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Adventures in Immigration

Lars Porsenna

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Now that I am home & have been for a month, I'd like to talk a bit about my experiences with Ecuador & the civil marriage.


In Ecuador, as a foreigner, I can only get married in 3 locations: Guayaquil, Quito (national capital) & Cuenca (which has a large population of North American expats). We chose Guayaquil since it is the closest. 


We had to go down twice. The first time was to ensure my documents were in order to prove I was eligible to marry her. The second time was the actual marriage itself. 


Guayaquil is the 2nd largest city in Ecuador. We were in the downtown area, near the ocean (& the Malecon, which is sort of an entertainment/amusement area, like the Boardwalk in some US beach resort towns). Both times we had meetings in the Office of Civil Records (Registro Civil, which is right across a plaza from an old, Colonial era Catholic Church, painted blue & white (the colors of Guayaquil). Impressive, to say the least. The first meeting was relatively smooth as my documents were approved. Later on we walked around the downtown a bit. For people that have experienced it, downtown Guayaquil sort of gives me a New York City feel, with narrower streets (& traffic just as bad). It was big, crowded, & hot, considering how close we were to the equator & how close to sea level we were. 


One fun thing about this trip is how evident the casual economy is there. Walking around Guayaquil there was no shortage of people trying to sell me stuff, from boxes of crackers to cotton swabs, & everything in between. My wife's mother needed a pair of scissors while we were there, & came across a woman selling various things on a blanket. Money was exchanged, & she had her scissors. You wouldn't find that here in the US much.


The second meeting in Guayaquil was of course for the civil marriage. In our previous visit the official said my documents were in order. In this visit the official (judge) said my documents were...incomplete. My document of Marital Status (showing I was single) did not include the names of my parents. They required it. Fortunately, it was only $10 more to get past that problem (In total I spent around $73 to marry her). With that done the ceremony was completed, & we were legally married.


Ecuador is a much poorer country. One of the things that really impressed me is how much stuff we have here in the US. She has a middle class income by local standards, as do I. But it was very evident that I have just so much more stuff than she does: bigger TVs, more books, more (& newer) furniture, etc. I was talking to a Brazilian friend of mine, & she said: get used to it. That is how it is all over South America.


In addition, while there were plenty of cars there, many of them were older, obviously used cars. Manta (where she lives) is a port, & you could see massive cargo ships off port unloading used cars, probably many of which are bought in the US for importation. That's not to say there aren't new cars there too, but the ownership of used vs new is much greater than here in the US. They also sell brands you would not see in the US, like Renault & some Chinese brands I can't remember the names of. Many of the busses in Ecuador are Chinese too (Hino), as well as large trucks. Also there was a higher amount of motorcyclists there too, probably because they are cheap to operate & own.


Another interesting difference is the sheer number of tiny little convenience stores, markets, restaurants, & pharmacies there are. These places are often very tiny, but populous, easy to walk to. Also in our drives to & back from Guayaquil the roadsides are littered with tiny restaurants & convenience stores, often literally huts made out of thatch or local bamboo, or simple lean-tos, selling ceviches, empanadas, sodas, water, these sorts of things. You would never find this sort of thing in the US. As another example of the casual economy, her aunt teaches pre-school, but is shut down due to the Pandemic. So now she sells ceviches, corviches, & other food out of her garage. Her daughter has a tiny convenience store that sells cosmetics, paper plates, cups, & other basics, out of a tiny 10ft square room. She also sells through a locked gate, since crime is a greater concern there.


Many houses there are built to a similar standard or using a similar method. Masonry construction is much, much more common there than here in the US. My house, for example, is wood framed, with a stone façade in the front lower level. There, when they build a house, they raise 4 or more pillars of steel-bar reinforced concrete, & fill with these large red bricks, maybe twice the size of bricks here & similar to cinder blocks in dimensions. These bricks are near ubiquitous. When finishing off, they do not often cut the rebar sticking out of the top of the pillars, but just let it be. Sometimes the houses are plastered with cement to create a pleasant façade, sometimes additionally painted (her house was painted a turquoise color). There are more modern & finished buildings too, especially in the commercial districts, but for an average house, this is how it is most often. Some of the construction standards they use there would never fly in the US. Furthermore, it is very, very common for the houses to be surrounded by a wall, with a locked gate for entrance into the courtyard. Many houses have bars on the lower windows as well, to protect against break ins. That being said, I did not see any evidence of crime while I was in Manta, & did not fear much walking around on the streets or in the city.


Things in the countryside are more impoverished. I saw many more huts in the countryside than I did in the city (though there were  few). Subsistence farming seems to still be a thing there, as well. Outside of the big cities, Ecuador seems to be very rural, with a lot of small villages or towns, rather than bigger cities. 


One fun thing about the culture there, is that outside many of the cities or cantons will be a statue representing what is notable about that location. For example, Manta is close to Monticristi. This town is known for hand-making Panama Hats (which are from Ecuador, no Panama, ironically). THey have a large statue of a woman making one of these hats. Outside of Jipijapa (pronounced "Hipihapa") is a giant ear of corn, since they are an agricultural town. 


Outside of Guayaquil is a giant statue of a monkey. WHy will require a little explaining of the local culture. In Ecuador there is a rivalry between the Costas (people living in the coastal areas) & the Serranos (people living in the Andes). The divide is sort of like in the US between Northeasterners & the Deep South, with Guayaquil taking the place of NYC in this example. The Serranos derisively call the Guayaquileños monos or monkeys. Rather than allow this insult, they take it with pride, & thus use the label to self-identify. Thus the giant statue of a monkey when you enter the city.


As far as the people, the entirety of her family accepted me with open arms, & are very friendly or open. This is, admittedly, very refreshing, since I feel like people in North America & especially Pennsylvania, are a lot less warm, friendly, or outgoing. It seems like the people there are happier.

Edited by Lars Porsenna
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16 hours ago, Lars Porsenna said:

As far as the people, the entirety of her family accepted me with open arms, & are very friendly or open. This is, admittedly, very refreshing, since I feel like people in North America & especially Pennsylvania, are a lot less warm, friendly, or outgoing. It seems like the people there are happier.


But you have The City of Brotherly Love!  Or do you mean to tell me that moniker is ironic? :poke:::P::lol:

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I haven't updated this thread in a while. So here's some general news...


I flew down to Ecuador the day after Christmas to spend the new years with my wife. The travelling sucked, but my time there was amazing. We got a lot closer, & I think this trip was important for our marriage. 


In Ecuador, one new years tradition they have there is to make or buy a papier-mache mannequin. You then place a list of our hopes & aspirations for the new year inside...and set it on fire! Unfortunately due to quarantine restrictions the government has put severe restrictions on celebrations this year, so we only burned a small mannequin, made by her cousin's daughter (she is 10 years old, & refers to me as tío Damon, adorable). Usually what follows is dancing, eating & drinking in the streets until dawn. None of that this year.


As far as the immigration issue is concerned, I have not filed her paperwork yet. I don't recall if I mentioned this, but I had lost my job due to the COVID pandemic. THis was both a good thing & a bad thing; it gave me the time I needed to pull off the marriage, but obviously it has caused cash flow issues. I was planning on using my stimulus check to file for her Visa, but that has not come in yet. I may have to wait until I get my tax return if I don't get the stimulus money yet...


On top of that I have been fighting with unemployment, since they owe me $3000+ in back benefits I never received, that were promised to me. 


With that said, I am actually seriously considering emigrating to Ecuador instead, & living there permanently. I am thinking of doing this sometime after the Pandemic is resolved (so no sooner than this summer). One thing I discovered on this journey is that I am much happier down there, than I am here in Pennsylvania. I won't go into further details about things (you can PM me if you are really curious), but I feel that this is the right move for me. I am trying to convince my older daughter to come with me, & maybe ask my younger daughter at a later date to live with me in Ecuador. In Manta there is a US style English language high school, so their educational needs would be met. Plus being able to experience a different culture from their own at this age is a tremendous opportunity in my mind. 


I haven't decided fully, since work is going to be an issue as well. But I can definitely say deep in my heart I really want to do this...



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So what, exactly is required for me to emigrate to Ecuador? I have been doing some research, & getting a little help from other gringoes living in Ecuador.


A good site for North American expats with ambitions of settling in Ecuador is https://www.expat.com/forum/viewforum.php?id=519


If you have questions about living in Ecuador, this is the place to do it. I have been semi-active on it for more than a year, ever since I decided marrying an Ecuatoriana was something I wanted to do. The larger site is about foreigners living abroad in general, so if you are thinking of emigrating to some other country, there is a good possibility you can find more information from this community.


As far as what is required to emigrate to Ecuador with a valid marriage license to an Ecuadorian citizen, the government of Ecuador conveniently has a page all about it, in Spanish of course...




For convenience (both for this group & mine) I went ahead & translated the requirements:




Permanent residence authorization granted by the Ecuadorian State to foreigners who prove a marriage bond or de facto union with an Ecuadorian or foreign holder of an indefinite visa. It is issued through the Diplomatic Missions or Consular Offices of Ecuador abroad and in the Zonal Coordinations in Ecuador.


Who is it for?


To all foreigners who prove a marriage bond or de facto union with an Ecuadorian or foreigner holding an indefinite visa and who intend to settle in the country and carry out lawful activities.


Addressed to: Natural Person - Foreigner.


What do I need to do the procedure?


Mandatory Requirements:


  • Color photograph in JPG format maximum of one mb, 5 x 5 cms (2 x 2 inches), updated, with a white background, the facial expression must be neutral (preferably), or have a natural smile, with both eyes open

  • Valid and current passport in original and copy.

  • Regular stay in force in the country from where the visa applies

  • Original certificate of criminal record from the country of origin or in which you have resided for the last five years, translated, apostilled or legalized. One hundred and eighty (180) days of validity will be taken into account, counted from the date of issuance of the certificate until the last entry of the interested party to the country. The certificates issued by Federal Governments will be valid as long as they understand the criminal records at the national level. Document required only for people over 18 years of age.

  • Accredit the legal means of life that allow the subsistence of the applicant, those of the visa applicant or those of the guardian may be presented.

  • Payment of the fixed fee (Consular and Diplomatic Fee).

  • Attend an interview before the Zonal Coordination or Consular Office of Ecuador as the case may be.

  • Marriage certificate issued by the Civil Registry Authority in the event that it has been celebrated in the country. If you have married abroad, it must be registered in Ecuador. In the case of the de facto Union, it must be registered with the Civil Registry Authority.

  • In the case of foreigners protected by a spouse or permanent resident partner of Mercosur or Ecuador Venezuela Statute, they must present a marriage certificate or Act of Union in Fact duly apostilled and translated into Spanish.


Formats and annexes


Visa Application Form

Form contains: personal information, type of request, and a brief description of your requirement.

How do I do the procedure?


PROCEDURE - Zonal Coordinations in Ecuador


Initiate the request for the procedure in accordance with the guidelines of each of the service provider offices in the country. Access the details of each office through the following link: https: //www.cancilleria.gob.ec/2020/07/30/informacion-sobre-como-solicitar-y-acceso-a-los-servicios-que-ofrece -the-ministry-of-foreign-relations-and-human-mobility-at-national-level-during-the-health-emergency /


Follow the instructions that will be sent to your email.


PROCEDURE - Consular Offices abroad


Contact the Consular Office closest to the place of residence and / or the Counseling Unit.

Register at https://consuladovirtual.gob.ec/web/guest/visas


Choose the procedure and upload the requirements according to the immigration category in PDF.


Choose the date of the shift to meet the interview and receive the visa. The date may be changed according to the availability of attention from the consulate.

Provide your personal email;


Verify in your email the receipt of the electronic visa issued.


Service channels: Email, Online (Site / Web Portal / Web Application).


What is the cost of the procedure?


Visa application USD $ 50, Visa grant USD $ 200. It does not tax VAT.


A 50% discount is applied for seniors (65 years and older), nationwide.


The 100% exemption is applied at the national level, to people with a disability equal to or greater than 30% presenting the disabled person's card issued by the Ministry of Public Health of Ecuador.


Where and what are the opening hours?


Ecuador - Zonal Coordinations:

Monday to Friday from 08:30 to 17:00

For more information on the Zonal Coordinations, enter the following link:



Consular Offices Abroad:

Monday to Friday from 08:30 to 14:00

For more information on consular offices abroad, enter the following link:



Note: In Ecuador you can make the deposit / payment of the fee (Consular and Diplomatic Fee) until 4:15 p.m., according to the local bank's business hours.


What is the validity of what was issued when completing the process?




One convenience for me is that there is an Ecuadorian Consulate in Newark NJ, which is only a little over an hour away for me (I usually fly out of Newark International when I go down for a visit), so the travel to & from the consulate shouldn't be too much of a burden.


If you compare this to US immigration, the process is similar, but cheaper. To bring my wife over requires a minimum payment of $535.00, not including (IIRC) green card fees. I'm not going to say it is easier, because from this angle it looks very daunting. And I am required to show proof of income or support. In the US all I have to do is vouch for the immigrant, & assume the support of that person. If I cannot, I can also use a sponsor that promises to help, for a minimum of 10 years time. I am not sure if Ecuador is similar. I do have an immigration lawyer on hand, that I can talk to. So I may need to run this by her. She is a dual Ecuadorian/American citizen, that specializes in immigration issues -- both to & from Ecuador.



Edited by Lars Porsenna
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