Virginia, US

Sep 09 2019

Proposed Immigration Reforms Under Legislative Review

Ecuador

At a Glance

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior of Ecuador proposed a law that would introduce the following key changes:

  • Create a new Acts of Commerce Visa for foreign nationals seeking to conduct business and technical activities in Ecuador, among other activities, for up to 180 days;
  • Eliminate travel restrictions for temporary residents in Ecuador;
  • Create stricter eligibility rules and travel restrictions for permanent residents; and
  • Replace the UNASUR Temporary Visa for Countries of South America with a visa that provides more access to South American non-UNASUR nationals.

The proposed law is in the preliminary stages of discussion and could take the National Assembly six months or more to approve.


A closer look

A proposed law pending with the Ecuadorian National Assembly would introduce the following changes to the current immigration law:

IMMIGRATION CATEGORY DESCRIPTION OF RULE/CHANGE IMPACT
Business and short-term travelers The reforms would create a new Acts of Commerce Visa for foreign nationals seeking to conduct business, acts of commerce, technical, sporting, academic, scientific and technological activities for up to 180 days within a one-year period. The details and impact of this new visa remain uncertain until the new law is released. The visa will likely replace the Visa de Excepción de Corta Duración implemented in April 2019, while still regulating short term trips for business, commercial and technical activities.
Temporary Residents The reforms would eliminate travel restrictions for temporary residents, who would no longer need to limit their stay outside Ecuador to 90 cumulative days per year to maintain their status. More foreign nationals would be able to use a temporary resident visa to work in Ecuador while maintaining a residence and/or working abroad.
Permanent Residents
  • Applicants for permanent residence would need to prove 21 months of continuous residence in Ecuador to be eligible for Permanent Residence. Currently, foreign nationals applying for permanent residence can fulfill this requirement with non-continuous 21 months of residence.
  • After two years under Permanent Residence, foreign nationals would need to return to Ecuador at least once every two years, instead of the current rule of once every five years, to maintain their status. During the first two years under Permanent Residence status, foreign nationals still would need to comply with the rule to not remain outside Ecuador for more than 180 days.
  • The proposed reforms would relax penalties for noncompliance with travel restrictions. Affected foreign nationals who violate travel restrictions for a second time would be able to apply for another visa immediately without having to wait two or three years (as applicable), as under the current rule. 
  • The government’s interpretation of what constitutes a continuous residence remains uncertain until the approved law, or any additional regulations are released.
  • Permanent residents of Ecuador who reside abroad would need to travel to Ecuador more often to maintain their Permanent Residence status incurring additional costs and time. 
Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) Temporary Visa Considering Ecuador’s recent decision to opt out of the UNASUR agreement, the UNASUR Temporary Visa would be replaced with a Temporary Visa for Nationals of Countries of South America. 
  • The government intends to maintain this visa category and extend it to all South American nationals.
  • The UNASUR Visa allows nationals of UNASUR countries to regularize their status in Ecuador by obtaining a two-year temporary residence based on their citizenship.

 

Background

  • Controlled migration. The reforms reflect the current government’s shift toward a more organized and controlled migration system in response to the high influx of Venezuelans and other foreign nationals in recent years.
  • Streamlining effort. In light of the recently implemented regularization process for Venezuelans, the proposed changes, particularly the elimination of travel restrictions for temporary residents, are also intended to streamline some immigration processes to minimize the administrative impact on the government and attract foreign investment and talent into the country.
  • Legal voids. Most of the other changes proposed (especially those relating to short-term business travelers and permanent residence applications) are intended to fill legal voids in the current immigration law.

 

Looking ahead

Further changes and details are expected as the National Assembly reviews, drafts and publishes the new immigration legislation. Statements by the National Assembly president indicate that the review of this law will be prioritized, likely resulting in its approval taking six months, instead of the usual several years.

Although further details and slight changes are expected during the review and approval of the law, it is likely that the reforms will pass as proposed, since they are in line with the national effort to prioritize the security of the country while maintaining some historically open-door immigration policies for foreign investment.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to lar@fragomen.com.