Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ecuador Residency

There would be a danger in taking our blog as the final word on achieving Ecuadorian residency.  With that said, I will attempt to tell our story.

A residency visa allows you to live in Ecuador permanently based on your type of application.  If you just come for a visit you get 90 days in one year.   Most norteamericanos seek either an investment visa or a retirement visa.  Because the requirements seem to change monthly it is important to discuss in detail with your Ecuadorian attorney about which process is better for you.  Since Rachel and I are not yet eligible for Social Security our only option was an investment visa.  You currently can attain this qualification with the purchase of either a financial instrument or a real property in Ecuador.  Our investment in the condo qualified us.  When we get the deed to our new property in Cotacachi, we will have to go through another process to exchange our qualifying investment, but hopefully it will less stressful and time consuming than the first go around.  The process for retirees is much easier from what we've heard and observed, but there are little traps waiting for you if you are not fully prepared.  Unfortunately the abogados (attorneys) tend to get blamed for the slow process and errors.  In most cases, the attorneys are not to be blamed.  The government agencies that do the processing are less than efficient.   Patience is always a virtue,  Hopefully you are much more virtuous than this type A blogger.  We began our process over ten months ago!

You might wonder why this could be such an enormous undertaking.  We only hear rumors, but it is pretty well documented that the minister that heads up this operation has been replaced 3 times since our application.  Each time the minister has been replaced, his entire staff has been fired as well.  I'm not sure how deep this corruption goes, but apparently pretty deep.  In the USA our corruption is usually in the millions and includes lavish vacations, private jets, jewelry, and enormous cash trails. It is usually perpetrated by people in powerful positions.   In Ecuador the corruption is a few dollars here and there and spread widely, but it's corruption none the less.   Anyway, imagine starting completely over with an entire administrative staff.....3 times in a year!  Actually, it is amazing we are getting our residency at all.

We were notified in early August that our passports had been 'stamped' in Quito with the investment residency visa.  Of course it took them two weeks to notify us.  The window of opportunity for completing the process was already closing.  You have 60 days to complete your censo and cedula processes once your visa is stamped.  We had already been waiting 9 months so we decided to wait till our move to Otavalo at the end of August to claim our residency.  Quito is only a two hour bus ride from Otavalo.

We arrived in Quito Monday so that we could get in line early Tuesday at the Officinas del Registro Civil.  Our Cuenca attorney arranged for his Quito participating attorney to meet us there at 8:30 when they were opening up.  At first things seemed to be going extremely well.  Our abogado, Cynthia, got right to the front of the line as we observed while seated thirty feet behind her.  After a short discussion I saw his finger motion the death wave which literally means in Espanol 'you're screwed'.  Cynthia's face was at first stunned, then sunk.  They didn't have the paperwork!!!

Cynthia is fresh out of law school.  They get assigned these nasty tasks when they join the law firms here.  Credit her tenacity however.  She double and triple questioned the bureaucrat.  Ten months of waiting, a special trip to Quito and in an instant....'We don't have your paperwork'. 

As she broke the news to us we were likewise crestfallen.  There is a standard phrase from Latinos to impatient gringos when the impatient gringo has lost his luggage or some other monumental setback.  "Don't worry" is the phrase.  Literally translated it means  'I don't have a clue how we will resolve this issue'.   Credit Cynthia.  She didn't say "Don't worry".  I give her much credit.  She told us she would have to go to the extranajero (or something like that) and have a trace put on the document that was critical for us to go forward.  She wasn't specific about a timetable on this matter.  Her unspoken words meant hours, days, weeks, or..... She said we could wait there and gather moss or go down to McDonalds for WiFi and lattes and wait there.  Guess which one we chose.  I finished two blogs while we were there.

We left the Registro Civil about 10:00 and immediately started to imbibe volumes of caffeine at Macs to maintain a certain level of attention and agitation.  Honestly we really enjoyed ourselves.  We sat in cushy leather couches with our lattes.  We caught up with emails, the current state of world chaos, and really enjoyed the passersby in this obviously westernized and affluent area of Quito.  The Big Macs tasted just like in the states too.

About 2:30 we got a call from Alexis, Cynthia's boss.  Cynthia had located the document!  It turns out that it was just where it was supposed to be but the bureaucrats are notorious for never finding things the first time around unless you leap over the counter and pull it out for them.  It's frustrating to have what you want in the hands of such incompetence.  I digress.  Remember, I'm type A.

So again we head over to the Registry Civil.  By now the place is crowded and noisy like the Chicago Board of Trade and even the usually patient Ecuadorians are showing some signs hypertension.  This time we have to battle and jockey for a place to sit and wait.  We get a waiting turno card which gives us the magic permission to go before the bureaucrat once again.  The flat screen above shows the evolving turnos.  I look for Cynthia and she's no where to be seen!  She has the document and without it we go nowhere.  After calling several times I finally reach her.  She's upstairs having the document stamped.  She's in line too.  Now I'm thinking our turn will come up and she's not here.  Another two hour wait for nothing!

My angst (as usual) was for naught.  Cynthia shows up before our turno with a stamped document.  Another short sigh of relief.  Cynthia somehow has some pull and gets to the front of the line without a turno card.  Go Cynthia!  She motions Rachel forward and with her stamped passport and censo in hand Rachel dutifully advanced with the reverence of communion.  I followed with slighly less reverence.  Another process complete.  On to stage 27.  The next level of bureaucracy was to be even more formidable.

I'm not sure what you call this phase of the cedula but it is where they reverify your documentation and get your information logged into the registry.  They pour over your passport, censo, and your application for cedula.  Our attorney had tried to 'anticipate' an issue we were surely going to encounter.  He knew that my birthplace, an obscure town in South Dakota (Canton) would not be on the system in Quito.  He suggested that we enter a nearby well known city, so I chose Sioux Falls as my birthplace.  Big mistake.  After much questioning I finally caved and said this was just on the application because my attorney knew that Canton wasn't on their system which was true.  They went back on the system to see if Canton was there.  Indeed it was! (I'm pretty sure my birthplace is now Canton Ohio).  Rachel wasn't so lucky.  Her birthplace, Lawton, Oklahoma was also not on the sytem so it was going to be another day while they loaded another city onto their system.  We left the registro with our tails between our legs and our dappers down.

We were exhausted from a day of waiting in line and questions about our names, birthplaces, lost applications, and one too many Big Macs.  We had no place to stay overnight.  We were hungry and crabby and disappointed that our process was still in limbo.  We were still unsure whether another day of bureaucracy and waiting would bring results.  We found a hostel and it was ok.

The next day we arrived early again with fresh hope.  This day they just didn't like Rachel's name.  Her legal name is Rachel Treeman Roland.  Treeman was her maiden name you see.  What they just couldn't understand is that her middle name was the same as her parent's name.  Apparently they don't like parent's last name in the middle.  They were talking to us about Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis.  We weren't sure of the relevancy. They could understand if Rachel was a widow and kept her deceased husband's last name, but this thing about having a maiden name in there...well, it's just unacceptable.  After some rather lengthy discussion they capitulated and accepted her legal name. 

Next week we go back to Quito to pick up our actual cedulas.  Wish us luck.


Marie Ann... said...

Luck to you both! And blessings....

Anonymous said...

This took some skill to write and I enjoyed reading it!