This has been a VERY long process. We came to visit Ecuador for the first time last February and met with Gabriela Espinosa (an attorney in Quito) who was strongly recommended by several gringos to help us get our permanent (investor) visas. When we met with her in February, she told us that it would take around 30 days to get our visas.
So when we returned for good at the end of April, we thought "no problem". We went to Banco Pichincha to deposit our money for an investor visa. We had everything completed by around the middle of May and called Gaby and told her that our investor CD was in the bank, so could we get started on everything that was necessary to get our permanent visas. We also asked her realistically how long were we looking at actually getting our visas. She said that because of some of the changes that had taken place in the government, it would probably take around 60 days. We thought, "fine, we are not going back to the States until Nov, so we should have plenty of time."
As many of you have heard, there have been many changes in the government as far as visas are concerned, especially beginning in August. Somehow, we were stuck in the group that came at the end of April through June. We have all been stuck in "no man's land" of visa approval. But we were still not very worried. We had some friends, Dale and Joan, who were also working with Gaby, who had received their good news in September. They told us that Gaby asked them to overnight their passports to Quito because their visas were approved. Two weeks later, they were in Quito getting their cedulas and censos.
SO....when we heard from Gaby in mid September to overnight our passports to her because our visas had been approved, we sent them on Monday, September 12th. We thought, "Great....hopefully, we will have our censos and cedulas by the first of October". Well, we waited.....and waited....and waited. I had sent Gaby an email telling her that we would be going back to States for Thanksgiving, so we needed our passports and visas before then, and "could we have everything completed by the end of October?" We found out that: 1) the Director of Immigration was on vacation for a month; 2) the building where the paperwork was done had to be fumigated (really?); and numerous other excuses that the government was giving Gabriela. I was starting to panic alittle about being able to leave the country and being able to get back in.
WELL....we finally got the call last week to come to Quito (AFTER they had our passports for almost 9 weeks!!), so we went this last Sunday. We spent about 9 hours on Monday going from one place to another place, back to the first place, then back to the second place, but we are FINALLY legal!! What a relief!!
We learned a couple of things during that day. First of all, pay attention to the SMALLEST detail. And second, just be VERY patient and be ready for a long wait. First, we had a great guy from Gaby's office helping us--Raul--was very nice. At the censo office, we got in to see someone fairly quickly, but there was a problem with our paperwork. We never really found out what that problem was, but Raul had to talk to someone else in a different area. That took about 30-45 minutes. So, we went back to the first person, a very nice policewoman, and she took care of our paperwork and gave us our censo cards. I noticed that she did not put my full name on my censo card, but I thought that was OK and didn't say anything. Pat got his card and then we all three headed to the cedula office about a mile away.
After not a very long wait, we got to see someone who started checking my paperwork. There was a problem because my full name was NOT on my censo card. It has to read exactly how it reads on your passport. SO.....back to the censo office. Here is where the waiting started. The policewoman who we had used the first time was out to lunch, and I guess no one else can make a correction. Although, I think Raul really gave it a try. The wait back at the censo office was about 2 hours altogether. After the corrected censo card, we all went back to the cedula office. After about 20-25 minutes, we saw the first guy that we had seen there. Everything was good this time for both of us.
After that guy checks you off, you get a new ticket to wait to talk to someone else. This is where the real wait starts. Our numbers were 1154 and 1155 and the sign said that they were working on numbers 720, 721, etc. We had 400 numbers to wait for. The good thing is that lunch was over and they have many desks who do the same thing. So they went through about 100 numbers in 30-40 minutes. Bottom line is that we finally walked out of there around 5:15pm. And we had started at Gaby's office at 8:30am that morning. We celebrated at a nice restaurant in the El Jardin Mall near the Howard Johnson Hotel where we stayed.
A couple of other suggestions: bring a small passport picture with you (we had some in Cuenca, but Gaby forgot to tell us to bring one with us, so we had to go to a photography place around the corner and get new pics made); bring food and water with you because it is a long day and you will get hungry; bring a utility bill with the address of where you are living (Gaby did remind us to bring it with us); bring something to read or do because otherwise it is a long day. And be ready for it to take a long time. If we had not had the problem with my censo, we might have gotten finished sooner, but I think we would have run into the people in the cedula office at lunch too if we had not had to wait at the censo office for the policewoman to come back for lunch. Also, bring dollar coins for the taxi cab rides. It really wasn't as bad as I had been led to believe.
One thing that Gaby did tell us when we went to pick up the cedulas the next day (we had already planned on staying 2 nights--we got there on Sunday night and left Tuesday around 6:00pm), the Director of Immigration is arbitrarily denying a visa to some of her clients and he gives no reason. She did say that this particular director is only temporary through December, so she is telling those clients to re-apply in January. Just a little warning for those newcomers. You might want to hold off buying property until you know that you will definitely get a visa. She also told us that unfortunately we were in the group that had not been entered into the new computer system (like those who have applied since August) and that we were being approved whenever the new Director felt like it. That was another reason it took so long.
This was not an easy task (especially the wait over the last few weeks) for me. But I am happy that it is over and we are able to visit our girls with a clear path to return. Sorry this blog was so long!! Hasta luego!! Sue