One of the most challenging, exasperating, confusing and ultimately satisfying experiences in the life of an expat is the process of complying with the governmental requirements of the new country in order for you to become "legal". Yesterday, Patty and I completed the process of acquiring our "cedula", the second of the required documents; the first being the "censo" that our new home country of Ecuador mandates.
Those of you who have already completed the process know what I'm talking about. Those of you who haven't acquired these documents, have an event in your Ecuador life experience that will be the topic for a lot of future discussions with empathetic fellow expats. And, many times, the stories will have many variations, as few of us have traveled the same route to acquire our "legality". Those differences make for a lot of interesting comparisons. Trying to find a common thread leading to a definite path to follow is, to say the least, elusive.
One common thread that we all will agree on is that documentation, whether from your previous home country or Ecuador, involves dealing with bureaucrats and attorneys...all of whom represent a level of expertise that can be quite frustrating in addition to being expensive.
Trying to get a definite list of documents is always subject to change, depending on who you talk with, or the changing governmental whims at the time. At one time or another, Patty and I have been told that we need the following "official" documents ("official" means notarized, apostilled[stamped], or verified by some state official): birth certificate, marriage certificate, income statement($800 plus $100 more for each dependent), health record, police record, passport, international drivers license, extra passport-sized pictures, certain sized manila envelopes, and multiple color copies of many of these.
Before all of this sounds overwhelming, many of these requirements are dependent upon the type of residency you are seeking, such as the Retiree or Investor type of visa. Once you decide on this, the requirements can be reduced, many times. Secondly, there are requirements for the "censo", which must be obtained before you can apply for the "cedula", which is the most important document. The censo is the most complicated in terms of paperwork and having an English speaking local to assist you is a huge asset. There are many here in Cuenca, who for a modest fee, will save you a lot of time and frustration. The same applies for an attorney, but with a more expensive price tag. We'll give you our contacts further on in this blog.
If your plans include moving to Ecuador for an extended period, it is advisable to complete as much of the document acquisition process prior to arrival in Ecuador. It'll save you a lot of time when and if you decide to stay in this great country for any length of time beyond the normal 90 day tourist allowance. We did and although we found that a lot of what we had obtained wasn't needed such as police and health records, we still avoided any surprise requirements. Being more prepared than necessary is better than the alternative.
We met a wonderful woman, Linda Gonzalez, who speaks English quite well. She has been our most valuable asset for all of our needs. She works closely with our attorney, Gabriela Espinosa, in Quito, Ecuador, who also speaks English. Between the two, our legal requirements have gone quite smoothly. The censo requirements which included more paperwork was done here in Cuenca. Linda was indispensable in driving us around and "doing the talking".
Yesterday, was the big day for us to acquire the cedula! We needed to fly to Quito ($135 round trip for the 35 minute flight).
Our airplane. (TAME Airlines)
Pictures of the Mariscal La Mar Airport in Cuenca are below.
Linda made the reservations for us. She also coordinated with Gabriela, who with an assistant, met us at the Officina Registro Civil (pictured below), located at the intersection of Avenida Amazonas and Naciones Unidas.
The taxi ride cost $5 from the airport. We called Gabriela from the airport and her and her assistant Belen met us at the Registro Civil office.
Belen then took charge and took us through the various stops we had to make which included a small $4 fee (for 2), finger printing, picture taking and providing our censo, passports and a legal letter. All told, it took a couple of hours. We were told that we could pick up the final cedula in four working days.
Not wanting to fly back to Quito, we opted to complete a Power of Attorney at Gabriela's office(Leonidas Plaza 21-167 and Vicente Ramon Roca), so that she could pick up the completed cedulas and send them to Linda via TAME airline. Linda will pick them up and deliver them to us. The power of attorney needed to be notarized, so we went next door to a notary and completed that for $35 (for 2). That was it.
Belen and Gabriela
Back to the airport to catch our late afternoon flight home. Mission accomplished with no problems. We took a collective deep breath and are thankful for the quality help we've received. Looking back, it's only taken us three months to get all of our legal work done, and, we weren't working on these things constantly. Now we can really begin taking advantage of the benefits of being legal residents of Ecuador...and they are many.