One of the biggest hurdles to the whole process of relocating to Ecuador is getting a resident visa. Not that it is all that difficult, especially compared to places like the U.S. or Canada. There are several things that can qualify you for a visa, including retirement/pension, work, study or volunteer. But for me there was only one option – an investor visa. This visa is obtained after having “invested” a certain amount of money in Ecuador, either by a deposit in a CD in a bank or purchasing land. The purchase price of my land is what I decided to use to qualify for my visa and I did extensive research before I came, to try to ensure that I arrived with all paperwork that would be needed. That may sound like a no-brainer, but Ecuador is a country where the rules change by the moment, so just because something is the requirement today, doesn’t mean that will be true tomorrow. Also, when you apply for your visa, there are several documents that they don’t want to be more than 90 days old, so I had to wait until as close to the time I was going to leave as possible. Among the documents needed were original birth certificate, marriage license and divorce decree, and a criminal background check – and all those needed to be sent to Austin, Texas to be “Apostilled” by the Secretary of State.
So I arrived in Ecuador with what I hoped would be everything I needed – but then I knew I would need help navigating the maze of a process – enter Jo and Tulia – my “visa angels”! I had asked some of my contacts here if they knew of anyone I could pay to help me with my visa and I had a few referrals (everyone said do not go to an attorney – unnecessary and too expensive), but both of those people did the process in Guayaquil, which is a big city about 2.5 hours away. Early on in my research I had stumbled across the blog of a guy from Canada who told about he and his wife’s visa process in a new office in my nearby city of Manta. As it turns out, this guy was the husband of a lady (Jo) who my upstairs Canadian neighbors knew – they all are in the same development. So I met Jo and she agreed to take me by the hand and help me navigate the bureaucratic gauntlet. We first went to Manta last Tuesday and met with a wonderfully helpful man in the visa office named Juan. Juan speaks some English and was able to look at all my paperwork and tell me what was still needed in order to complete my application. Among other things were two papers showing registration of my property and a re-valuation for visa purposes.
However, Jo is still far from fluent in the language and we needed help with the municipal land office in Jipijapa – enter Tulia! Tulia is from Columbia, but had lived in Canada for five years (and is a citizen). She bought property in the same development as the other Canadians and then, because she was fluent in Spanish, the company offered her the opportunity to move to Ecuador and work for them showing clients around who came to look at the development. Tulia has a warm and vibrant personality and she was invaluable in communicating to the office what we were needing and then communicating to me what they were needing from me. The process involved a lot of make copies of this, go pay for that, take this paper here, come back in a few days, go pay this, make more copies, take this paper here, get this notarized, etc. etc. Finally after portions of 3 separate days of that, today we received the last of the needed papers. Then once again, Jo and I were off to Manta to (hopefully) submit my application. We were a bit deflated when Juan looked at Tulia’s translation of my criminal background check and informed us the notary had not processed it correctly and it would have to be redone. There was a translator in the office at the time helping another couple who said he could do it, but while we were waiting for him, he disappeared. After a short wait, Juan noticed we were still there and the man was gone and offered a friend who could do translation – he pulled her number up on his cell phone and I called Serena. This wonderful young lady dropped whatever she was doing to meet us in the office in 20 minutes (and she was right on time!), take my papers, translate and have them notarized (and believe me, getting something notarized here is NOTHING like it is in the states – a zoo!) and return them to me in two hours for very little money. While we were waiting, Jo and I had a wonderful lunch and then went to get my last piece of the puzzle – a hideous passport photo!
Serena returned right on time and we went back into the office to finally submit all my paperwork and application. We got the lady next to Juan (but he helped her with the English) and after a bit of smiling and holding my breath (and Jo running upstairs to purchase the file folder we forgot to bring!), I finally received the long awaited stamp and paper that shows my visa application has been accepted! In all honesty, the fact that I was able to complete this process start to finish in just one week – and exactly 3 weeks to the day from my arrival in Ecuador, was absolutely nothing short of a miracle! (But then again, it is just another in a long list of miracles I have experienced all along this journey!)
And speaking of miracles – those of you who received my initial email in January announcing my impending adventure might remember this statement – After having the privilege of standing by and sailing on the Sea of Galilee in December, my motto for this next year is now, “If you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat!” Well, as Jo and I had just finished getting my passport photo and were walking back to the visa office for the last time, she saw a man selling large paintings on the street and wanted to go look. He had lots of scenes of horses, nature, etc. – but one painting immediately caught my eye. Jo had asked him how much they were and he said $45. As we walked away, I asked her if it was OK to bargain and she said yes – I asked her if she thought I could get one for $30 and she said probably. So I asked if she would go back and make the deal for the painting (and spot me the cash, as I was running out). She offered the man the $30 and he accepted it right away (which means we probably could have done better – but I am pleased to be able to bless him). So I bought the painting below. And then it wasn’t until we got back to the visa building and I was telling Jo the story, that I realized that December 3, the day I was applying for my visa, was one year ago to the day that I arrived in Israel – is God amazing or what?!