Ecuadorean Citizenship--Easy And Practical
Other than for random, one-off real estate investment opportunities, Ecuador has never been high on my list of top offshore destinations. This country is more a lifestyle choice than a place to think about planting an investment flag. However, at this week’s Live and Invest in Ecuador Conference in Quito, several people have asked about obtaining Ecuadorean citizenship. They figure that, if they are moving to the country anyway, they should consider all the associated opportunities.
As it turns out, obtaining Ecuadorean citizenship is fairly easy, as long as you can meet the residency requirement, which, again, can be straightforward.
Ecuador offers several residency options, including one for pensioners and another for investors. To qualify as a pensioner (that is, for the pensionado visa), all you need to do is prove a minimum monthly income of US$800 (for an individual; the requirement is US$900 for a couple). That’s it, other than a clean police report, copies of your passport, two photos, a birth certificate, and, if relevant, a marriage certificate.
Qualifying For Residency In Ecuador As An Investor
To qualify for residency as an investor, you need to invest US$25,000 (for a single; the investment amount is US$25,500 for a couple). You can invest that amount in real estate or put the cash into a bank CD. You have to maintain the investment for as long as you want to maintain your residency. That means that, if you invest in real estate, you can’t sell the property without disrupting your residency status. The residency attorney presenting at this week’s conference in Quito explained that he has worked with clients in the past who intended to buy and sell real estate during their time in Ecuador. They chose, therefore, to invest the US$25,000 in a bank CD.
Parking US$25,000 in a CD in an Ecuador bank for the rest of your life (assuming you intend to remain a resident of Ecuador until you expire) may not appeal to everyone. This is one very practical reason why obtaining an Ecuadorean passport can make sense.
The required residency period before becoming eligible for naturalization in Ecuador is only three years. That’s the shortest period I know for any country. Once you’ve had legal residency in this country for those three years, you’re eligible to apply for naturalization. Again, the process, as outlined by the attorneys presenting at the conference this week, is straightforward, nothing more than a matter of paperwork.
The even better news is that you can expect to be approved for citizenship in less than a year, and without taking a test. Most countries require at least a basic test on the country’s history, geography, politics, etc., in the local language. Again, that’s not the case in Ecuador.
Once you’re an Ecuador citizen, you can liquidate the US$25,000 investment you made to obtain residency.
The other benefit of obtaining citizenship is that it means you can eliminate the time requirement that comes with residency in Ecuador. During your first year as a resident in this country, you can’t leave the country for more than 90 days. After that, you can’t leave the country for more than 18 consecutive months without putting your residency status at risk. Become a citizen, and you can come and go as you like.
As a travel document, an Ecuadorean passport isn’t the best option out there. You’d be able to travel to fewer than 80 countries visa-free, including most of Latin America, some of Africa and Asia, and only a couple of countries in Europe. However, Ecuador allows dual citizenship for citizens of countries where they have a treaty in place (including the United States and Canada). So you could use your Ecuador passport when traveling in Latin America and use your current passport when traveling to Europe.
The biggest hurdle to Ecuadorean citizenship is the required time in the country. You’ll need to live in Ecuador full time for four years (three years before qualifying to apply for naturalization and then the year that it will take for your application to be processed). Four years is still less than the five years that most countries require before you can even apply for naturalization.