Sunday, March 26, 2017

Citizenship in Ecuador

This is the third part in the series under the New Immigration Law 2017. After you have applied for permanent residency and have been in Ecuador for three years, you're eligible to apply for citizenship if you so choose. The main ­difference between residency and citizenship is that with a residency visa, you cannot run for political office. With citizenship, you can run for political office, with the exception of the presidency. I don’t know of any expat who has such high political aspirations (yet!).

As a permanent resident you're allowed to be out of the country of Ecuador for 90 days the first year; 90 days the second year and 18 months the third year. Under the new law  -- to take effect in June -- it's 180 days the first year, 180 days the second year, and five years the third year. 

Personally, I don't know why anyone would want to leave the country of Ecuador that long! I miss Ecuador after being gone for only ten days. If you're a world traveler or if you need to go back to the States to take care of a loved one (parent or child) for an extended period of time; it's nice to have the flexibility that citizenship brings.

However, you need to know upfront whether you want to go for citizenship because the requirements for being out of the country are different. After obtaining permanent residency, you cannot be gone more than 90 days total in three years (if you're going for citizenship). Many expats have been caught off guard when they went to apply for citizenship and found out they were out of the country too many days. We do know of folks that were able to obtain citizenship even though they were over the limit of days out of the country, but it was a lengthy process.

Citizenship comes down to a personal decision. If you have your residency tied up with an investment (25K in the bank or real estate), you may want to free up your assets, so citizenship would give you that flexibility.

Also, citizenship doesn't tie you to any time constraints for being out of the country. You can come and go as you please. The United States and Canada are one of the few countries that allow dual citizenship. For a complete list of other countries that allow or don't allow dual citizenship, click here.

As far as traveling through South America, you'll have more freedom with Ecuadorian citizenship as you won't have to apply for a visa and have fees to visit such countries as Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru, and Uruguay.  If you travel extensively, Ecuadorian citizenship may be worth considering.

We know American citizens who have lived in Ecuador for 30 years and have never applied for citizenship; you just have to remember to renew your 
cédula before its expiration date. Our cédula expires in 2022, but passports come with expiration dates as well! Quite frankly, I have enough trouble keeping up with one passport; I'm not sure that I need two.

Also, we know folks that went through the process of Ecuadorian citizenship and ended up moving to another country. And we know others who actually failed their citizenship test and had to start all over again. 

If you're still in the stage of applying for permanent residency, I would encourage you to go for a professional visa. It requires a four-year college degree, but it isn't tied to any investment. If we were to do it all over again, we would have applied for professional visas as we both have college degrees and we would have applied separately.

As it stands now, I'm dependent on my husband's pensioner visa from UPS. When he passes away, I won't receive his pension, so I will have 30 days to apply for a new visa. If I had citizenship, I wouldn't have to worry about that.

Is that reason enough for me to go through the process of citizenship? Probably not. Since we will both receive our Social Security this year, I will just reapply independently. In fact, I may do that sooner rather than later and most likely I'll apply for a professional visa.

 if you’re worried about the ever-tightening banking restrictions for U.S. citizens living abroad, a second passport could come in handy. Should you want to open up a bank account outside the U.S., you may wish to do so using your Ecuadorian passport. 

It all boils down to a personal choice whether you want to go for citizenship or not; it's not mandatory. 

Next time I'll discuss the process and requirements. 

Until next time...hasta luego, 

Connie and Mark 

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