigration officer are. I’ve read in some places that the law actually states that once you have left the country, you cannot re-enter for another 12 months.
So, in the end, I decided it was best to arrange to get a 6 month tourist visa in England before heading out to Ecuador. It gave me peace of mind when I was in the middle of planning our big trip and had so many other worries going round in my head. Yes, I’m a worrier and I like to be organised. Here’s how we did it:
Applying for an Ecuadorian visa in the UK
The best thing to do is contact the Ecuadorian Consulate in London. Their details are below. Their website is pretty basic and doesn’t give much information about anything. And it’s in Spanish. You’re best off phoning and speaking to them directly. When you call them, they will answer in Spanish, but they speak English too. When I called and explained our circumstances, they took down my email address and emailed us the necessary documents that explained how to apply for a visa and what documents you will need. You then have to attend an appointment in person at the Consulate in London.
You will need to apply for a 6-month visa called a ‘12-IX’. As well as filling in a form and paying £153 in cash, they also asked for the following documents:
- Passport valid for at least 6 months (+ colour photocopy)
- Passport photos x2
- Proof of sufficient funds, e.g. bank statements showing the last 3 months and at least £700 (online banking statements not accepted – you’ll have to go to your bank in person and ask for this). Otherwise, you’ll need something that’s called an Official Declaration of Support granted by family/relatives/close friends, which has to be notarised and supported by copies of their bank statements and a photocopy of their passport.
- Return flights
Make sure you have photocopies of all these documents.
The one problem we had was the return flights. As we didn’t know how long we’d be away for and we hadn’t secured a job, we hadn’t booked return flights. After a lengthy phone conversation with the Consulate, it was agreed that we did not need to show proof of return flights. I even emailed a few days later to confirm what had been said. I can’t guarantee that this will be the case for everyone, but if you have concerns about any of the documents needed, just ask the Consulate and see what can be arranged.
So once that was cleared up, we booked an appointment. Make sure you do this well in advance as this can take several weeks. We went to the Consulate in London with all our documents and photocopies. It’s not quite the building we were expecting, just a black door on the side of a plain building that was very nondescript and could easily be missed. We handed over our documents and waited.
An hour later and after handing over the money and signing some documents, we received our visas. The visa itself consists of a sticker in your passport with a signature, stamp and some fancy shiny stickers. You also receive a paper document with both your signature and that of the Consulate officer.
When you arrive in Ecuador and you go through passport control, make sure the passport officer sees the visa and stamps your passport with a ‘12-IX’.Ecuadorian Consulate: 144-146 King’s Cross road First Floor London, WC1X 9DU http://www.consuladoecuador.org.uk/ Tel. 020 7451 0040.
We were pretty unaware of a ‘step 2’ to the whole visa process. The Consulate mentioned something about having to show our visas on arrival in Ecuador. It turns out there was a bit more to it than that, but yet again, there was no official information available. When we arrived in Guayaquil, we decided to have a look online to see if we could find out if anyone had done the same. We were extremely grateful to someone who had posted on the Lonely Planet forum about registering her visa in Quito in 2013 and as a result, we managed to get our visas registered and all sorted pretty quickly.
So, as far as I’m aware, you can only register your visa in Guayaquil or Quito.
These are the documents you will need:
- Passport showing the visa.
- The paper document you received with the visa.
- Photocopy of your passport photo page
- Photocopy of your passport visa sticker
- Photocopy of your passport Ecuador entry stamp.
- $4 cash.
- In Quito, you also need these documents to be presented in a folder (the type with metal clasps – if you’re not sure, ask for ‘una carpeta con brinches’). This wasn’t necessary for us in Guayaquil.
There are places everywhere where you can get photocopies done. Look for internet cafes or printing shops, or even ask your hostel if they’ll do it for you.
Registering your visa in GuayaquilYou need to get a taxi to: Gobierno Zonal de Guayaquil, Avenida Francisco de Orellana y Justino Cornejo.
It’s a big yellow building, so not too hard to miss. From the centre of town, it’s a 10-15 minute journey and it should only cost you about 2 or 3 dollars. Make sure you get a safe taxi.
Go early in the morning. I’m not sure what time it opens but we got there at 9am and there were plenty of people there already. Still, we were able to see someone within 5 minutes.
When you arrive, you’ll get your bag briefly searched by the security guards and then you need to head to the information desk on your right hand side. Explain you want to register your visa and you’ll then be given a number. Take a seat and wait until your number appears on the screens. Make sure you have all your documents with you and $4 cash (you have to pay at a different desk located in the middle). You’ll be given a sort of receipt as well as an appointment time for when you can come and collect your passports and visa. For us, this was the next morning at 10am.
We attended the next day and it was all sorted within about 10 minutes. We had our passports back with yet another stamp and the paper document with yet another signature!
Registering your visa in Quito
Again, the information provided comes from a post on a Lonely Planet forum. Check out the original post for more information.The office you need to go to in Quito is : Dirección General de Extranjería. Avenida 6 de Diciembre, between Colón and La Niña.
This is located in the modern centre, within walking distance of La Mariscal.
The office is open from 8:30am-4:30pm Monday to Friday. Make sure you go early in the morning and have all your documents and money ready. Unlike our experience in Guayaquil, it seems you can expect a long wait here and the process can take a few days. As with all things in Ecuador, patience is needed.