I was just reading someone’s Facebook post; a woman who lives here in Mexico. She was seeking information on bringing her Mexican boyfriend back to the states to meet her parents…a sort of vacation for a few weeks. Wow! I didn’t realize how challenging the immigration process can be for something seemingly so simple. The U.S. is not particularly friendly toward immigrants these days, in case you hadn’t noticed; much different than it was some decades ago. Mexican immigrants, even those wanting to come on vacation apparently have a rough time, according to what I’ve read this morning. No need to go into her situation but it did make me remember our immigration process to acquire our retirement visas and Cedula (National I.D. Card) in Ecuador and also our fairly recent immigration process for Mexico. Completely different!!!!
At the time Diane and I endured the Ecuadorian immigration process a few years ago, their system was in transition…moving toward improvement with rules and regulations literally changing daily and much inconsistency between various immigration offices around the country regarding what was required.
We utilized the services of a major law firm in Quito, Ecuador’s Capitol, to facilitate our process and have absolutely no regrets!! Knowing what I know now, there would have been no way that we could have successfully navigated that process, at that time, without professional guidance. I believe we had everything completed in around 90 days from our first meeting with our lawyers. We brought the required documents with us (a long and painful accumulation that took a bit longer than 3 months to collect), as directed by our lawyers and completed all other necessary forms during our first meeting. They said they would contact us to return to Quito when Immigration had processed our applications and visas would be issued.
When we returned to Quito, a team of 4 folks from our law firm met us at the appropriate government office. They literally walked us through each step of the process, taking us from office to office and desk to desk. While we were being shepherded by one or two team members, the others were working ahead of us, meeting with processing officials and hustling our files from desk to desk. One person’s job was to simply to work behind the scenes, in back offices and leaning over desks greasing the wheels. An amazing process to watch! At one point when we were all certain that all forms were completed, signed and correctly submitted and we were just waiting for our photos to be taken for our Visa, one of the paralegals was told that a new form was required that had just been issued that morning. The form needed to be completed and notarized and had to do with the ancestry of our parents. By that point, nothing surprised me. Our lawyer phoned an assistant in her office who then connected with a local notary. (A Notary in Ecuador and also in Mexico is a powerful attorney who has broad powers regarding legal documentation. They can draft all sorts of legal documents)
We jumped into our lawyer’s car and arrived at the notary office ten minutes later. It was completely jammed with people and had an almost carnival atmosphere as other lawyers and clients were all jostling shoulder to shoulder and negotiating with notary staff and discretely passing money from hand to hand, trying to get their particular legal documents processed. While my Spanish was quite poor, I could clearly see deals being cut as one person’s documents were processed before another’s and a crowd of notary staff people was always gathered around the boss’s office seeking signatures. Quite a process!!!
We were led into a private, quiet office where we waited for perhaps 30-40 minutes as our documents were being drafted and processed. We then signed them, the notary signed them and we returned to the first government office to complete our processing. One of the paralegals had stayed behind at the government office to keep our place in line so that we would not have to start all over again. We were led behind a roped partition, through some back office and emerged ahead of many others at a couple of desks where our photos were taken within a few minutes and we were done! We had been there all day, without food and it was my pleasure to take our 4 person team out for a very late lunch.
These days, Ecuador’s immigration process has been considerably streamlined. A number of popular facilitators assist newly arriving Gringos in acquiring their proper visas and passports and it’s now done in far less time and with far less trauma than in years past. Connecting with some of the Ecuador Facebook Groups will provide a number of referrals for facilitators who are efficient and reasonably priced. Many gringos are now able to complete the process without assistance as several offices now have staff members who speak English.
The immigration process for every country varies greatly. Visas may or may not be granted based on a seemingly endless variety of circumstances. Generally speaking, retirement visas seem to be pretty straight forward and rather easy to obtain in many the countries we’ve explored. Work visas, investment visas and other visas can be more complex.
While Ecuador’s immigration process for retirees has been significantly simplified, they have a long way to go to compete with the supersonic speed and ease of the retirement visa process in Mexico!
Mexico requires that you begin the visa process in your home country by visiting a Mexican Embassy or Consulate. As in Ecuador, we decided to use the services of a professional Mexican organization specializing in Visas for immigrants. We selected Yucatan Expatriate Services (YES) in Merida. I connected with them via email and sent a small deposit to secure their services. The balance would be paid upon completion of their services. Some of you may recall that when we first arrived in Mexico, we rented places in both Merida and Cancun so that we could divide our time between both locations. We weren’t sure where we wanted to live. The immigration pros at YES began to work with us right away, even before we left Ecuador. They directed us to the proper web site to locate a couple of forms and even assisted with the process to bring our dog into Mexico.
The Mexican Embassy located in Quito, Ecuador requires appointments which we made and confirmed through an online process. We flew to Quito and arrived at the appointed time with our marriage certificate, proof of income and our passports. We met with an embassy official for only a few minutes for an interview. He reviewed our documents, asked a few questions, took our passports and announced that we would be immediately granted a permanent resident visa. We were to return in a few hours to pick it up. That was a surprise!
Sure enough, we returned at the appointed time and our permanent resident visas were printed into our passports. The final step was to be completed in Mexico. We would have 30 days to apply for our permanent resident “card” or a national I.D. card after we arrived. The folks at Y.E.S. were prepared to assist us with that upon our arrival and that process went smoothly and flawlessly as we were driven to the appropriate government office by a YES staff member and walked through a simple process, fingerprinting and photo. We were done in less than an hour.
The streamlined visa process, I think, is only for retirement visas in Mexico. All other types of visas require a different and specific process.
Also, the income requirements for retirement visas vary from country to country. Ecuador’s requirement is only $800 per month at the time of this writing with an additional $100 required for a spouse. That’s not to say that one can actually live very comfortably on that amount. Mexico’s income requirement is around $2,200 per month, based on a formula tied to average Mexican wages.
In all locations on the planet, coastal living costs more than living on the interior of a country… and beachfront living is often the most expensive real estate to be found. That said, many locations on the planet offer amazing opportunities for affordable, beachfront or “almost” beachfront living that are far less expensive, far more beautiful and far more exotic than can be found in the U.S.
Now that I’m back in Cancun and my strength continues to return a bit more each day, I can appreciate, once again, the beauty of the Caribbean and the laid-back culture.
You can stay right where you are. OR…you can check out the life of an expat. It’s not for everyone but just don’t let fear be the thief that steals the life you could have. Airplanes fly in all directions. If something doesn’t work…try something else.
P.S. Here is a web address that appears to provide current information regarding Ecuador Retirement Visas. DO NOT TAKE THIS INFORMATION AS ENTIRELY ACCURATE!
Here is a web address that appears to provide current information regarding Mexican Retirement Visas. DO NOT TAKE THIS INFORMATION AS ENTIRELY ACCURATE!