We’ve known for three months that the day would come when we had to request our extended tourist visa in Ecuador. The process has been a little confusing if only because the online information does not always match up with the real-life reality. Here are the basic steps, with a few of the most common mishaps.
What You Need to Enter Ecuador
For those of you who don’t know, tourists from most countries (including the US) are allowed in the country for three months without needing anything more formal than a return ticket (if anyone asks), proof of health insurance (if anyone asks) and an entry stamp on your passport. Before you arrive, make sure your passport will be valid for at least 6 months after entry and has two blank pages for stamps. If it expires before then or is looking a little full, better go get it renewed before traveling.
But if you want to stay in Ecuador longer than 90 days, you need to request an extension, called a prórroga. The process, while simple, can become quickly complicated if you don’t follow the steps in the right order. Here is that order.
90 Days from Date of Entry
When you pass through immigration on your way into the country, your passport will be stamped with the date of entry. The first day that you can possibly request an extension is exactly 90 days from that date. NOT BEFORE. This sounds strange to many of us as we know that without that extension, we are technically in the country illegally. Not quite. According to the Immigration Office in Cuenca, a tourist has 20 days leeway to request their extension. If you try to leave the country during those twenty days without having paid for your extension, then there may be trouble.
Before Visiting the Servicio de Apoyo Migratorio (Migration Office)
Before visiting the migration office, you will need to do these three things:
- Download the form that you will need to fill out. Here is the direct link to the form: http://www.ministeriointerior.gob.ec/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/nuevo-formulario.pdf (if you happen to find a more up-to-date form, please let us know!)
- Make a photocopy of your passport.
- Make a photocopy of your entrance stamp to Ecuador.
Visiting the Migration Office
There are migration offices all over Ecuador. And there are immigration offices all over Ecuador. We’ve heard that some tourists have tried to go to immigration offices to request the extension. That won’t work. Make sure you look for the offices called Servicio de Apoyo Migratorio and not any others.
We completed our extension in Zamora with no problems. In fact, some of the smaller offices might be more efficient as fewer people are requesting services. Check out the list of offices where they can complete extensions here:
All of these offices are open from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm Monday thru Friday. If your 90th day falls on the weekend, go in the following Monday. They won’t be able to help you the Friday before. If it happens to fall on an Ecuadorian holiday, ditto. These offices are all closed on Ecuadorian holidays.
Once At The Servicio de Apoyo Migratorio
Take in the form and the photocopies. When you enter the office, let them know that you want to request an extension. They will ask for your form, the photocopies, and your original passport. They may also ask if you have already been to the bank. Don’t panic. Just say that you wanted to confirm how much to pay. If you have read differently on the Ecuadorian government website or if the friend of a friend tells you otherwise, you may want to skip to the end of this article to read about our experience. Don’t visit the bank first!
Have the government clerk write down exactly what how much they require to be deposited into their account, down to the exact penny. On January 10, 2019, that amount was $131.33. Also ask him to write down the name and address of the closest bank that will accept this payment for you (usually Banco Pacifico but in smaller towns like Zamora, they may have an alternate bank to visit). Then ask him to write down his name and phone number just in case the bank needs to call him.
Visiting the Bank
Enter the bank and wait in line. When you get to the teller, let them know that you are paying for a an extension (prórroga) for the migration office (servicio de apoyo migratorio). They will tell you an amount. Please make sure that it matches the amount that the government clerk wrote down. If it does not, tell the bank teller that the government clerk said that the amount had changed. If they don’t believe you, ask them to call the clerk in question and handover that slip of paper with his name and number.
After you show your passport and pay the correct fee, the bank teller will give you a receipt with the amount you paid plus a small bank commission of about 70 cents. Guard that paper with your life.
Return to the Servicio de Apoyo Migratorio
Take that small piece of paper back to the migration office. Hand it and your passport to the government clerk and wait for him to enter all the information into the computer. He will then hand you a small piece of paper that grants your extension. He will offer to staple it to your passport or to just place it between a couple of pages. He may or may not offer you the receipt from the bank. If you need it, please make sure to ask for it if it is not offered.
Voila, you are now legally able to travel throughout Ecuador for 90 more days!
Pro-tip: If you are trying to get the most days possible, wait until day 20 to get your extension. This will mean you will have had the original 90 days plus 20 days plus 90 more days. Of course, if you are like me, waiting might cause severe anxiety and the small gain isn’t worth the chase. Your choice!
For Those Who Say Go To The Bank First
For those of you who read the Ecuadorian government website or had a friend who told you that it’s best to go to the bank first, here’s our rebuttal. While going to the bank first can save you making two trips to the Servicio de Apoyo Migratorio, you can get stuck paying twice if the Ecuadorian government has changed rates. Yes, this has happened to someone we know and it almost happened to us. Read on.
A member of the Ecuador Expats Facebook Group shared a recent horror story. He had paid the bank the required amount listed on the form he had printed from the website. He had inadvertently found an old form. This is easy to do as a Google Search generally lists the most visited pages higher on its search results. He took that proof of payment to the Servicio de Apoyo Migratorio and they told him it was incorrect and they could not accept it.
He then returned to the bank and they refused to refund the money. Nor would they allow him to just pay the difference between the two amounts. He felt his only choice at the time was to pay again. Last we heard, he was working with a lawyer to get the first payment refunded.
We went in fully knowing the experience of this gentleman and were ready to pay the new amount on the new form, listed at 128.67. However, the new form is already outdated. The fee went up on January 1, 2019 and is $131.33. Furthermore, the bank where we paid our fee clearly had the old fee written on their reference document. The bank had no idea of the change. Fortunately, we went to the bank with an immigration police officer who was able to explain that the amount had changed and that the teller needed to charge us a different amount. Without him, I hate to think of how long we might have spent at the bank. This is why we suggest taking the phone number of the government clerk you are working with.
No matter what you read elsewhere, DO NOT PAY THE BANK before visiting the Servicio de Apoyo Migratorio.
And that’s it, our advice for getting your tourist visa extension. Easy, right?