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Friday, May 25, 2012

Visa, Censo, Cedula...OH MY!!!

Ok folks, this is a long one.  So, go grab a beer or get ready to set your hair in rollers.   It's kinda app pro poh given how long it has taken to get this whole Visa, Censo, Cedula process done!!!!

Once your tourist visa has expired, you either need to get it extended, or obtain a more permanent Visa.  There are several different kinds to choose from and the number assigned to each type is confusing as they seem to change.   That's one thing everyone has to get used to around here...things change, and change, and then change again on a whim, typically with no heads-up, or lead-in time, and you can never rely on any particular source of info (ie; a government website) to be current.  What IS current is what anyone happens to be doing RIGHT NOW and that can be different between one person and another, one office location and another.  SIGH.

Like I was saying, there are differnent Visa types you can apply for, such as an Investment Visa where you stick $25,000 in a bank where it must stay as long as your Visa is active, a Student Visa, a Business Visa, or a Pensioners Visa where you must prove you regularly receive $XX a month from a reliable source (ie; Social Security).   I chose the Investment Visa but a different form where the investment is in the purchase of a house.

March 11, 2011 (AD) the process started .   It was to take an average of 3 months.  <enter sound of background laughter>

My attorneys are a very nice, youngish couple with teenage kids.  He doesn't speak English, she does.  They have a small office in a bungalow where they work side-by-side in an open area furnished with a couch for clients.  No highrise luxury, no reception area, no appointment needed.  Immigration is their specialty.

Because my passport stamps were hard to read, I had to go to the Immigration Police office to get a printout of my exits and entries to the country.   Then, off to get 4 passport-sized photos of moi made.

They completed my application and composed a letter (to the EC gov't) stating why I wanted to move here (because USA is such a mess!!!).   Then, off to a Notary to get a Power of Attorney notarized.

End of May.  I had requested several status updates and the response was always 'in process' but now there was another glitch.   Recently, the Director had been removed from his position which put everything on hold and the log-jam began to build.  By this time, my Tourist Visa was no longer valid...expired.  Technically speaking, I was now in the country illegally.  I couldn't leave because I wouldn't be let back in.

Middle of July.    I requested yet another status update, knowing a new Director had been named.  My attorneys responded stating they believed it would come through within the following 15 days.

End of July.   I received notice that Quito (where the Visa requests are processed) was ready to process my application and I needed to relinquish my passport so my attorneys could send it to Quito along with the $350 application fee.  Normally, it takes about 1 week to turn it around and have my passport back in my hands with the new Visa stamped.

New Requirements.  Word was out the government was now requiring a criminal background report before obtaining a Visa.   Since I robbed several banks back in the USA....oh....wait a minute....they robbed ME (of my job)!!!  Never mind.  Luckily, because my application was already in process, the new requirement was not being applied to me.

A month later.   Yet another status update request.   Foreign Affairs in Quito needed a certificate, from the Property Registry in Cuenca, showing that my property is the basis for my Visa.

September.  Excerpts from my attorney's response to my inquiry:  The situation has affected everyone and it is provoked by the changes in authorities and internal politics in the Office of Foreign Affairs.  I cannot explain the actual internal problems, but they are dispatching residencies in a disorganized manner; for example, clients that have had file numbers #1203, #1420 and #1475 have their residencies and including their cedulas.  Your file number is #1124 and has not been dispatched normally.  I don’t know the reason the Director does not sign off on the order to send to the Property Registry in Cuenca.

Another inconvenience is now they are making new changes and implementing an internet system so that the visa process can be tracked through the internet.  This change began this week and at the moment the system is down.

End of October.   Sigh.  My attorney had an appointment with the Director of the Foreigner's Division in Quito and brought my case to his attention, challenging him to explain why things were in such disarray.  He also handed him another copy of the document they had been requesting, but had no record of receiving.

Middle of November.   The government system still indicates my file is waiting on the document that was provided TWICE....6 weeks beforehand AND physically handed to the Director after that.   Why wasn't my file updated at least showing receipt of the document, even though the file may not be processed for awhile longer???   GRRRRR

End of November.  I received a communication:  This is to inform you that the Cuenca Property Registry will be sending the Oficio and Certificate on Thursday afternoon to send to Foreign Affairs.   WHAT!!!???   This was requested 2 months ago and it is just NOW being sent???   GRRRRRRRRRR

Merry Christmas.   My passport arrived back in my attorney's office with the official Visa stamped in it.  I was legal in EC!!

2012....we're not done yet.  That was only the FIRST STEP of 3.  First, you get the Visa, then you must get a Censo (Ecuadorian ID required only of foreigners) within 30 days, then once you have the Censo you have 60 days (from the date of the Visa) to get your Cedula (ID card required of ALL Ecuadorians) .  THEN you're done.

January.   Right after the New Year holiday, we went to the Immigration Police office here in Cuenca to obtain my Censo.   'No can do'.   They were out of paper.  All the offices in Ecuador were out of the special paper the Censos are printed on.    However, they expected a supply by January 15.   I had a trip to the USA planned for that time, but my attorney ASSURED ME all I needed to travel outside EC was my passport with the current Visa stamp.  I did NOT need my Censo.   I won't repeat the whole saga here, but you can go back to January of this year in my blog archives and read the bloody mess that ensued when I tried to travel.  

In Limbo.   January 15 passed.  Then, they said February 15.  Yeahhhhh, riiiiight.   Suddenly, I got an urgent call from my attorney informing me the Immigration Police office found 20 pieces of paper!!!  I dropped everything, hopped in a taxi (because my car was still at Chevrolet racking up a $3,400 repair bill) and dashed to the IP offices where others were waiting in line outside the gate (it was lunch hour).  Word was out, because several others arrived immediately after me.  The officers must've been playing soccer on their lunch hour as they returned in soccer uniforms.  At 3pm, they issued small pieces of paper with numbers 1-20 on them.  I was #12.   I was finished being processed and had my Censo in hand at 5:37pm...they close at 6pm and two other couples were still after me.   To help them get processed quicker, I informed them of what questions were asked so they would be prepared ahead of time.  I heard later both couples got in under the wire.

BUT.  Remember me saying a few paragraphs back that I had 60 days to get my Cedula?  Well, the orders for my Cedula were created when my Visa was stamped at the end of December.  Because of the Censo paper snafu and the delays it caused, my orders for my Cedula were now EXPIRED!!!!   The orders had to be renewed.  GAWD....another bureaucratic delay.  You would THINK this would be a simple matter that would take only a few days, maybe a week.   hahhahaahhaha HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!  HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   Oh, that hurt.

Middle of April.   I got an email from a friend who's been very baffled at why my VCC (Visa, Censo, Cedula) process has taken over a year and still counting.   He applied for his on December 5th and proudly announced to me on April 14th that he was DONE with the entire process.   Bitch.

End of April.   Finally, my attorneys received renewed orders for my Cedula...two months after the original expired.  I was now able to make arrangements to travel to Quito for the final step of this saga.

End of May. I decided to take advantage of the need to go to Quito by staying extra days there.   I missed going to Otavalo and Cotacachi the last time I was up there, so the plan was to drive so I would have my car while there the duration of 6 days. 

I wasn’t able to get the same apartment I had before, but did find a nice 1 bedroom colonial apartment near the heart of the La Ronda area.  The kitchen had a dishwasher (rare!), nice bathrooms, TV, a plush bed, plus the bonus was a jacuzzi on the rooftop with outstanding views.   $40 a night. 

I made the 450 km (270 miles) trip in 7 hours (a bus takes 10).  The trip was uneventful but this time I was able to enjoy a lot of nice topography I hadn’t seen before due to long stretches of rain, fog, mist, etc.  It was clear all the way.

The next morning, my attorney’s assistant picked me up in a taxi driven by her husband.  We went to the Civil Registry building, arriving about .  First thing was to get a number assigned to us.  She handed the lady behind the window a $5 bill.  Not sure if that was payola or not, but we received a number.  Looking at the overhead monitors, we were only 15 numbers away from being seen.  Odd, as I have heard many stories of people getting in line at to get a number and by there’s 75 people behind them.   There were a ton of people sitting, waiting for their number to come up to go to one of 30 windows.  All of them for Cedulas, but most were Ecuadorian and only a handful of foreigners like me.

When I went to window #23, a nice lady spoke pretty good English (self-taught she said).  I handed her my papers which she reviewed with puzzlement.  Uh oh.   A quick rattling of Spanish between her and the assistant and all was ok.  

Then, she announced that she needed to go look to see if my orders had arrived.  Uh oh.   She went to a back room and returned a few minutes later…they were there.  Whew.  

Then, she inspected all the papers over and over and over….futzing with various copies….gathering them together and clicking them on the desktop so they would be orderly.   With a pencil, she inspected every word, every letter….cross-checking the data with the data on my passport.  Everything HAD to match…not ONE typo or no Cedula!!!   I was holding my breath.   Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, check, check, check, tap, tap, tap…it all looked ok she announced.   Exhale. 

Now, to enter the data from the papers into the computer.  ARRGHH.    She confirmed with me my hometown (Port Angeles).   She informed me Port Angeles was not in their computer list to choose from.  I must be the first person from Port Angeles to request an Ecuadorian Cedula.  Well, DUHHH!!!   But, it would require someone to enter Port Angeles into a database so she could select it and I would have to wait while that is done….maybe 2 hours.  UGH.   Then, my assistant spoke up from the waiting area behind me…something about Port Angeles being a barrio (neighborhood), not a city.   I wasn’t ABOUT to challenge it…I just kept my trap shut.  The lady said she would need to ask her supervisor if it would be okay and left her window.  She came back…OK.    Another inch closer.  

She continued to enter information in the computer, verifying my mother and fathers’ names.   Then, she wanted my address in Cuenca.  Uh oh.   My street has no name and my house has no #...but, that is pretty common here in EC.   I gave her the two major cross streets.   Then, the power went out and the entire room was dark.  SH_T.  Was the data lost?   Will we have to come back later?  Then, SOME of the lights came back on and supervisors were telling all the staff to hurry up.   My person said ‘but I’m doing a foreigner’ which must take much more time.  They must’ve been on backup power.   After a few minutes, all was back on.  Whew.

What ‘area’ do I live in?   I responded but the area I said was not in her list.  So, she read off the choices in her list….I was the last one ‘Yanuncay’ named after the river a few blocks from me.   At the same time, the assistant chimed in from behind me ‘Sucre!!’.   Again, I kept my trap shut.  My area is not Sucre….Sucre is the area where my attorneys’ office is located.  Aye, aye, aye.  

Next, it was photo time.   Look into the camera and do NOT move!!   Flash.  I looked over to her and then FLASH!!!   Woops….I thought the first flash was it…apparently it’s the second one.   Do-over!!

On to finger-printing.   Right hand 4 fingers, then left hand 4 fingers, then thumb and thumb together.   She called out for a man to come inspect the results.  He came in with a walkie-talkie thing that had a flashlight built into the end of it.   He flashed the light onto the ends of my fingers and looked at the print results and announced a code to her.  My prints were valid.  Thank God they didn't figure out I had all my fingers transplanted from a hand model last year!!!!

After she finished everything, she turned her monitor to face me so I could verify everything she entered was correct.    This was critical as this would be the data that appears on my Cedula.

Ummm….my address is wrong.  She pointed to my electric bill where it stated 'Max Uhle'.  I informed her that was not my address…that was the address of the ELECTRIC COMPANY!!   I pointed out on my bill that my address doesn’t appear, it says ‘sin nombre’ (without name).  OI VEY!!!   She corrected it to what I had told her before.  

Ummmm….my dad’s name is spelt wrong.   It’s not Edwar…it’s Edward.   Ooops.

Ummmm….the name of the street nearest me is Primero, not Pirmero.   Oh my garsh (that's for you Brian) golly gee.

Ummmm…my dog’s name is Gracie, not Grassy.   GOTCHA readers!!!   That wasn’t one of the questions on the form.

Finally, everything was done.  She informed me my Cedula should be printed and ready for pickup the next day, Thursday, around ….IF there are no problems.  Apparently, the final output had to be reviewed one more time before handing it over to me.  IF there were any problems, she would call me.  I never heard from her, so I presumed all was aok. 

We left the building and the assistant made a call to my attorney in Cuenca to inform them we were done.   We made arrangements for the assistant to pick up my Cedula in lieu of me because she knew the process better than I.  Then she would send it down on a plane and I’m to go into my attorneys’ office to pick it up.

I’m going to publish this blog entry NOW, even though it is Friday and it will be Monday before I know I have THE real, live Cedula in my hot hands and I am done….FINITO….with the 1 year, 3 month long process.

Wish me luck!!!



  1. OMG-that is surreal! I cannot believe you are still sane - also retain sense of humor and the
    ability to write coherent prose. What an ordeal.

    I can testify to your sanity, at least prior to your final trip to Quito, since you kindly and ably helped me move from one apt. to another in
    El Centro. Now I wait the outcome of my application. I'll probably be the first Gringo my age to be refused and deported. Anne

  2. Welcome back Dan!
    Too bad the so many people you help here in Cuenca are Expats themselves and could only offer you moral support. Congratulations on your (soon to be)success. Just in passing, I just learned (from a staff member at the Ministry de Migracion...something) that by the end of June, residency visa requests could be processed from here in Cuenca (no more absolute need to go to Quito). They also told me they expect this new process will be taking just a couple of months. Don't hate me now! Mitri

  3. OMG! Dano! Finally! To bad you will be going throught this whole process again when you sell your house! What a bitch!

  4. Dan, you're lucky that you have loyal readers in Ecuador that can verify the process because everyone in the U.S. is going to think you're a great fiction writer.

    The good news is that you will soon forget all the aggravation that went into this process. Fortunately for me there was only a minor hiccup and I received my cedula in 7 months. Congrats

  5. Dano, could you tell us (potential immigrants) your attorney's information and how much did it end up costing you? (Atty's fees that is).

    1. They are Grace and Nelson. Email: gracevelastegui@yahoo.com
      The cost was about $1,600 which included all fee's (ie; gov't) and start to finish for Visa, Censo, and Cedula.

  6. Why are you selling?

    Are you leaving Cuenca?

    Charlotte NC

    1. Hmmm...didn't know I made that public here. Whoopsie!! No, I'm not leaving CUE. I just need a new project to keep myself amused.

  7. eh Dano!
    I am glad you enjoyed Casa liceo in Quito


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About Me

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Palma, Mallorca, Spain
This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Spain, in the city of Palma on the island of Mallorca in the middle of the Mediterranean sea!! I moved from the USA to Cuenca, Ecuador, South America and lived there for 7 years before moving here to Spain in early 2018. To read about my adventures in Ecuador, check out my other blog "Ahhh Cuenca!!". I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live in Europe....across the pond.

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