Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ecuadorian Embassy

One of the great things about living in Lancaster County is the close proximity to major metropolitan cities like New York, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. Within an hour or two (depending on traffic), you can be out of the Amish farmland into the heart of a major city.

Last week (May 6), we headed for Washington D.C. to the Ecuadorian Embassy to get our paperwork processed for our 12-IX visas, which allows us to stay in Ecuador for up to six months. Surprisingly—once there—the process was swift (20 minutes).

If you are new to this process there are many visas you can obtain, but we specifically applied for the pensioner’s visa. We brought along the following documents:

*Marriage certificate (original document with a raised notarized seal)
*Criminal records (original document, notarized)
*Retirement pension letter (original, not notarized)
*Two extra passport photos

When we arrived at the embassy (or what we thought was the embassy), we entered a small courtyard and were met by a man wearing a red polo shirt and white sneakers. Hmm…that was our first clue that we were in the wrong place and the fact that there was no Ecuadorian flag(anywhere!). Thanks to Mapquest and our GPS device, we landed in someone’s front yard (or backyard…I’m not really sure). Forty-five minutes later, we were able to find a parking space right in front of the correct embassy (there was an Ecuadorian flag outside the front entrance!).

As soon as we entered through the doors, we were greeted with a warm welcome. “Buenos Dias!” Ahh…we were at the right place (they weren’t speaking Italian). Make sure you don’t answer in Spanish because the rate at which they answer you increases in volume, intensity and speed. The words all mushed together, “ComoestaUsted?”

Since I had spoken to Marco on the phone (in English), I thought I would try out one of my newly acquired Spanish phrases, “Estoy…contenta…de…saberlo!” Marco smiled weakly and shook my hand. The usual greeting for other employees consisted of a kiss on the cheek (not both sides – just one side). That will take some getting used to because in Italy (with few exceptions) we always greeted one another with a kiss to both sides of the cheek (starting with the left side first otherwise you could get caught in the “middle”).

After exchanging pleasantries we got right down to business. We only had to fill out one form – “Certificado de Visacion” which was one page and included the type of visa we were applying for, our address, a passport photo, a place to fill in the passport number and date of expiration. The next process was to hand over all our documents to Marco who translated our letter of pension and attached it to the original. All documents were then “apostilled” – that’s a fancy name for the shiny blue (or silver) stamp that is foil-like with a number on it, followed by the official Ecuadorian seal. My hubby had to fill out one more document since he was the pension bearer (“Solicitud de Visa”) which was also apostilled (with a shiny silver seal and then stamped with the Ecuadorian stamp –“Consulado del Ecuador, Washington DC”). We paid $380 in cash for all that stamping and apostilling. We were done—almost!

If you have followed me thus far, you may be wondering what happened to our criminal records? I do not know. Marco briefly looked at them and I believe that’s all he needed to do. He works directly with our lawyer in Quito (Gabriella Espinosa) where we will continue the process for a permanent visa.

There might be a glitch (although I hope not!). We have this strange policy in the States when you get married (for us – 35 years ago) that when you apply for a marriage certificate, your maiden name is used on the document because you aren’t married yet. In Sicily, it was a problem and I’m sure we will face the same difficulty in Ecuador (maiden name on official document). If at all possible you want your legal name the same on all documents.

So what did we do afterwards? We ate at an Italian restaurant (of course!) – Tuscana West. We sat in the coolness of the patio seating and pondered if we had done it right (or not). I only say that because we have been through this process before (in Sicily), but there it depended on the mood of the person who was processing your documents whether or not it was “okay” or not. But then again, in Sicily it really didn’t matter because you just paid them under the table if it wasn’t right (to make it right!). Think of the movie: “Godfather.” And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

We were pleased with our first Ecuadorian Embassy experience and we look forward to finishing up the process in Quito, but for now we have our 12-IX visas.

Until next time…hasta luego!

Connie and Mark

ADDENDUM: Please note that this was our experience for obtaining our 12-IX visa. If you are in the process of obtaining your visa, be sure to call the Ecuadorian Embassy first before proceeding (policies/laws change constantly).

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