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New Requirement for Residency Applicants: Criminal Background Check

Posted in: Living in Ecuador

This post, with updated legal requirements for Ecuadorian visas for permanent residency, has been contributed by Grace Velastegui, Attorney at Law. Along with her husband Nelson, Grace runs Idrovo & Velastegui – a Cuenca Law Office.

Update (July 3, 2015):  “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has changed the rule again regarding Police Reports for residency application.  For countries with federal governments, a residency applicant must obtain both a national report and a state or provincial report.”

Update (May 21, 2015): “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced that two criminal background checks are no longer required.  They will accept an FBI report.”

ecuador residency requirementsIn December 2014, the following requirement was put into effect for residency applications in Ecuador:

For residency application, for applicants from countries with a federal government, they must provide two types of criminal background checks. One from the State or Province and the other from the National or Federal entity. Both reports must be apostille, if the country is part of the Hague Treaty. If it is not part of the treaty they need to be legalized at an Ecuadorian Consulate.

Have a specific question? Ask it in the comments below or contact Grace and Nelson directly.

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Meet the Author

Bryan Haines is co-editor of GringosAbroad - Ecuador's largest blog for expats and travelers. He is a travel blogger and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Travel.

73 comments… add one
  • Albert Feb 19, 2018, 4:47 pm

    I need to get the federal and state Antecedentes Penales. My state is New Jersey. And I believe it needs to be apostilled/translated, whether one or both I dont know. Can the a`postille/translation be done in Ecuador?

    One serveice wanted to charge me nearly 3k, another $400. ANYONE KNOW OF A SERVICE THAT CAN DO TIS ECONOMICALY?

  • Larry Sep 20, 2017, 1:17 am

    I am hoping you can provide us some insight to the following question as I have not been able to find anything definitive on the internet. My wife and I want to move to Ecuador and apply for pensioner residency Visas. We also want to take our 19-year old son with us. He has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (his place on the spectrum is what used to be termed Asperger’s Syndrome).

    He is a smart kid with good grades, but like most kids with autism he has had some obsessions. Unfortunately, when he was 17 he became obsessed with hallucinogens. He bought LSD on the dark web. He evidently found out he had bought more than he wanted and he advertised on social media, which the local police saw. They got him to sell twice to a police informant. Subsequently he was arrested and charged with two felony counts of trafficking in a Schedule III drug and one count of possession of a Schedule III drug. His case was adjudicated in juvenile court where, after serving one year of probation, the court issued an “order to terminate court jurisdiction and to close and seal file.”

    Now at age 19 just after graduating high school, two juveniles to the police accused him of giving them LSD. He was arrested and charged with two counts of trafficking. He denies he did this and we believe him. It is speculation on my part, but we do have reason to believe another kid his age who knew him from school and who was on probation and who recently violated his probation, may have been the one to give or sell these juveniles LSD and told them to tell the police my son gave them the LSD if they were caught (his attorney provided us some of the preceding information). His attorney, based on what she knows now, believes it will be unlikely that he will get a felony conviction because of the circumstantial nature of the evidence. She thinks there is a good chance we can get the charges dismissed and, if not, he would either go to trial (which she does not think the prosecution would risk) or he would plea bargain to a lesser charge. He does not have the social connections to be a drug dealer, nor does he want to be one. He just did not fully understand what he was doing and the consequences of what he was doing due to his autism spectrum disorder. However, from our first experience with the district attorney and police in this small town in a very conservative state, they both view him as a real drug dealer that needs to be put away. I think this seems “big time” to them… and they know he has autism. His attorney says they badly want to prosecute him for something. They have no understanding or sympathy for a person with autism.

    My questions are (1) would any of the arrests described above if they show up on either of the background checks prevent him from obtaining residency in Ecuador and (2) in the unlikely event he does end up with a felony conviction for one or both of the current charges, would this prevent him from obtaining residency or, with proof of his autism spectrum disorder diagnosis, would Ecuadorian officials be more understanding that his problems with the law were a result of a temporary obsession and not of a criminal intent? He is a quiet non-violent kid with few social connections outside the family. Part of the reason we want to move to Ecuador is to be close to his grandparents, uncles, and cousins in Peru who he very much enjoys visiting. He is and will be dependent on us for the foreseeable future and so we could not move to Ecuador without him. We had plans to move to Ecuador at some point before any of the preceding occurred. Now it is more urgent so that we can save a large portion of my retirement savings for him (and his brother) when we are gone.

  • Tamera & Jason Sep 13, 2016, 4:30 pm

    My husband and I have applied for resident 9-I visas. The only issue we have is that our FBI background checks are dated February 23, 2016. There was a delay sending them to us due to the earthquake. They are now 7 months old and we must get them apostilled. Are they no longer valid, or can we still send them to the Dept of State in U.S. to be apostilled?

  • Reuben Sep 4, 2016, 11:41 am

    I have friends that want to move to Ecuador that would like to know if there adolescent children need background checks as well.

  • steve green Jul 13, 2016, 4:40 pm

    Very good web site.I am possibly considering living in Quito in 2 or 3 years,however approx 36 years I received several felony drug convictions.Since then I have been a model citizen.Will my background prohibit a move to Ecuador?Thank you

    • Grace Velastegui Aug 10, 2016, 1:45 pm

      Dear Steve,

      If you do not have any pending issues, you can apply for residency. However, its approval is always at the criteria of the authorities.

  • Mary Apr 30, 2016, 3:50 pm

    Can a 21 year old DUI prevent me from getting a visa for Ecuador?

  • Lecia Mar 7, 2016, 10:16 pm

    Hi Brian, I have been trying to find out if the 12-ix visa allows you to leave and reenter Ecuador ? My husband and I came to Ecuador on the regular 90 day visa your passport allows. Then we got the 12-ix visa which expires in July 2016. We want permanent residency but we have to return to the States for paperwork. If we leave before we use the 180 days, will we lose those days or can we reenter Ecuador on the 12-ix visa and still have the unused days available?

    • Bryan Haines Mar 9, 2016, 8:13 am

      I don’t think that any of the visas prohibit travel. But there are stipulations on the allowed length of time out of the country. You should confirm the current rules with an immigration lawyer.

  • Kristen Krash Feb 17, 2016, 12:33 pm

    Thanks for this forum. My partner is an Ecuadorian citizen and we recently moved here in December. I obtained the 12-ix temporary visa so we can get married here. Once we are married, I plan on applying for a 9 visa/residency as the spouse of a citizen. Do I need a background check for this visa? If so, I really do not want to have to go back to the states to get it as we are opening a business here and very busy. If I send my fingerprints to the FBI from Ecuador, how do I go then go about this apostille business from Ecuador as well? Thank you for your time.

    • Grace Mar 21, 2016, 12:54 pm

      You will need a criminal background check. There are agencies that assist with the apostille process.

  • natasha Nov 24, 2015, 8:32 am

    We are a family with 2 young kids & are wanting to live in Ecuador. Our main concern is that my husband has recently done 12mths prison time for “white collar crime”. Do all the visas require criminal checks?

    • Grace Jan 27, 2016, 5:10 pm

      We wish to apologize for not answering questions on this site. Due to the holiday season, an office move and problems with our computers, we have had many delays. We will dedictate time to try to answer your questions and apologize if it is too late for some of our readers.

    • Grace Jan 27, 2016, 5:11 pm

      Dear Natasha,

      All types of premanent residency visas require a crimminal check. Temporary visas do not require this check.

  • John Hostetler Oct 25, 2015, 6:12 pm

    Is it possible to get fingerprints taken in Ecuador and send them to the US to get a FBI background check?

    • Grace Jan 27, 2016, 5:20 pm


  • Allan Sep 26, 2015, 1:53 pm

    Hi Grace,

    Thanks for the forum 🙂

    For purpose of the professional visa, is a BA/B.Sc. enough? Do I apostille the diploma or transcript or both?

    Do I need marriage & divorce documents if I’m applying alone?

    Is a birth certificate needed? Assuming you can be born only once…, does that also have to be issued in the past 180 days?


    • Grace Jan 27, 2016, 5:16 pm

      Dear Allan,

      I apologize for the lateness of this reply. As explained above we have been behind due to an office move, problems with computers and the delays due to the holiday season.

      To answer your question a BA/B.SC will work, but the diploma must be registered in Ecuador. If your univerisity is on the approved list you will need to provide the apostilled diploma. If the university is not on the approved list you must also provide the transcripts.

      If you are coming alone you do not need a marriage certificate/divorce decree for the residency process. However, you will needs these documents when it is time to obtain your cedula (Ecuadorian identification card).

      The birth certificate does not expire.

  • mac Sep 19, 2015, 3:43 pm

    I have from the 80’s, two counts bank fraud, given Federal probation and cleared. Will this prevent me from immigrating to EC?

    • Grace Jan 27, 2016, 5:18 pm

      If there are no pending charges, you can apply for residency.

  • Lisa Jul 23, 2015, 1:34 am

    I love Ecuador, just built a beach house near Montanita. We’re also building some condos on the beach. We live in Arizona.
    My parents moved there 6 months ago (in our house).
    For the past 3 months been trying to get retirement visa for them (with atty of course ).
    They are here in US now, and just got FBI checks in the mail. My father had 3 ccw back in 1970, but checks out clear. Can you give any insight on the new law of having a state check. They leave in one week, back to ecuador, and don’t want any problems for them. Any insight will help
    Thank you

  • Erin Poirier Jul 4, 2015, 1:38 pm

    Brian you are Canadian, what criminal checks did you do? Did you get an RCMP national check? or does it have to be FBI?

    • Bryan Haines Jul 4, 2015, 4:18 pm

      Ours was RCMP – the Ecuadorian government requires the reports for where you were living.

  • Howard P Jul 4, 2015, 1:01 pm

    I had to provide criminal record checks for Australian residency, now more than 20 years ago. Here is some helpful info from Australian immigration,

    Character and police certificate requirements

    Character requirements

    Everyone who wants to enter Australia must be of good character and will be assessed against the character requirements. As part of your visa application, you might be required to provide a police clearance certificate or other evidence to satisfy the character requirements.
    The character requirements are set out under Section 501 of the Migration Act 1958.
    How character is assessed
    You will not pass the character test if:
    you have a substantial criminal record, meaning you have been sentenced to 12 months or more in prison, or multiple sentences that add up to more than 12 months in prison. A suspended sentence is considered a prison sentence.
    you have been convicted of escaping from immigration detention, or convicted for an offence that you committed:
    while you were in immigration detention
    during an escape from immigration detention
    after an escape, but before you were taken into immigration detention again.
    you are or have been a member of a group or organisation, or had or have an association with a person, group or organisation that the Minister for Immigration reasonably suspects of involvement in criminal conduct
    the Minister for Immigration reasonably suspects that you have been involved in people smuggling, people trafficking, genocide, a war crime, a crime against humanity, a crime involving torture or slavery, or a crime that is of serious international concern, whether or not you have been convicted of such an offence
    your past and present criminal or general conduct shows that you are not of good character
    there is a risk that while you are in Australia you would:
    engage in criminal conduct
    harass, molest, intimidate or stalk another person
    vilify a segment of the Australian community
    incite discord in the Australian community or in a part of it
    be a danger to the Australian community or a part of it.
    you have been convicted of, or found guilty or had a charge proven for one or more sexually based offences involving a child,
    you are subject to an adverse security assessment by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation
    you are subject to an Interpol notice, from which it is reasonable to infer that you a direct or indirect risk to the Australian community, or a segment of the Australian community.
    If you are applying for temporary or permanent migration
    For the Australian Government to determine whether you are of good character, you might be asked to provide police certificates for each country you have lived in for 12 months or more, over the last 10 years, since turning 16 years of age.
    You must declare all recorded offences to us. If you do not declare an offence and we become aware of this it might have a negative impact on your application.
    Do not finalise any travel arrangements until after the grant of your visa. This is because visa processing times can vary depending on the visa type and your personal circumstances.

    • Bryan Haines Jul 6, 2015, 12:28 pm

      Hey Howard – this looks like useful info, but the post is about immigrating to Ecuador not Australia. 🙂

      • Howard P Jul 6, 2015, 2:32 pm

        Hi Bryan,
        So you should provide the same level of detail for Ecuador.

        • Bryan Haines Jul 6, 2015, 5:41 pm

          If you would take a few minutes and review our site – you would see that we already do. 🙂 It is one of the largest resources about living in Ecuador. We cover all details – with the exception of visa requirements. This is because they can change frequently – sometimes twice in one week.

  • Ray Jul 4, 2015, 9:30 am

    I am planning to emigrate to Ecuador in June 2016. I’ll be bringing my mother who also wants to bring her two dogs. Can you bring dogs to Ecuador??
    Ray in Florida

    • Grace Velastegui Jul 9, 2015, 5:36 pm

      Yes, Ecuador allows a family to bring two pets.

  • Leone Jul 4, 2015, 9:21 am

    This law really confused us as in Australia we have a federal government. The National Police Check that comes from Australia is based on the reports coming from the States. Each State’s emblem is found down the left-hand side of the document. So there is only ONE document that comes from Australia which encompasses State and Federal checks. This document is accepted by the Ecuadorian Government.

    • Grace Velastegui Jul 9, 2015, 5:44 pm

      The current rule states that the applicant must submit both the certificate of the state of origin and the national police certificate. If the state does not issue them, it would be useful to bring a letter from them, legalized, certifying this.

  • Amy Frevert Jun 29, 2015, 5:31 pm

    Is there a time limit to bring household goods to Ecuador with Residency so that they are duty free?

    • Grace Jul 6, 2015, 10:56 am

      To bring in household goods duty free you have six months from the last entry into Ecuador with the intention to stay.

      • Amy Jul 6, 2015, 1:00 pm

        So once you have residency, you have 6 months to bring your household items in the country?

      • Grace Jul 9, 2015, 4:08 pm

        You must have residency to bring in your household goods duty free. However, the 6 months begins to be counted from the date of your last entry into Ecuador with the intent to stay.

        • Amy Jul 12, 2015, 2:45 pm

          Thank you for your reply and clarification!! 🙂

  • Matt Jun 25, 2015, 10:43 pm

    Hi, I was wondering if misdemeanors would prevent me from getting the professional visa. I have a DUI and a Fake ID charge. Please help!

    • Grace Jul 6, 2015, 10:58 am

      If you have served your sentence or made restitution and there are no pending charges you can apply for residency, however, the approval of a residency is at the criteria of the authorities.

  • George K Jun 21, 2015, 1:35 am

    Does anyone know what the actual denial requirements are? Is it at US type ‘full-on-hysteria’ levels where someone who got a ticket for littering 20 years ago can be denied, or is it more reasonable like other countries?

    I was a bit wild when I was younger (30 years ago), got arrested a couple times for fights, drug stuff but never went to jail. Would this preclude me?

  • ` May 26, 2015, 8:07 am

    Can you bring herbs, vitamins, storage foods or food in bulk like 40-50 lbs bags in your container?

    • Grace Velastegui Jul 9, 2015, 5:50 pm

      A phytosanitary permit is required to bring food, herbs or vitamins.

      • molly Jul 10, 2015, 6:13 pm

        Do you mean like tea, dried herbs, and tinctures you have to have a phytosanitary permit? I’m not talking about live plants. Vitamins in their bottles and or bulk vitamins as well?
        Food I’m talking about are dry rice, beans, spices to cook with and dried eggs. These also need this? I was told you could bring all this in a container via sea once you got your residency.

        • Grace Velastegui Jul 14, 2015, 4:03 pm

          Strickly adhering to the law, you must obtain the phytosanitary permit to bring in the items you mention. However, it would be a good idea to speak to your customs agent.

  • Jonh D Feb 18, 2015, 2:47 am

    Grace/Nelson, thank you for all the comment. I would like to check if you know that requirement for police clearance from country of origin for naturalization were changed as well?

    From the ministry website:

    5. Antecedentes judiciales, penales o policiales emitidos por el país de origen o del país donde haya residido los últimos 5 años, con una vigencia mínima de 180 días, contados a partir de la emisión del documento, hasta el último ingreso a territorio ecuatoriano…

    I’m having trouble understanding what does this mean and what last entry to territory of Ecuador has to do with the document. If you have any information about this could you elaborate for us. If there is indeed the requirement for police clearance from home country for naturalization application and what this section means. Does it mean that document that was issued before entry to Ecuador will be valid in 3 years when applying for naturalization as long as that was the last entry to the territory? Thank you so much for all your anwswers.

    • Grace Velastegui Jul 9, 2015, 5:34 pm

      If you have lived in Ecuador for less than five years you will be required to present a certificate from the FBI

  • Kathy M. Jan 19, 2015, 6:25 pm

    Hi. My husband and I are planning to make an exploratory trip to Ecuador next May or June, with a goal to be there applying for permanent residency by the end of August. We are a bit confused about the new criminal history requirement. We understand we need to get our fingerprints taken here locally in our small town’s police station in Arizona. Then, as we understand, we send that information to the FBI for the national criminal history report. This morning when checking the FBI site, it was stated in bold letters that the report could take as long as 16 weeks to be finalized. And, we also need to get both documents apostilled! Can you tell us when we need to get the local and national criminal history reports done? I thought most of the documentation had to be completed here within the last 30 days before our application is made in Ecuador. You were recommended to us by Diane and Ted in Cuenca who told us how you led them through the maze of paperwork without a lot of stress. We would be interested in working with you as well to make sure we do everything right and get settled in Ecuador without problem.

    • Grace Jan 27, 2015, 2:38 pm

      Thank you for your message.

      Documents submitted for residency application should not be older than 180 days at the time of application. Please note this is the date the certified copy has obtained and not the date of the apostille. We suggest you collect your documents as close to your travel date as possible.

  • Kenneth Pyatte Jan 18, 2015, 1:35 pm

    I am in Costa Rica for now, I am interested in Ecuador and plan to stay there for 1 to 3 months, if I decide that I wish to lmmigrate there will I have to return to the USA?

    • Grace Jan 27, 2015, 2:39 pm

      It is not a requirement to return to the U.S. to apply for residency.

  • robert denormandie jr Jan 12, 2015, 7:37 pm

    I’m slow about these requirement : guess it wise to read up on new standards of dual citizen and residency papers. . can you direct me to what, where and how to properly clear the path? looking to move and live , rest in peace there. While you are not officially hired , the questions asked come under confidential act by law? thank you

    • Grace Jan 13, 2015, 9:52 am

      Please feel free to contact us directly or make an appointment if you are in Cuenca and we will be happy to discuss this matter. All information exchanged is strictly confidential.

    • Grace Jan 13, 2015, 10:37 am

      Also, you can consult the webpage ¨Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores¨ for more information. We hope this helps.

  • Cpnnie Giffin Jan 12, 2015, 7:21 pm

    At least one state does not provide this service for the purpose of obtaining a visa, Arizona. They do provide a letter that can be downloaded or printed stating their policy.

  • Joanne Jan 12, 2015, 2:55 pm

    Thanks Bryan! Always the most up to date information, it’s very appreciated.

  • Michele McMahan Jan 12, 2015, 11:26 am

    So. My husband, myself, and our grown daughter are planning a 30 day preliminary visit in March. With a return 6 month residency visit in Jan 2015. How long are the background checks for?

    • Grace Jan 13, 2015, 9:50 am

      According to the Internal Resolutions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs all documents submitted for residency application are valid for 180 days. Please note this time period refers to the date of the document, not the date of the apostille.

  • Steve Jan 12, 2015, 10:14 am

    Grace/Nelson: I have had my 9-1 residency for 4 years, can you tell me what papers and apostoiles I will need from the states order to apply for Naturalization/Citizenship? Thanks

    • Grace Velastegui Jan 12, 2015, 11:11 am

      We will be happy to make an appointment to discuss the naturalization process.

    • g Jan 13, 2015, 1:09 pm

      You can also consult the webpage ¨Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores¨ for more information. We hope this helps.

  • Jon Rice Jan 12, 2015, 10:14 am

    We came from Arizona. the state does NOT issue apostilles for background checks for foreign use. they will issue a letter stating that they won’t issue it, however. with this rule, people from AZ can’t immigrate here…

    • Grace Jan 13, 2015, 10:32 am

      Unfortunately, this is the new requirement and can be a problem for those wanting to immigrate from Arizona. We cannot say if a letter stating their policy will be accepted or not as it is always the criteria of the authority. It is interesting that in the past we have had clients from Arizona that did provide state crimminal background checks.

      • Jon Rice Jan 13, 2015, 9:53 pm

        here’s the quote from the Highway Patrol at : “Clearance Letter: Arizona law does not permit the Central State Repository to do a criminal history record check or to provide a clearance letter for the purpose of immigration, obtaining a visa, or for foreign adoption.” not sure when they changed it…

        • Dylan May 6, 2015, 7:35 pm

          I’m also an Arizonan and am facing this problem right now. Has anyone presented the letter from the state of AZ stating that it does not provide background checks? Was this acceptable? If not, is there a work-around I can pursue? Thanks for providing such a valuable message board to Grace and the other contributors.

      • Evangeline Jul 3, 2015, 11:15 am

        Hi Grace! I just wanted to let you know that I was helping a friend of mine from Arizona who recently applied for residency with a police report from the Tucson police department, since he the state would not issue one. We were aloud to submit the application after the woman helping us called the Juridico and they said it would be acceptable. We’re still waiting for the final approval – fingers crossed. I’ll update here when we have the final word. I would have sent him to you guys but he had been through a terrible time with three other lawyers and was out quite a bit of money and didn’t want to see another one. Some of the stories I’ve heard from other expats regarding their experiences with incompetent or unreliable lawyers make me all the more grateful that we were able to find your office through this site. Thanks again, take care.

        • Grace Velastegui Jul 9, 2015, 5:57 pm

          Thanks Evangeline! we will wait to hear from you on the outcoming of your friend’s visa application.

  • Grace Velastegui Jan 12, 2015, 10:01 am

    It is best to get it apostilled by the Secretary of State in Washington DC

    • George Kastanes Jan 12, 2015, 12:18 pm

      The Secretary of State (federal) will not apostille state issued documents.

      • Grace Jan 13, 2015, 9:55 am

        No, the Secretary of State in Washington which is a federal entity will only apostille federal documents. All state issued documents must be apostilled by the Secretary of State of the State the document is issued.

  • MaryAnn Saffery Jan 12, 2015, 9:56 am

    I retired to Mexico 2 years ago and I like it here, but Ecuador was my first choice. The reasons I chose MX over Ecuador: I could bring my car, I could bring my dogs (2), I could bring my household goods including my flat screen TV and DVDs and CDs, my kitchen utensils and my linens. I was advised that I couldn’t bring most of these items to Ecuador; the exception being dishes and linens. Have the rules changed? I ask because soon I won’t be able to drive so I’d like to live in a community where I can walk most everywhere.

    • Grace Velastegui Jan 12, 2015, 11:10 am

      We don’t know who told you that you couldn’t bring your things. With residency you are allowed to bring your household goods duty free. However, you cannot bring a car. Household goods includes your television, computer, kitchen utensils, etc.

  • Gary Pollice Jan 12, 2015, 9:09 am

    In the U.S., we can get the FBI background check. Since it is not issued by a state agency, where does one go to get that apostilled?

    • Jon Rice Jan 12, 2015, 10:11 am

      you send the FBI background check to the US Department of State. Search for apostille. all info is listed on the State Dept site.

      • Grace Jan 13, 2015, 10:01 am

        Thank you Jon, for this clarification.

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