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Welcome To Vilcabamba
"The Sacred Valley of Longevity"

This Is A Privately Circulated Blog, scribbled exclusively for Friends & Familiars, that peers into and pontificates about Expat life in the hinterlands of South America. If your eyesight is less than optimal (like mine), then just click the type size up a notch on your browser..

Here you will find a series of curmudgeonly commentaries that I've posted from atop my rickety old soapbox for the past few years. And yes, there are indeed political rantings, so place your seats in the upright position and fasten your seat belts .... it may be a bumpy ride.


Ecuadorian Visa Blues

Unlike "some" countries I know, about the only time a gringo becomes involved with Ecuador's local government is when applying for a visa. But unlike other unmentionable countries (ahem) the folks one has to do government business with here in Ecuador are generally pleasant and reasonably efficient.

However, even the Ecuadorian bureaucrats are every bit as endeared to red tape as any other governmental employee. And therein lies my tale of woe. Let me explain, and provide some caution.

After several visits to Ecuador and making the right inquiries, I pretty much knew what documents would be required for a residential visa application. I had obtained my police report that stated I was a "solid citizen", my health report stating that I didn't have any communicable diseases and a Social Security Income Statement that proved I had sufficient funds (at least $1,500) coming in each month to sustain me ... even if the current financial disaster on Wall Street wiped out any other assets that I might have had.

I then presented this documentation (translated into Spanish in triplicate with each being duly notarized and stamped) to an attorney who was said to be an "expert" on immigration matters. That was in June, 2008. I returned to Ecuador in September, fully expecting to have had all my application papers approved and been awarded a Retiree Resident Visa.

But in the three months that I'd been away, the rules and regulations had changed, as had the Minister of Immigration. It was the first time that I heard the dreaded phrase …. "Senor, your papers are not in the proper order!" My application had been refused.

Now, a preliminary visa application had to be filed BEFORE the actual residential visa request could be made. And because I was a "retiree", I now had to find an Ecuadorian citizen who would take responsibility for me if I (or the US) went broke or I got sick. Hm-mmm, would YOU want to assume that kind of responsibility for someone who was not even a relative? Didn't think so. Miraculously, I found someone, but that's another story.

So more forms were prepared, in triplicate and duly notarized. When I checked with the attorney to see how things were progressing, I then discovered that he had not even filed the second set of papers. Why? He had decided that he wanted more money from me, but couldn't find my email or telephone number to tell me so. Oh, almost forgot; that attorney couldn't speak a word of English, nor could I as yet speak much Spanish. Guaranteed miscommunication. I fired that attorney and hired another, this one able to read, write and speak English. BIG difference.

The new lawyer spent three weeks trying to get the application papers away from the first attorney …. who was demanding more money to release them to me. A very big, very insistent Ecuadorian friend "persuaded" that attorney that the right thing to do would be to give back the papers. He did.

(Joke: What do you call a million lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? A good start!)

Then, finally, the papers were filed. However, my visa application was refused. "Sorry, Senor, your papers are not properly in order."

It was now January, 2009, and of course by that time all of the dates of the original documents had expired! This meant that I would have to fly back to Hawaii for a new police report and health certificate, over to San Francisco, California to obtain a new Social Security Statement, have it certified by the Ecaudorian Consulate in Los Angeles, then fly back to Quito to submit it to the immigration people. And there wasn't enough time …. my 90 day extension on my tourist visa as due to expire in only four days! Time for Plan B.

So my new attorney and I made a fifteen hour dash from Ecuador into Peru, where we had to talk the Consulate there into giving me yet another visa extension. It so happens that the very day before our arrival the regulations had once again been changed. So instead of being able to secure a six-month visa, it was only for ninety days. But at least I was able to reenter Ecuador with newly stamped papers. The clock was again ticking.

It was now time for Plan C. My only chance now was to qualify as an "Investor", which meant depositing a big wad of money ($25,000 minimum in case you're wondering) into a local Ecuadorian bank for the entire time I was living in the country (NOT a very good idea in this shaky global financial era) …. or, purchasing property.

So, dear reader, I'm about to "invest" in Ecuador. There's a small, beautiful, view lot for sale just behind where I'm presently living at the Hacienda San Joaquin. That just might be a far better place to put my US dollars into, as they quickly depreciate in value, than a bank. I begin the "bargaining" process tomorrow. Will keep everyone informed whether or not this works. There is NO Plan D.

Beware changing regulations and pleasant yet firm bureaucrats. Or you, too, will hear the dreaded words …. "Sorry, Senor, your papers are not in order!"

Stay tuned!

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