Visas, Censos and Cedulas – the simple explanation

Today, Alta- tudes’ notes:

Visas, Censos and Cedulas:  These were absolutely the most terrifying words in the English/Spanish language when we began our journey to Ecuador.

I spent months on the pc reading the blogs, the immigration sites, chat rooms and a million other internet sites looking for a simple, straight forward solution to the process.  I was extremely successful in finding numerous horror stories, conflicting information, varied prices, procedures and recommendations for immigration attorneys along with yet more unanswered questions.  I look back on the process now and wonder why I made such a big deal out of it.

My conclusion in an attempt to explain my “unexplainable” behavior is that everyone’s experience is different.  Visas are different, timelines are different and then there’s the whole “pet or no pet” thing.  Pensioner, Investor, Student, Working or not working?  Six month visa extension?   Do it yourself?….or attorney?  Which attorney?  How much?   How long?  On and on it went in my head to the beat of the most annoying drummer ever!  Spouse is technologically challenged and his source for answers was me –and  I had none…nope, nada, fresh out!  By the way, the term “apostilled”….what the hell does that mean?  Supposedly all documents had to be apostilled.

The one thing I did find repeatedly throughout my many searches was the name of an Immigration Attorney in Quito (Gabriela Espinosa).  Numerous times I read her name over and over again; all with good reports about her expertise and honesty.  I took the plunge!  You gotta trust someone, right?

Here’s a photo of Cotopaxi from the roof of the Hotel Holiday Inn Express in Quito…it’s usually obscured by the clouds, but you can see a bit of it. (Ann’s note: it reminds me a bit of Mt Rainier as seen from Seattle..but a LOT bigger)

We came to Ecuador for our original “sniff” test on September 4, 2010 on the standard 90 day tourist visa.  We initially met with Gabriella when we came through Quito.  We continued with our visit on to Cuenca and returned to the US on September 18, 2010.  Once back in Texas, I filled out 2 forms for each of us, included copies of our guaranteed income letters, along with 2 passport size photos for each of us and copies of our passports.  I returned all this to Gabriela by FedEx ($54.00) on or about October 15.   We returned to Ecuador permanently on December 15, 2010 now having used up 2 weeks of our 90 day tourist visa.  Immigration had already approved our Residency Visas and Gabby was ready to turn over our passports to the Director of Immigration.

In return for temporarily turning over our original passports to Gabby for official documentation, we received notarized (Ecuador) copies of our passports back from Gabriela to use until Immigration could return our passports.  These copies were completely adequate while signing our lease, opening our checking accounts and any other purpose that came up where passports were needed.  Long story longer, by the end of March the mad drummer lay down his sticks as we were completely legal with Visa, Censo and Cedula in hand.

We have yet to set foot in an Embassy or Consulate; we have not had documents translated much less “apostilled”.  We had no background checks, no medical exams, no certified copies of marriage license…..nothing…nada…zip! But I thought a picture of the Judicial Palace in Cuenca might be nice right here…

Now, were we lucky?  Maybe so, but I choose to think Gabriela is just plain good.  Is she expensive?  You bet, $2700.00 for both of us.  Was it worth it?  Absolutely!  Is she conveniently located in Cuenca?  Nope – Quito!  Can she be a challenge to get a hold of?  Yep – she’s Ecuadorian!  Does she speak English?  Yep – not perfect, but far better than my Spanish. 

Pichincha mountain, in Quito, seen from the Holiday Inn Express roof.

Would I do it again?  In a heartbeat.  Think about it…Execedrin is getting more expensive by the day in the US.  Without dependable help, you’re gonna need a lot of it.

Good luck with your journey to paradise!

Dra. Gabriela Espinosa, Abogada, Estudio Juridico, Espinosa Asociados


Office:  (+593) 2290-2838   Mobil:  (+593) 9164-5924

Address:  Leonidas Plaza, N21-167 y Vicente Ramon Roca, Esq., Edificio Plaza Roca, Suite #2 B, Quito Ecuador


6 responses to “Visas, Censos and Cedulas – the simple explanation

  1. Pingback: Morning Update – Saturday, June 18, 2011 « South of Zero

  2. Yep, she did good by us. Glady you were able to avoid alot of the paperwork hassle. When its done, its so much nicer looking back than when you are in the middle of it!

  3. Hi Ann,

    How can I get in touch with you? My husband and I also live in Texas (Houston) and are considering retiring early and moving to Ecuador! My husband is in the transportation industry also. My email address is


  4. Mary and John Macdonald

    Great blog and info..will be moving to Ecudor in November 2011 and headed to San Clemente.
    John and Mary Macdonald.. Ohio

    going through the procedure.

  5. Wife and I are looking to foll0ow your lead. She is a retired Spanish/ESL H.S. teacher and I am also retired. Is Gaby Espinosa still the best? Pedro Jesus

    • I would say yes, Gabby is great but since we are planning on settling in Cuenca we are going to try our luck with the new local visa office in Cuenca. Since we are fluent in Spanish we don’t expect any issues and if we do have any, at least it will all be in the same place as we will be living. We can wait at home much easier than traveling to Quito for the documents. We will be in Cuenca in September and plan to visit this office so I will post our “thoughts” after that first visit. Good luck to you and hope to see you in June when we arrive!

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